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FairPoint Communications

FairPoint Communications, Inc. ("FairPoint") is a leading communications provider of high-speed Internet access, local and long-distance phone, television and other broadband services to customers in communities across 18 states. Through its fast, reliable data network, FairPoint delivers data and voice networking communications solutions to residential, business and wholesale customers. VantagePointSM, FairPoint's resilient IP-based network in northern New England, provides business customers a fast, flexible, affordable Ethernet connection. The VantagePointSM network supports applications like video conferencing and e-learning. FairPoint is traded on the NASDAQ exchange under FRP.

An important part of FairPoint's business efforts revolve around providing telecommunications services to rural areas across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont; and in building out back-haul fiber infrastructure to cellular towers across the region. This requires complex schedule and resource coordination, control, and associated reporting to internal and external regulatory entities.

Highlights

Microsoft software used in the deployment

Problem

As part of FairPoint's commitments to regulatory bodies, FairPoint was required to achieve broadband service coverage commitments in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. As these regions are fairly rural, this mandated the construction of a dynamic resource forecast and scheduling model. This model was necessary not only to accurately predict resources and timing of the project, but also to prove to the local and regulatory bodies that FairPoint was able to execute against their commitments in a timely manner.

The existing models were constructed in a combination of spreadsheets and manual processes. In order to efficiently forecast and manage complex projects of this nature, itwas necessary that a modern project management and resource scheduling applicationbe implemented in a rapid time frame. This application was also to be accessible to in-house as well as remote users; and minimizing impact on existing IT projects and resources was a major concern to FairPoint as well.

Pathway to a solution

FairPoint considered several approaches to resolve these issues and provide a flexible and accessible platform for internal and remote use. Offerings from several vendors were considered, as well as the feasibility of constructing an offering using common office tools such as spreadsheets and calendaring tools. FairPoint identified a combination of Microsoft Project, Microsoft SharePoint, and EPM Live as meeting the requirements of complex project management and dynamic resource scheduling.

While Microsoft Project, Microsoft SharePoint, and EPM Live addressed the functional requirements of FairPoint's business needs, there remained a significant challenge: How to implement, manage, train and use the complex multi-vendor offering in a short time frame? FairPoint was directed by Microsoft to engage Project Hosts, a Microsoft Gold Partner, to accomplish these tasks in a rapid and cost-effective manner.

FairPoint determined that three main factors were to be achieved in order to consider Project Hosts and the chosen applications to be a success: Ease of use and implementation; accurate project management and resource scheduling; and superior customer support and responsiveness.

Project Hosts - Cloud delivery to the rescue

Project Hosts provides on demand Microsoft Enterprise Project Management (EPM), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and SharePoint Server (MOSS). Project Hosts has a number of options for implementing Microsoft EPM, CRM, and MOSS, including: On line tours, trials, interim hosting, and long-term hosting. These options are designed to help customers throughout the product evaluation and deployment process. Based in Silicon Valley, Project Hosts has provided hosted Microsoft EPM, CRM, and MOSS solutions to more than 200 organizations and more than 40,000 users worldwide from five data centers in the United States and Europe.

FairPoint determined that use of Project Hosts cloud services had the potential to enable the implementation of these required applications faster, more reliably, and at a lower cost than attempting to deploy them in-house. Project Hosts provided FairPoint with a rapid "proof of concept" trial environment with minimal impact on internal IT operations or support staff.

Results

Project Hosts, by virtue of dozens of past enterprise engagements, quickly developed with FairPoint management an implementation process that delivered a fully provisioned complex environment for FairPoint's users. The provisioned environment delivered by Project Hosts enabled FairPoint IT management to provide access to remote teams in a coordinated and efficient manner, avoiding the pitfalls of a 'bigbang' approach commonly seen in other failed internal and external enterprise application rollouts.

By the use of a hosted Microsoft EPM, SharePoint, and EPM Live delivered and managed by Project Hosts, FairPoint has been able to successfully complete projects throughout its northeast customer locations. Project members were able to access the hosted environment from office and field locations through a secure browser connection, providing accurate and timely information coordination and dissemination to the FairPoint organization.

In any project of this magnitude, professional and competent customer support by the vendors is crucial to success. Throughout the project, FairPoint found that both Project Hosts and Microsoft support and issue response and resolution times to be outstanding. By virtue of Project Hosts' close relationship with Microsoft technical and product support, operational anomalies have their root causes quickly identified, and a coordinated support and issue resolution process defined and implemented. Support efforts of this nature are implemented without significant operational impact to users in the field.

Summary

The ability to provide remote access to corporate IT assets has become a requirement for competitive modern enterprises, both large and small. The provision of a secure, hosted version of Microsoft Project and SharePoint by Project Hosts has enabled FairPoint to extend a virtual enterprise environment to widely dispersed field team members, with a minimum of additional load on corporate IT management and staff. Efficient vendor-to-vendor communication and support processes further reduce any support or operational burden that may otherwise further impact corporate IT expense in a negative manner. Finally, using an experienced manage hosting partner, such as Project Hosts, enables an enterprise to leverage knowledge gained through a large number and variety of other implementations, ensuring a successful deployment that is delivered on time, within budget, and as promised.


"…many organizations have needs for deep customization, white-glove services, or support for complex models like hybrid hosting. For these customers, Project Hosts' PPM Custom Cloud offers a great option."

Ludovic Hauduc, General Manager of the Microsoft Project Business Unit
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