Entrepreneurship is a widely acknowledged engine for domestic economic growth. Although large corporate entities and the state certainly contribute towards national development, it is small to medium sized business that truly enables employment, widespread prosperity and financial independence.

Few structures appreciate this more keenly than the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC). Founded by CEO Mike Anderson, this organisation is focused on promoting the interests of SMEs in South Africa.

With over fifty thousand clients nationally, the NSBC is among the largest entrepreneurial forums available to local business owners. Offering free and paid memberships that are accompanied by direct operational support, networking opportunities and annual publications, this group aims to equip emerging entities with the resources required to survive and thrive.

The capacity to swiftly and effectively communicate is essential to the NSBC’s continued success as a supportive platform.
This demands access to reliable technology services. As such, the group relies heavily on technologies such as email, telephone, file sharing and instant messaging to interact with its members, partners and providers on a daily basis.
In 2012, the NSBC began to encounter several obstacles within its technical infrastructure.

Consistent email services had become unpredictable due to an ageing on premise solution. Furthermore, the absence of a certified archiving tool required staff members to manually back up formal communication and important documents.

Support for mobile devices was also wanting. Although NSBC employees are regularly required to travel and meet clients, many could not access email or related communication tools via their smartphones or tablets.

Although this system had served the group well over the years, the time had come to investigate potential alternatives.

As a recognised business partner, the NSBC turned to Microsoft South Africa for assistance. With its dependence on reliable communication and mobile devices taken into account, the group soon realised that a cloud based business solution would be the most appropriate fit.

Shortly thereafter technology solutions provider, Forrest Technologies, moved the NSBC’s business infrastructure over to Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise E3 – an off premise business platform that gives users access to Microsoft’s full Office suite and a consistent experience on both desk based and mobile devices.

Office 365 Enterprise E3 also supports advanced email capabilities that include archiving, eDiscovery,and unlimited storage for legal compliance.

Furthermore, the solution comprises Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Lync functionality – vital components that immediately equipped the NSBC with secure document sharing, management and instant messaging tools.
To date the NSBC has enjoyed several benefits as a result of migrating its legacy on premise business tools to Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise E3.

According to Twané Gouws, Head of National Sales and Operations at the National Small Business Chamber, the platform has revolutionised the way this entity communicates on a daily basis.

“With Microsoft Office 365 everything is in the cloud, which is great. We now have unlimited email storage space – which was a constant internal challenge at the NSBC, the solution automatically backs up our information to a remote location and we also have access to eDiscovery tools – which certainly helps from a legal compliance perspective”.

“We currently have over fifty thousand members. As a result, the NSBC simply cannot be without email capacity for even an hour. Microsoft and Forrest Technologies have ensured that we are no longer at risk in this regard”.

Mobility, which is of critical importance to the NSBC’s external staff, has also been addressed, adds Gouws.

“We are now able to receive and send emails from our mobile phones and tablet devices. Office 365 Enterprise E3 also incorporates several other useful features such as voicemail forwarding, advanced search and calendar support. This has proven invaluable when out of the office or in client meetings”.

Finally, the NSBC has benefitted from Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise E3’s integration of Microsoft Lync and Microsoft SharePoint – particularly when conducting internal conversations and controlling significant documents.

“The availability of Microsoft Lync and Microsoft SharePoint has been valuable when conducting internal meetings or discussions. Our creative head is based in Potchefstroom while the majority of our staff is situated in Hartebeesport. Using these tools we are able to immediately identify a colleague’s availability, chat with them via instant message and share documents. It has certainly boosted productivity.”