Service IQ: Interview Case Study

Focus: Mid-Market Solutions and Windows Server Platform Solutions

ServiceIQ are the ITO (industry training organisation) for Aviation; Tourism; Travel; Museums; Cafes, Bars and Restaurants; Accommodation; Catering; Quick Service Restaurants; Clubs; Retail and Wholesale.

Three branches are located in New Zealand (Wellington Head Office, Auckland, and Christchurch) and a number of mobile field staff in the main centres and regions.

ServiceIQ supports their employer, learner and government stakeholders by:

  • setting relevant standards, and the quality assurance of those standards to achieve nationally recognised and New Zealand Qualifications Authority registered qualifications
  • facilitating the training needs of the service industry
  • offering training programmes and teaching resources that organisations and educators can use to upskill people
  • arranging for the evaluation of trainees’ learning
  • advocating on behalf of the industry for workforce development
  • providing national perspective and leadership policy setting across the service industry sector.

ServiceIQ oversee training to an industry that makes up 20% of New Zealand’s GDP (source: ServiceIQ 2014 Strategic Plan)

Q & A

This interview was conducted during February 2014 and was with Richard Kelly, Chief Information Officer/Portfolio Manager of ServiceIQ, to discuss the successes of the ServiceIQ 2013 IT Infrastructure Mergers and Refresh.

Q1: What was the ‘pain point’ in and the decisions leading up to their internal decision made prior to tender going out?

We had six key challenges and we needed a solution to address all of these

  • The urgent need for a high performance platform to support our new MS Dynamics CRM system (which was being created via a separate, but highly inter-twined project that was being run in parallel with the new infrastructure project)
  • Four distinct IT networks & infrastructures to consolidate into one.
  • All servers were out or warranty, end of line, or leased
  • Messy support environment with five vendors, consolidated down to two.
  • Heterogeneous environment with different platforms and working methodologies for internal customers
  • Internal customer experience was patchy, fragmented, and frustrating

Q2: Why was IT Engine asked to tender?

We believed IT Engine were a strong contender based on their previous work and history with us through our merger. We also had confidence in IT Engine’s work because we had received great feedback from one of the previous (pre-merger) organization’s via their internal ICT customer satisfaction surveys.

Q3: Why did IT Engine win the tender?

We assessed IT Engine’s solution as the best fit for ServiceIQ, they understood the range of our many requirements, and they offered real flexibility around the solutions. We also thought the pricing was a good fit and reasonable. IT Engine took a partnership approach and were willing and confident to challenge us on some of the details in the tender to provide better solutions that showed their expertise and in-depth knowledge of the Microsoft stack. They consistently maintained a strong customer focus which was paramount to us

Q4: There were four solutions proposed, what were some of the advantages/disadvantages, and what was the winning solution?

We chose the solution below as best fit, to tender request. As part of the tender process, IT Engine proposed a selection of solutions:

  • On-premises
  • Hybrid on premises/ cloud
  • Hosted private cloud
  • Infrastructure as a service.

On premises was the winning solution built on, a dedicated MS stack with new server/SAN hardware. It gave us the control/flexibility we needed to deploy customized applications, deal with the volumes of accumulated data, and scale with the business. Cognizant that we would likely start moving key infrastructure over to the cloud in the not too distant future, IT Engine structured the solution so that it could be taken to the cloud in the future.

The Hybrid solution was attractive in that it showed the benefits to moving certain business functions to the cloud in terms of investment and operating expenses. However, it was untested with our highly customized MS Dynamics CRM application.

Hosted/Private cloud was not selected as it did not fit within our budget. Also it would have meant a 100% reliance on internet connectivity. As connectivity improves over time this, however, may be a future option.

Infrastructure as a service may have been a possibility, and is more likely to be so in the future.

Q5: The time frames were tight from tender to starting point, why was that?

The tender dates were a starting point and based on our business need to rapidly deliver a stable platform for our merged CRM system. IT Engine demonstrated that they were willing to go all out to deliver and go the extra mile to meet our deadlines. IT Engine did things smartly and efficiently and ensured that we were able to meet our CRM merge and roll-out deadlines.

Q6: What would Service IQ score satisfaction with IT Engine out of 10, 10 being the highest!

11 – Our expectations were exceeded and we are incredibly happy with all the outcomes so I think a score of 11 is fully justified. From start to finish the project was completed in 3 months’ time – looking back at what we achieved in such a short time is mind boggling!

Q7: How did this solution specifically help Service IQ achieve business results, and what impact has the new IT solution actually delivered to date?

    • Revenue Acceleration: we are now working from a robust, stable environment that really works for us. Internal customers can get on with their work and our organisation can deliver to our external customers and funding bodies. Highly available systems help make it possible for us to achieve financial targets set, and we can continue to grow our business.
    • Cost reductions: the overall impact on cost reductions was significant, bringing the platforms together delivered simpler management in a homogeneous environment. And we also had less physical servers, a total of sixteen physical servers in Wellington was reduced to five.
  • Productivity: Business productivity is up – pre-merger there was a history of regular outages. The highly available platform we now have in place means our staff can get on with their work and work with everything in the same place. The new systems deliver speed, there’s no lag, it’s fast and snappy’, and remote access is much improved – essential for our mobile workers. IT Engine’s delivery ensured no downtime, even while there was a parallel project of the CRM merge delivered in stages in line with the infrastructure deployment. I also need to note that IT Engine worked extremely well with our other partners and project teams – by keeping the communication lines open and sharing information freely – IT Engine were able to adjust timelines and requirements as needed to fit in with our overall business goals.

Q8: Business insights- how will all this help with running your business better?

We are have gained business insights though our data warehouse which is now on a highly available platform. This means ServiceIQ can get the reporting we need promptly; this helps us to make critical business decisions and maintain compliance with our funding bodies.

Q9: How have your customer relationships improved?

Internal customers (employees) were won over due to a transparent and smooth, well planned, migration process – there was very positive feedback and the end result delivered what was promised. External customer acquisition relies on functional back-end systems that enable staff to manage the following information and workflows: trainee data and CRM system, calendars, emails, and marketing materials.

Q10: Have you asked clients about any improved customer satisfaction following the IT changes?

Not yet – our survey will be happening soon, but we are fully confident of excellent feedback when that is completed.

Q11: How did the Windows Server Solution specifically help?

Our challenge was we had to merge four different networks, technologies, and total of seven (7) offices in three separate cities in NZ. The final solution had approx. 9TB of data across ~26 virtual servers – the tender asked for a scope of 6TB, but this quickly approached 9TB. Future projections and potential mergers could mean the data expanding to 20TB.

The other ‘must’ was also delivering the solution with minimal disruption to daily business. Also, management of the new network was a lot more streamlined with all physical servers running on the same platform – again, System Centre 2012 has improved management of the servers and deployment of PCs.

Migration to the new system removed these barriers to productivity with all users on the same platform, removing the need to ‘micro-manage’ the network.

Q12: In your words describe your customer and Microsoft partner experience

The customer/partner experience was excellent – IT Engine’s expertise, in-depth knowledge and competencies in the Microsoft stack meant that our people were at ease and could trust that the solution would be delivered as promised.

Q13: How has all this affected your cost savings?

The ongoing savings by delivering a homogeneous platform on the Microsoft stack, with IT Engine’s support, has been estimated at around half a million dollars over the course of five years. These savings are a result of utilizing Microsoft products wherever possible and hosting on-premise.

Q14: How did you feel that the Windows service platform validate your recommendations and how did our skills in recommending and designing and deploying Microsoft servers technology improve your overall IT environment?

A dedicated Microsoft stack solution was easier to deliver due to compatibility and availability of support. Time was also saved during deployment by not having to make ‘bespoke’ parts work together. This also meant a further cost-saving to us as a client.

Q15: Date of tender request issued, date tender submitted and date tender announcement and date work commenced and date work completed!

Tender Issued: 18th February 2013
Submitted: 27th February 2013
Announced: 11th March 2013
Commenced: 12th March 2013
Completed: 9th June 2013

As shown above the timings were tight, but all key dates were met, with the most important being the 19th June when the work was completed and the final ITO had migrated across.

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