John Keells Holdings PLC

Conglomerate Empowers Employees and Enables BYOD with Online Productivity Tools

Solution Overview:

Organization Size

12000 employees

Organization Profile

Headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka, John Keells Holdings PLC is one of the country’s largest conglomerates, operating in transportation and logistics, tourism, real estate, food and beverage manufacturing, finance, and IT.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Active Directory Domain Services
  • Cloud Vantage – O365
Vertical Industries
  • Other Services
  • Food & Beverage
  • Transportation
  • Logistics/Distribution

Sri Lanka



Company Overview:

John Keells Holdings PLC case study

John Keells Holdings PLC chose Microsoft Office 365 as a global collaboration and productivity platform to extend its group-wide intranet and connect employees in more than 80 companies. It felt that Office 365 offers more integrated communication, collaboration, and productivity applications. Better offline access to files and interoperability with more mobile devices will support a goal to adopt “bring your own device” (BYOD) as a group-wide strategy.

Business Needs:

John Keells Holdings PLC (JKH) was founded in 1870 as a tea broking business in Sri Lanka. Today, JKH has business interests in real estate, consumer foods and retail, financial services, and information technology. Its investment in Sri Lanka is so deep and widely diversified that its stock price is sometimes used by international financial analysts as a benchmark of the country’s economy.

As JKH grew, the company’s IT staff faced a challenge in providing up-to-date business productivity tools to a diverse and mobile workforce in dozens of companies under the JKH brand. It had a Lotus Notes-based email solution that no longer supported the growing needs of a modern workforce. “We have more than 3,000 executives and an increasingly IT-savvy workforce who were looking to use their devices at work. The challenge was to empower them without compromising corporate policies and information security,” says Ramesh Shanmuganathan, Executive Vice President/Group Chief Information Officer at John Keells Group.

However, the company’s Lotus Notes did not offer the features or functionality that JKH employees wanted to use inside and outside of the office. Due to spiraling storage costs, JKH had to limit their internal mailbox size to 100 megabytes and other features such as instant messaging (IM) and web conferencing services were not available.

JKH had been consolidating and centralizing IT services for a decade, and it wanted a collaboration suite that could help it consolidate and relaunch its corporate intranet and employee-centric IT services with functionality that would entice employees to use it even when they are outside the office—a social, collaborative, intuitive platform. “We wanted a holistic communication and collaboration platform from one vendor that we could deploy easily to our dispersed businesses and with a roadmap that meets with our Business/IT roadmap,” says Shanmuganathan.


John Keells Holdings PLC evaluated Microsoft Office 365, LotusLive, and Google Apps for Business for its requirements. The company chose Office 365, which unites familiar Microsoft Office applications with the power of Microsoft Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online, and SkyDrive Pro into one connected, online solution, with Yammer social networking available for purchase. “We chose Office 365 because we needed a single platform that could offer us interoperable collaboration and business productivity tools today and in the future,” says Shanmuganathan. “Email archiving and legal hold, customizable data retention policies, integration with Active Directory Domain Services for Universal Single Sign-on, and Information Rights Management: these were crucial features for us that other solutions were not as able to provide without third-party solutions.”

We chose Office 365 because we needed a single platform that could offer us interoperable collaboration and business productivity tools today and in the future.

Ramesh Shanmuganathan
Executive Vice President/Group Chief Information Officer,
John Keells
Holdings PLC

JKH was also concerned about the impact on user productivity and usability with other offerings. “Our employees and partners are used to Microsoft Office applications, and we were worried about losing formatting in Office files when viewed or edited with other platforms,” says Shanmuganathan. “JKH promotes a ‘bring your own device’ [BYOD] work environment. Office 365 supports more of the devices our employees use than other solutions. Office 365 has a superior offline work experience and Office Web Apps make it easy to work with Office files in your browser and store data in the cloud in SkyDrive Pro and Microsoft SharePoint Online sites.”

Working with Microsoft Cloud Vantage Services, JKH ensured that the whole project was well thought through from conceptualization, design, and execution with a four-month, onsite engagement. “The Cloud Vantage Services engagement was a rewarding experience and helped us sail through the project without incurring user disruptions,” says Shanmuganathan.

In January 2013, JKH deployed 200 Office 365 Enterprise E3 licenses for executives, which includes upgrade rights to Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus, and approximately 3,000 Enterprise E1 licenses for others.


With Office 365, John Keells Holdings PLC enjoys continual updates to the latest versions of Microsoft cloud-based business productivity software, minimal IT administration, enhanced data security, and business continuity. JKH is confident that now its employees are working at maximum efficiency using the latest business productivity software.

Mobile Productivity to Drive Efficiency
In Shanmuganathan’s opinion, Office 365 makes it easier for JKH employees to be productive than Google Apps, which would have required separate applications to sync mail and mobile devices so they stay current. “Office 365 is a one-stop shop for productivity, anywhere, anytime,” he says. “Forty percent of our employees work out of the office. Now they can access their files and their contacts. No one has to get back to the office to get something done. Office 365 is driving our work forward.”

Cost-Effective Platform for Growth
JKH gained a flexible, cost-effective platform for a large conglomerate with different business groups expanding at various rates. The subscription model and interoperability with Active Directory means JKH can add or retire employees quickly, while easily tracking costs. “It used to take more than four hours to provision a new employee. Now it takes five minutes,” says Shanmuganathan. “And we can avoid more than [US]$100,000 per year in incremental mailbox storage costs. We’ll introduce Lync Online voice soon, which will give us an integrated collaboration platform for data, voice, and video.”

Social Networking to Connect Businesses
JKH is excited about the potential for social connections within the business. Using IM, web conferencing, browser-based document collaboration in real time, and searchable My Sites within SharePoint Online that showcase employee talents and expertise, the conglomerate has a platform for networking.

“Using Office 365 and Yammer, our employees can discover and leverage the huge knowledge capital that we have at JKH,” says Shanmuganathan. “This is a lasting benefit of Office 365 and we hope there will be more to come in the future.”


Microsoft Case Study: John Keells Holdings PLC

Partner(s): Microsoft Services



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