Helping Homeowners Find the Right Help
Mention remodeling projects and most people groan, remembering previous experiences with extended project timelines and inflated budgets. Porch, a Seattle, Washington–based startup company, is out to change all that. The company’s founders are on a mission to change the world, one home at a time, by making home improvement easy and even delightful. Porch is an online home improvement network that matches qualified professionals to those seeking help with home projects. The Porch service takes into account the neighborhoods in which the professionals have worked, the types of projects they have completed, and the number of nearby homeowners who have endorsed their work.
Since its founding in 2012, Porch has grown to represent 1.5 million home improvement professionals across the United States, and it continues to expand at a rapid rate. “In December 2013, we had 40 employees,” says Jeff Dossett, Chief Financial Officer at Porch. “As of June 2014, we have 170 full-time employees, plus a number of contracted employees—that’s fast growth.”
Experiencing Some Growing Pains
Like most startups, Porch began with a small number of employees who were focused on growth but not necessarily on “corporate” tools and processes that the business would need as it grew. Things like official office space and strict human resources policies were secondary concerns because the company was moving so quickly and had to stay focused on developing its offerings. The same was true for its technology. “Up until 2014, we were a classic startup operation, with the majority of our laptops and software personally owned by our earliest employees,” says Dossett. “Like many startups, we tended to use software and services that were ad-supported or otherwise free.”
Porch employees used such a range of technology tools that they had trouble accomplishing tasks that they had taken for granted at previous jobs. “The complexity of trying to share documents and calendars in our environment was frustrating,” says Dossett. “When employees attempted to book meetings, their systems muddled the time zones, meetings didn’t always show up on all relevant calendars, and conference rooms weren’t properly reserved, which made it difficult to interact professionally both internally and with outside industry contacts.”
Adds Nate Eisele, Senior Manager of Finance and Accounting at Porch, “We began to feel the hidden costs of not having standard technology tools. Employee productivity definitely lagged, and it was difficult to track and manage hardware and software assets as we added personnel.”
In a move toward finding a common tool set, the company adopted Google Apps and Google Docs but found that Google tools presented their own challenges. “We wanted additional power and capabilities to handle an increasing amount of data,” says Eisele. “Employees—particularly those who had used Microsoft Office software in their previous employment—were trying to replicate the work processes they’d used elsewhere on patched-together software pieces. We knew the responsible thing to do was to put familiar technology tools in the hands of our employees so that they could collaborate more effectively.”
Remodeling Its Technology Approach
Porch decided to replace the Google productivity tools and embrace Microsoft Office 365 as the foundation for heightened productivity companywide. “We knew that Office 365 would not only scale with us as we continue to grow, but could also better support our need to interact in a virtual, highly collaborative work environment,” says Dossett.
The company worked with Fuse Networks—a technology solutions provider and member of the Microsoft Partner Network—to make the conversion to cloud-based services, including Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus, which will keep employees up-to-date with the latest Office software, and Microsoft Exchange Online for cloud-based email and calendaring. “Fuse Networks helped us find the ideal time to make the change with a minimal impact on our employees, and it provided us with documentation to help everyone get comfortable with the transition,” says Eisele.
Getting in Sync
With Office 365 in place, Porch finally has the tool set that it needs to accelerate the pace of business. “We are now able to innovate more quickly because we can share ideas, feedback, and documents more quickly and easily with Office 365, and that was something that we just couldn’t do before,” says Dossett. “Now that our tools no longer get in the way of our ability to act nimbly, we can move more quickly as a company to bring our long-term vision to life.”
In just the first few months of using Office 365 components, employees have already accomplished things that would not have been possible in the past. For example, nine employees all needed to contribute to a sophisticated financial model in preparation for a board meeting. “Under tight timelines, multiple people worked on the document simultaneously by using Microsoft Office Online, without waiting for each colleague to review,” says Dossett. “As a result, we completed the financial model on time, and we were able to spend time on the quality and value of our underlying analysis rather than on the logistics of how to work together. We couldn’t have done that without Office 365.”
As the company grows, it plans to use more and more of the functionality provided by Office 365. “Our employees already use Microsoft Lync Online for instant messaging, and we plan to use it for web and video conferencing as our employee base extends geographically,” says Eisele.
The company appreciates that it has so many other capabilities at the ready through Office 365, too. “It’s wonderful that, with Office 365, we already have access to so much of what we anticipate needing,” says Dossett. “In just five months, we have transformed our environment—employees have increased their week-over-week productivity and work together far more effectively to achieve our business goals.”
Porch uses Microsoft Office 365 to get enterprise-level productivity tools at a startup-friendly cost. The company now smoothly handles messaging and calendaring through Microsoft Exchange Online, and it uses Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus and Office Online for collaboration on data-driven reports, spreadsheets, presentations, and other documents. Porch uses Microsoft Lync Online for instant messaging and presence, and the company will make it available for web and video conferencing, too. The company plans to explore Microsoft SharePoint Online as a way for teams to work together, and it anticipates deploying Microsoft OneDrive for Business for content libraries, file sharing, and storage of research results, marketing campaigns, and policy documents. Porch employees use the enterprise social network Yammer to collaborate with colleagues in real time. They pose questions, share insights and resources, and facilitate team discussions through Yammer, which provides a central hub for team and company information to be easily accessed by everyone.
Microsoft Office 365
The new Office provides anywhere access to your familiar Office applications—plus email, calendar, video conferencing, and your most current documents—on almost any device, from PCs to smartphones to tablets.
For more information about Microsoft Office 365, go to:
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
For more information about Fuse Networks services, call (855) 438-3873, or visit the website at: www.fusenetworks.com
For more information about Porch services, call (855) 767-2400, or visit the website at: