Rouse Partners’ Azure migration unlocks new era

Celebrating its centenary in 2023, Rouse Partners LLP has witnessed plenty of transformative change over the years. Partners have come and gone, technologies have changed, growth has continued. As a result, Rouse has expanded from its humble beginnings into one of the UK’s Top 100 accountancy firms.

Some changes have been opted for, others enforced – but they have all played a part in growth of the practice from a house in London to a team of more than 90 people.

The Challenge

When it was announced that Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 was becoming end-of-life, Rouse Partners had to move quickly to adjust their IT landscape roadmap. With business-critical infrastructure running of soon-to-be obsolete servers, an investment could either be made into expensive new server licensing and on-premise hardware, or into a cloud migration project that would empower the organisation and unlock new opportunities, security features and scalability.

“In terms of timing, it made sense to have that conversation around the advantages of the cloud versus the software and hardware costs on doing it in-house,” said Tom Gardner, Head of IT at Rouse Partners. “With consideration to the benefits of global scalability and geo-redundant disaster recovery, alongside enhancing our security posture, our decision was a very straightforward one. It was then a case of sourcing a partner.”

With the decision to migrate to the cloud made, Rouse Partners browsed through Microsoft’s network of partners to source and engage a partner that could meet the needs of the organisation. With quotes on the table from several managed service providers, Cloud Direct shone through by making evident its tailored, personalised approach that would leverage Microsoft funding and create an open, collaborative partnership.

“We spoke to partners of all sizes, including some global, household names, but all of our conversations were cold and robotic,” said David Bevan, Assistant IT Manager at Rouse Partners. “The individuals are polite and forthcoming, but the process just felt like a production line in a factory.

“That was different when we spoke with Cloud Direct, it was open and collaborative from the outset. Even when it got to the difficult conversations around numbers and finance, it wasn’t adversarial. It was a case of ‘what’s your budget and let’s maximise that – let’s optimise at every stage of the process to get the most out of your investment.’”

The Solution

What had started as a collaborative project was to continue in the same vein. Cloud Direct went about the design and architecture of a new cloud infrastructure, in line with Microsoft’s Well-Architected Framework, that would transform the organisation’s existing on-premise setup while continuing to meet their specific requirements.

The close partnership between the two organisations came to the fore when Rouse Partners identified a potential snagging issue with some of its existing software.

“We were about three-quarters of the way through the project when we realised one of our key bits of software wasn’t going to work exactly as we had envisioned,” Tom explained. “As soon as we identified the problem it was easy to pick up the phone to Cloud Direct and say ‘sorry guys, a bit of a hurdle has cropped up’.

“We discussed potential resolutions and it was a comfortable conversation from the outset – there was no hint of ‘we’ve already designed it’ or ‘the contract says this’. No one was expecting this to come up, but it was an organically open, collaborative and human approach that allowed us to address the issue quickly, find an agreeable solution, and get to a point of resolution.”

Cloud Direct’s close relationship with Microsoft also paid dividends for Rouse Partners. Having been named Microsoft’s number one UK partner for partner-led funding in 2023, Cloud Direct was able to deliver large financial savings from the project brief by securing two funding grants to cover around 70 per cent of the total project cost.

“Looking at the initial figures of the project cost, we might have been having thoughts otherwise,” David explained. “But having some of that financial burden reduced really helped with the reality of the project, and that’s not something we were aware was possible until we started engaging with Cloud Direct.”

The Outcome

Upon completion of the cloud migration project, Rouse Partners now had a platform to promote a new age of innovation. With its infrastructure and applications now successfully hosted in Azure, Rouse Partners’ concerns around security and disaster recovery had been addressed and maintenance for Tom and David had now been simplified.

“With everything is now under one pane of glass, being able to administer our whole environment centrally is great,” said Tom. “It used to be that if something went wrong, the impact could be far-reaching and suddenly the IT department became unwilling celebrities. Now, when we identify an issue we can compartmentalise it, deal with it in isolation and then roll the solution into the production environment with no system downtime, and no impact or disruption to our colleagues. It’s improved business continuity, and made us more efficient as a service department.

“Partners and colleagues are delighted. We’ve had compliments from those working far afield who love how responsive the new Azure environment is, and our Audit Director even recently managed to assist on a key client deadline from the passenger seat of a vehicle traversing the Swiss Alps!

“The only downside is we now have to strive for IT projects of even greater scope and complexity, so that we can’t be accused of resting on our laurels,” Tom smirked.

Leading with its ‘teach don’t sell’ mantra, Cloud Direct puts knowledge transfer at the heart of all of its projects. Working with Rouse Partners was no different, with the intention of creating a platform that Tom and David could take on and manage as they moved forward.

So, where would the pair be without engaging a Microsoft partner?

“We’d be sat here, scratching our heads, trying to make the backend of Azure work the way we wanted it to,” Tom laughed. “We’d be stuck in development hell, searching around in the dark.”

“The long and short of it is that it would’ve taken much longer to get to a significantly worse place,” David added. “It would’ve taken six months or so to go through the necessary training, which would’ve meant not being able to provide full IT support to the business at the same time.

“Having Cloud Direct come in and not only do the hard bit, but show us how it’s done and allow us to understand the work they’re doing, means we’re up to speed in line with the project. I learn by reverse engineering things, so seeing the environment being put together and what is making it tick has meant we’ve learned how to administer it really quickly.”

Why Cloud Direct?

“You can tell when a conversation feels scripted. A lot of the big names we engaged with left us with the distinct impression that answers to our questions had been verbally copy-and-pasted from robotic processes or templates, but when we got on the phone with Mateusz and Jon everything felt tailored to us.

“It didn’t feel like they were sending out the umpteenth quote of the day – they were engaged from the outset to understand where we were as a business, what our pain points were, and where Rouse could be best supported. There was a genuine enthusiasm to listen and to design the right environment, rather than sell the most expensive solution or deploy the quickest answer with an off-the-shelf and moving on to the next customer.”

Tom Gardner, Head of IT, and David Bevan, Assistant IT Manager

If you want to find out more about how migrating to Microsoft Azure can transform your organisation, talk to one of our experts.

talk to an azure expert