Marine Rescue Queensland trains squadrons with Office 365

Marine Rescue Queensland has begun managing and triaining the 1,500 volunteers across the state using Microsoft Office 365.

Managing a volunteer workforce of 1,500 people across a state the size of Queensland has been challenging for Marine Rescue Queensland, but a shift to cloud collaboration and services with Office 365 has improved productivity.

(Image: Supplied)

Marine Rescue Queensland provides rescue services to people using boats across the over 2,700km coastline of the Sunshine state.

There are 25 individually managed and autonomous squadrons, with 1,500 volunteers in total who end up taking on approximately 900 rescue jobs each year.

The organisation was already operating Office 365 with Telstra, but said the not-for-profit rate was more than the volunteer organisation could afford to be able to expand.

"We started off down that process, but of course, we were paying a not-for-profit rate, but it was basically too expensive for us to do what we wanted to do, which was roll out to the 1,500 volunteers we have over Queensland," Dave Paylor, principal consultant at Empired, the Microsoft partner in charge of the implementation told ZDNet.

The organisation took on a not-for-profit offer with Microsoft, and Paylor said that Marine Rescue Queensland has been able to expand the service out to 1,000 volunteers so far, and grow it as required without having to increase licensing fees paid.

"It has definitely given us that flexibility to scope and grow as we need to," he said.

The main benefit of Office 365 has been the ability for the different squadrons to collaborate over SharePoint and share various training manuals and other documentation with the different squadrons.

"What we've done is create a satellite hub concept where the hub is the state content, and then there are five different zones, and within those zones we've got 25 different squadrons," he said.

"Each squadron is pretty much autonomous, so what we needed to do was to give them the ability to do what they want in their individual areas."

There is a shared hub for the state where common forms such as training manuals are kept, this is managed by Marine Rescue Queensland, but the individual squadrons also have their own shared document areas that are managed by one squadron, but readable by the other squadrons.

"This includes standard operating procedures (SOP), where historically we would have had each individual squadron spending time duplicating the effort to reproduce those," Paylor said.

"We now have a situation where if a squadron wants a SOP on a particular topic, rather than start from scratch, they can do a search, find a squadron that has something similar, and grab that and use it as a template.

"We've also created private areas for the squadron executive teams. It's very secure, and very isolated to keep secure stuff in there if they need to."

The second reason for the shift to Office 365 was to allow the organisation to create email groups and have a standard email environment for the volunteers, and one that works across a variety of devices used by the volunteers.

"The move to Office 365 has been a revelation for having a consistent set of emails for everybody and to be able to create groups so we can get everything to the right people at the right times," Paylor said.

Earlier this week Empired announced it had secured an AU$20 million contract to manage mining giant Rio Tinto's enterprise applications.

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