Avanade Develops Innovative Technologies for TASER

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1 AVANADE CASE STUDY Avanade Develops Innovative Technologies for TASER TASER Boosts Internal and External Communication and Allows for Online Background Checks designs and manufactures stun guns used by law enforcement agencies, the military, companies, and private citizens. The devices offer an alternative to weapons that are lethal or more destructive. As a result, the products are growing in popularity around the world. Over the last two years, TASER has tripled its work force. In addition, the company s revenue grew 42 percent between 2005 and 2006, reaching U.S. $68 million. In 2006, TASER sought to improve communication between employees and the media. The company also wanted to provide online background checks to its customers. Using Microsoft technologies, Avanade helped TASER deploy a new intranet and Web site, as well as TASER CheckLock a revolutionary background check technology. These solutions have expanded the company s retail base, accelerated communication with the media, improved data access and employee collaboration, streamlined IT operations, and created a scalable system that allows for future development. OVERVIEW Industry High-tech and electronics manufacturing Geography United States Solution Summary Avanade led the effort to design and implement an intranet and Web site at TASER. Consultants also developed a mission-critical, productactivation capability. Technology Microsoft ASP.NET The Microsoft.NET Framework version 3.0 Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007 Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition Windows Server 2003 R2 Benefits Expanded the company s retail base Accelerated communication with the media Improved data access and employee collaboration Streamlined IT operations Created a scalable system that allows for future development 1

2 Customer Background Founded in 1993, provides advanced Electronic Control Devices (ECDs) to consumers in 44 countries. Law enforcement agencies and the military are some of the company s biggest customers. For example, more than 10,000 of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States use weapons from TASER. Other customers include companies, such as hospitals, security agencies, and consumers. Designed to incapacitate dangerous, combative, or highrisk subjects, ECDs save lives by offering an alternative to other uses of force like billy clubs, rubber bullets, or standard guns. The company s corporate headquarters, in Scottsdale, Arizona, includes a 100,000- square-foot manufacturing facility. In 2006, TASER generated U.S.$68 million in revenue an increase of 42 percent over the previous year. In addition, TASER has tripled its work force over the last two years, growing from 95 employees in 2005 to more than 300 employees in We have a very fast-moving environment, and the solution Avanade implemented is dynamic enough and extensible enough to meet our business challenges and help us streamline our business processes. Ray Rivera Chief Information Officer Business Challenge Manufacturer seeks to boost collaboration and communication Because the Internet is the favored medium for rapidly disseminating information, TASER has always relied on its Web site to educate the media and the public about its products. Proactive communication is more critical for a company like TASER because weapons are often the source of controversy, and ECDs are often misunderstood. When TASER was a smaller company, the processes for updating its Web site were effective, and executives could publish information in a timely manner. However, rapid growth changed this. IT personnel, responsible for making changes to Web site content, had to focus on higher priority tasks. As a result, making any change to the Web site including adding or deleting content could take days or weeks. Not only did this hinder communication with the world but the Web site often contained outdated or inaccurate information occasionally resulting in negative press coverage. TASER was also experiencing issues with its internal communication processes. Documents resided on restricted departmental server computers or on employee workstations. Employees spent valuable time pinpointing the latest version of a document. When traveling, employees could not easily access the information they needed. became the dominant driver behind workflow, but the sheer volume of messages made responsiveness challenging. In addition, there was no employee portal, making it difficult to collaborate when working on projects. While the company was struggling with its communication issues, engineers at TASER were debating how to implement a unique background check technology known as TASER CheckLock for the TASER C2, a new consumer product scheduled for release in the summer of Because the TASER C2 is designed for citizens, TASER wanted to make the background check process more convenient by allowing customers to perform it online. As a result, TASER could facilitate wider distribution of the C2 device by removing the requirement for retailers to manage the background check process. Unlike other ECDs that ship in an active state, the C2 would ship in an inactive state from the factory, requiring an activation code to function. To obtain this activation code, a consumer would initiate an online background check process 2007 Avanade Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Avanade name and logo are registered trademarks in the US and other countries. 2

3 using a secure Web site or a toll-free 800 number. Once the background check was complete, the system would issue a unique activation code that would only work on one device, identified by its serial number. Only after entering the activation code could the device be used. With the company s IT department already struggling to meet deadlines, TASER decided to engage a third party for help. Beginning in May 2006, TASER evaluated five vendors. In June 2006, TASER selected Avanade because of its deep expertise and experience on the Microsoft platform. Avanade presented a solution based on a soon-to-be-released version of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server Capitalizing on the new 2007 version allowed Avanade to minimize the amount of customization required, making it more cost-effective to meet the business needs of TASER. Avanade showed us the workflow capacity of Office SharePoint Server 2007 and how those workflows could be tailored to our business processes, which was very compelling, says Ray Rivera, Chief Information Officer at TASER. We chose Avanade because its people had the experience, resources, and skill sets that we needed, and they had the ability to bring those resources to our project on a very timely basis. We chose Avanade because its people had the experience, resources, and skill sets that we needed, and they had the ability to bring those resources to our project on a very timely basis. Ray Rivera Chief Information Officer The Solution Avanade and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Over the next five months, Avanade worked with TASER on three projects: A corporate intranet portal built on Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft ASP.NET A new Web site and content management system built on Office SharePoint Server 2007 The CheckLock solution created using the Microsoft.NET Framework 3.0 In June 2006, Avanade began developing the intranet portal using Microsoft ASP.NET, and Office SharePoint Server We spent the first few weeks talking to various business owners and employees across the organization to identify and prioritize TASER s core business pains, explains Elmer Morales, Architect and Project Manager at Avanade. We used the Avanade Connected Methods methodology and intranet best practices to deliver a solution that took advantage of the full capabilities of Office SharePoint Server 2007, including search, blogs, Really Simple Syndication (RSS), and content management. To support the new environment, Avanade set up a Dell PowerEdge server cluster running the Windows Server 2003 R2 operating system, Office SharePoint Server 2007, and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition database software. Next, Avanade used the.net Framework to pump up the functionality of the corporate intranet with several custom features. For example, Avanade consultants implemented blogs and key performance indicators (KPIs) that link different data sources to report on project status. A knowledge base area links employees directly to e-learning content provided by third parties. An employee directory, built using the Active Directory service, contains employee information that includes photos and contact details. The intranet was completed and deployed in November In January 2007, TASER IT deployed Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007 to further enhance employee collaboration. By deploying Office Professional Plus 2007, users can see and access all of their tasks, , and files whether they re in Office SharePoint Server 2007 or in another program in the 2007 Microsoft Office AVANADE CONNECTED METHODS The Avanade Connected Methods is a powerful methodology that provides a common set of repeatable methods, processes, and tools that guide and even accelerate the delivery of solutions Avanade Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Avanade name and logo are registered trademarks in the US and other countries. 3

4 release, explains Sunny Chowdhury, IT Project Manager at. Web site and content management system In December 2006, consultants from Avanade began working on a content management system and a new Web site using Office SharePoint Server 2007 and the Avanade Connected Methods methodology. Avanade consultants developed a video publishing system that renders videos directly in a user s browser through the Adobe Flash technology. With this capability, TASER is able to promote its products through short videos that demonstrate the features and benefits of TASER devices. In addition, consultants created an event management capability that the training department at TASER can use to easily publish training events directly from Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 messaging and collaboration client. Other capabilities Avanade added to the Web site include access to interactive maps through Microsoft Virtual Earth mapping technology, a powerful search engine, a customizable RSS engine, and a new training catalog. In addition, developers provided for integration with external data sources for press releases. Avanade also redesigned the Web site s information architecture to improve the overall user experience. The Web site was completed and launched in April The CheckLock Solution In November 2006, two Avanade consultants began working with TASER engineers on CheckLock to support the activation of C2 devices. First, the team designed a secure and scalable architecture based on the Microsoft.NET Framework 3.0 using the Avanade Connected Methods methodology. Next, Avanade consultants developed services for CheckLock and a Windows application that would allow the production department to deactivate devices prior to shipping. The team also developed a Web-based interface between the CheckLock services and the new TASER.com Web site running on Office SharePoint Server When a background check is complete, the results are sent directly through the interface to the company s Microsoft Dynamics AX enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Finally, consultants developed a process that would automatically send a device s activation code from the ERP system to the consumer by . The team completed CheckLock in April Since we ve developed the CheckLock technology, we ve had a significant increase in retailer awareness and acceptance of our C2 product. Steve Ward Vice President of Marketing and International Sales Avanade Value Avanade delivered the expertise and resources required I was really impressed with the knowledge base of our Avanade consultants, says Rivera. Every consultant really knew what they were doing. One consultant was an Office SharePoint Server 2007 expert. Another was an architecture expert. He was able to rapidly implement a lot of complex models and applications. Rivera continues, Avanade has been an outstanding partner in helping us solve business challenges and deliver a great experience to our intranet and Web site users. The Avanade team helped us address a wide range of business challenges and improve project collaboration and communication throughout the company. One of the biggest benefits Avanade brought was the development and integration of CheckLock and the TASER.com Web site Avanade Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Avanade name and logo are registered trademarks in the US and other countries. 4

5 Results Expanded retail marketplace Before TASER deployed its new Web site, retailers had to manage consumer background checks. By removing the burden of background checks from the retailer, the C2 activation Web site is helping to expand TASER s retail channel. Since we ve developed the CheckLock technology, we ve had a significant increase in retailer awareness and acceptance of our C2 product, says Steve Ward, Vice President of Marketing and International Sales for Taser. We ve heard from big box retailers, mom and pop shops, and sporting goods stores companies that we couldn t appeal to before because of the requirements for background checks. We now share documents within Office SharePoint Server 2007 rather than sending them as attachments. Our users have a single point of entry into the document library, regardless of where they re at. Sunny Chowdhury IT Project Manager Accelerated communication with media TASER.com offers the fastest medium for disseminating product information. However, the company s old Web site was too difficult to update rapidly to respond to the media. Quite frankly, I just quit making routine changes to the site over the last year because the process was too cumbersome, notes Steve Tuttle, Vice President of Communications at TASER. Today, designated individuals can make the changes and they do not need to know HTML or have technical expertise to do so. With our new Web site, we can publish information within minutes, not weeks, giving us the ability to respond to the media in near real time, says Tuttle. Not only do TASER employees find it easier to post information, customers also get the information they need faster than before. And the RSS feeds are a huge benefit for us because people can subscribe to it so that they get information when they want it, how they want it. Improved data access and employee collaboration Employees no longer have to spend time tracking down documents or verifying whether they have the latest release. The technologies supporting the intranet Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Office Professional 2007 have transformed how employees manage day-to-day tasks. We now share documents within Office SharePoint Server 2007 rather than sending them as attachments, explains Chowdhury. Our users have a single point of entry into the document library, regardless of where they re at. They can access everything from Office SharePoint Server If they are working in e- mail, they can look at the library or tasks from there. The new workflow capabilities allow for much greater levels of collaboration. With the help of Avanade consultants and the new technologies, TASER launched the Taser C2 product in 8 months. This time frame is 200 percent faster than the previous product release cycle, which used to take 24 months. Streamlined IT operations Transferring the responsibility of Web site content to individual departments has given TASER IT more time to focus on other tasks. One significant improvement we ve seen is moving a lot of day-to-day tasks out of the IT area, says Rivera. This has allowed us to focus more on the reliability and scalability of our systems. As a result, TASER estimates that its IT department can support twice as many business users as it could previously simply because employees have more time to dedicate to IT tasks. In addition, by building the intranet and Web site on Office SharePoint Server 2007, 2007 Avanade Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Avanade name and logo are registered trademarks in the US and other countries. 5

6 TASER does not require additional resources or expertise in maintaining multiple products. Bringing these technologies under one platform makes them easier to support and manage, which is a big benefit, Rivera explains. For example, the company s previous Web site required a team of three full-time employees to maintain. The new TASER.com requires only two full-time employees resulting in an annual savings of more than $75,000. Built a scalable system that allows for future development Before it deployed its new portal and Web site, the IT technologies at TASER often hindered workflow. Today, TASER employees have the tools they need to boost productivity. We have a very fast-moving environment, and the solution Avanade implemented is dynamic enough and extensible enough to meet our business challenges and help us streamline our business processes, says Rivera. TASER IT is now working on connecting the ERP system to Web Parts available in the business intelligence models in Office SharePoint Server In addition, TASER is implementing the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) module within Microsoft Dynamics AX. Over the next few months, TASER IT will also be migrating the messaging environment to Microsoft Exchange Server This will serve as the foundation for a future unified messaging solution. Avanade brings the skill set we need to the table, not just in technologies we used, but in technologies we ll be using in the future, Rivera concludes. It s nice to know that we have a partner we can work with and call upon. And we know that they can get subject matter experts here quickly regardless of the application or requirement. With our new Web site, we can publish information within minutes, not weeks, giving us the ability to respond to the media in near real time.... The RSS feeds are a huge benefit for us because people can subscribe to it so that they get information when they want it, how they want it. Steve Tuttle Vice President of Communications About Avanade Avanade, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, is a global IT consultancy dedicated to using the Microsoft platform to help enterprises achieve profitable growth. Through proven solutions that extend Microsoft technologies, Avanade helps enterprises increase revenue, reduce costs, and reinvest in innovation to gain competitive advantage. Avanade consultants deliver value according to each customer s requirements, timeline, and budget by combining insight, innovation, and the talent of our global work force. Founded in 2000 by Accenture and Microsoft, Avanade has more than 6,500 professionals serving customers in 22 countries worldwide. Additional information can be found at Avanade Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Avanade name and logo are registered trademarks in the US and other countries. 6

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