Furnware is a Hawke’s Bay based furniture designer and manufacturer, helping schools around the world create inspirational spaces for children to learn and thrive. With SharePoint and Teams, Furnware’s online workspace is now as modern and inspiring as the furniture it creates.

Theta worked with Furnware to create a single collaborative environment in Microsoft Teams, where staff could communicate, access documents and company news, across three locations – NZ, Australia and Singapore.

More than an intranet

Furnware was looking for an active and collaborative platform for communication across the organisation. Information Systems Manager Rob Merwood explains:

“We had talked about intranets but we were nervous – they have a bit of a reputation as a place to put files and forget about them. We wanted something more active, a communications hub rather than just file storage.”

Chat was already an established paradigm at Furnware, with some staff already using chat for most of their work communication – especially those often on the road or working remotely. Staff had used Instagram for this, but as Rob notes, it was proving difficult to manage:

“Instagram wasn’t really private, and we weren’t able to control permissions centrally. When someone left the organisation it was a hassle to manage. It really wasn’t the right channel for us – although our team loved its usability and chat functionality.”

Furnware have been able to recreate the Instagram experience in Microsoft Teams with “Furngram” – a channel where they share and discuss images and videos of their products in classrooms around the world.

The added benefit with SharePoint behind the scenes is the ability to securely manage these visual assets along with other company files in a single central location.

Teams plus SharePoint provides the best of both worlds

Before configuring anything, we spent some time understanding the different users within Furnware, to make sure that all their needs would be met by the eventual solution.

By combining the powerful information management and collaboration capabilities of SharePoint with the simple, unified Teams user interface, we were able to create a solution that provided for both structured and unstructured communication on a single platform.

Merwood explains the benefits of this unified approach:

“It’s easier now for our staff to collaborate on documents. They don’t need a VPN or extra tools, it’s all in a single, simple interface. This has already helped to reduce silos and increase transparency. For example, the Management Team can view and comment on monthly reports as they are created.”

It’s a light, flexible solution built completely with standard Teams and SharePoint features. The Office 365 ecosystem can be complex, but by starting with a good understanding of user requirements, we were able to navigate that, and just implement what was needed.

“We wanted an off-the-shelf solution and Theta had a good understanding of our needs. We don’t have a lot of resource to maintain a communications platform, so it was important to keep it simple. We also wanted the flexibility to adapt and roll with changes as our working habits evolve.”

No custom development was needed, so the solution is easy to maintain and update. Furnware can take advantage of product updates as they are available, without any risk that the system breaks.

The rollout has been a great success, with Furnware now keen to bring more into the platform, as Rob describes:

“We haven’t encountered any limitations, we can do everything that we used to do across various tools in Teams. The next step for us is to look at adding a phone system to Teams, and continue centralising all our files, from Dropbox and file servers. It’s a journey, but the end result – a strong, unified Furnware culture and a great environment for collaboration – is well worth it!”