Fred Derosa has taken the dental chair apart, run all the usual diagnostics, and still can’t figure out why the chair won’t recline. The dentist keeps walking by and checking … she has an appointment in an hour and needs that chair.
Derosa, an equipment support field technician for Benco Dental, which sold the chair, grabs his tablet, taps open Microsoft Teams, and posts a question on the team’s channel for that particular model chair: “Has anyone seen this problem? Any ideas?”
Within seconds, a technician in another state replies to the thread: “Yep. I ran into that a few months ago. Try this,” and describes a fix. It works, and Derosa has the chair fixed and reassembled in 10 minutes.
This is how equipment service calls will soon work at Benco, where employees are increasingly using Microsoft Teams to speed up all kinds of communications, from field equipment support to marketing decisions. The Pittston, Pennsylvania–based company is one of the largest privately owned distributors of dental supplies, equipment, consulting, and services.
From dental drills to X-ray machines to three-dimensional imaging devices (and yes, even cotton balls), Benco distributes it all—everything dentists need to create bright, shiny, healthy smiles. Benco serves more than 30,000 dental professionals across the United States.
Help us simplify
Approximately 60 percent of Benco employees work in the field doing sales and service work, and the other 40 percent work at headquarters, running back-office, customer service, and warehouse operations. Getting so many people in so many locations to effectively communicate daily about thousands of products and customers is a challenge—one that lies with Mike Burns, Vice President of IT, and Keith Budurka, Director of IT Infrastructure and Operations at Benco Dental.
As the pace of business intensified and mobility became a fact of life for most Benco employees, Burns and Budurka realized that employees needed more than desktop-centric communications tools.
“We knew that we needed a standard mobile-friendly yet familiar communication and collaboration solution when employees began using a range of third-party tools such as Dropbox, Box, and Slack,” says Burns. “We then got complaints that there were too many tools. Employees said, ‘Help us simplify.’”
Communication between the Pittston staff and the company’s 400 sales representatives was especially fraught. Benco adds about 2,000 products a year to its already extensive lineup, and to set its sales staff up for success, the company has to educate them about these increasingly complex products. But salespeople couldn’t find needed documents scattered across the company’s intranet, Dropbox, and myriad other locations, nor could they quickly track down the appropriate Pittston staff members for help.
The Equipment Support team, where Derosa works, had the same problem. Product specifications and manuals were stored on an Equipment Support group intranet, but search requests could bring back 9 or 10 pages of results.
“Our field techs would end up skipping the online resources and getting on the phone with our dispatch center or the device manufacturer, which made us look bad to our customers, like our techs didn’t know what they were doing,” says Matt Berger, Director of Equipment Support. “Or they would download manuals onto their devices, which wasn’t ideal because those manuals were soon out of date.”
Benco implemented NewsGator (now Sitrion) in attempt to give field and home office staff a nimbler way to communicate. However, as conversations proliferated, “NewsGator got too noisy, so it ceased being useful,” says Burns.
Smiles were giving way to frowns across Benco. Salespeople were missing out on opportunities. Customer support issues were taking longer to solve. And communications were generally slowing down because of a growing number of people, products, and information.
Benco needed to simplify and standardize.
Improve problem-solving velocity with Microsoft Teams
As the company continued to grow, the IT team faced a decision: continue to add staff to care for an aging and expanding on-premises communications and collaboration infrastructure or move to the cloud? “We realized that we really didn’t want to pay for email architects and server administrators,” says Budurka. “That’s not our business focus.”
Instead, Benco deployed Microsoft Office 365. All employees now access email through Microsoft Exchange Online, store files in Microsoft OneDrive, and use Skype for Business Online for video conferencing and instant messaging. Employees also have anywhere, any-device access to Office applications through Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus.
When Microsoft Teams joined the Office 365 family, Benco found another reason to love the Microsoft cloud service.
“Teams fixes the noisy news stream problem by organizing teams around topics,” says Burns. “We can break out the chatter into different channels. Teams also lets us consolidate our tools; it exceeded where Slack did not.”
Benco employees are typically members of multiple teams—for their business group, functional area, geographic region, and special projects or problems. There are even personal-interest teams such as beer brewing and running.
“Employees can work in Teams all day to do their jobs,” Budurka says. “It’s the place to go to collaborate, chat, do a video call, share files, everything. Conversations happen in one place, where they’re easy to track. You tell Teams what you’re interested in, and it feeds you channels that will help you. If someone’s waiting on an answer from you, Teams pings you. It’s really a fantastic product and what we’ve been waiting for.”
With Teams, Benco has created collaboration hubs that have laser focus and stick around only as long as needed. Say the company is launching a new product. Someone can create a team for the launch and invite product designers, testing staff from different global regions, support personnel, sales reps, consumables staff, and others, all focused on making the rollout a success. If a salesperson has a question about a feature, the designer is right there to explain it, share a virtual whiteboard, or provide a product specifications sheet.
“Microsoft also did an awesome job with the Teams mobile app. It’s just as intuitive and easy to use as the desktop app, and it allows our employees to stay connected to their teammates from wherever they are,” says Budurka.
Many of the 27 regional managers in Berger’s Equipment Support group are using Teams, and soon, all 350 field technicians will use it, too. “We have thousands of products, and our technicians service them all and thus have to reference a lot of material from the field,” Berger says. “The search capability in Teams is much better than what we’ve had, returning materials that are far more relevant and useful.”
Berger adds that being able to set up team channels by region, or at times by product, will further help technicians zero in on what they need. “Dental practices are very different in different parts of the country,” Berger says. “Best practices for dealing with a dentist in New York City are very different than those dealing with a dentist in rural Alabama. Our techs can converse on a channel that’s specific to their region and product and get very targeted assistance, which will help them resolve service issues faster.”
Burns and Budurka have been surprised and happy to see how employees have made Teams their own. One employee in the service department invited Budurka to join his team, and Budurka noticed that he’d added a Microsoft Planner board to the site. “No one showed him how to do that,” Budurka says. “Teams is so intuitive that he just figured it out. Innovation that employees can customize on their own without involving IT is every IT person’s dream.”
Discover relevant information faster with intelligent search capabilities
Benco has augmented the collaboration efficiency of Teams with the document storage efficiency of SharePoint Online. “With Teams combined with SharePoint Online, everything’s in one place, even when sharing with outside partners,” says Budurka. “Using the intelligent search and discovery capability in Office 365, we can find information wherever it is; we have one search bar for files, people, videos, everything, which is a major improvement.”
Back to that problem of equipping the sales force with needed sales materials and training: with its Office 365 setup, sales people no longer feel overwhelmed by information scattered across Dropbox sites, personal hard drives, and email. They can access and share all their files in Office 365 with OneDrive. OneDrive gives them a place to store personal work files as well as access to shared files in Teams and SharePoint, from any device.
“With intelligent search, our salespeople locate the information they need to sell products better,” says Burns. “And that efficiency repeats in every area of the business.”
Lock down data with better, simplified security
Benco was not only excited about the new services coming to Office 365 but also the evolution of the broader Microsoft productivity ecosystem. So it chose to adopt Microsoft 365 Enterprise, which combines the power of Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security to deliver highly secure collaboration.
Benco replaced AirWatch with Microsoft Intune for mobile device management and mobile application management. And it’s using Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium to provide stronger yet less intrusive security. Burns and Budurka can direct Azure Active Directory to intelligently and selectively prompt users for Multi-Factor Authentication depending on their location, applications accessed, number of sign-in attempts, and other criteria. For example, employees signing in to human resources application Workday from within the Benco office will not encounter Multi-Factor Authentication, but those signing in remotely will. But once a device is securely managed by Intune, it is recognized as a trusted device by Azure Active Directory, adding an additional layer of trust and further removing the need for Multi-Factor Authentication requests.
“Azure Active Directory gives us a sophisticated authentication solution that we didn’t have to build or buy,” says Budurka. “It also gives us self-service password reset, which offloads a lot of user-support work from our staff. And it tells our security folks where people are signing in from, so we can reach out to employees and make sure they’re really in that location. With Azure Active Directory, we’ve improved our security and made it faster. Microsoft has been rocking it with intelligent security innovation.”
Benco is also deploying Windows 10 Enterprise to enhance security. “With features like Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, which keeps infected files in a sandbox, Microsoft is helping us make ransomware obsolete,” says Burns. “We’re also sold on the Windows as a service concept. This is the last Windows upgrade we’ll make. Our desktop and laptop operating systems will update as easily as our smartphones.”
And that puts a big smile on Burns’ face.