When Zach Lawson started working in the IT department at Piramal Glass USA two years ago, he developed a predictable morning routine: As soon as he arrived at the glass manufacturer’s Park Hills, Mo., plant, he’d head straight to the server room and switch out tape backups for the servers.
“That’s how every morning would start,” he said. “I would go and change the tapes and make sure everything was good.”
Lawson, who helps cover IT for all three of the India-based company’s U.S. locations, felt it was time to replace the servers; they were reaching end-of-life and the ever-changing space requirements kept increasing.
The office’s setup was making IT team’s job challenging in other ways, too. Their days were inundated with help-desk requests and IT fires, making it difficult to think strategically about a solution. And the infrastructure not only caused a severe drain on his time; it prevented the rest of the company’s employees from working efficiently and effectively.
The office needed an upgrade, so the team decided to move their data center operations to a completely virtualized, hyper-converged solution, which is both flexible and easy to deploy. It’s been nine months since they went live and Lawson said the impact has been profound. He and other employees are more productive than ever before.
When companies think about upgrading their IT, they tend to see it purely as refashioning their business to be more tech-native. But in reality, this transformation has the potential to do something even more critical for development and the bottom line. It can unleash midsize businesses’ greatest asset—their human capital—empowering employees like Lawson and other members of Piramal Glass’s IT team to maximize their contributions.
Escaping the stagnation cycle
For midsize businesses, the core challenge of IT transformation boils down to simple math. Unlike big corporations, IT departments in these organizations are small and stretched thin. (Lawson, for example, is currently one of just four people comprising the IT staff at Piramal Glass USA.) It can take several months for the IT team to research, price out and implement a complete network and hardware overhaul on its own. It can be costly, too. So midsize businesses often hesitate to adopt emerging technologies. It’s a vicious cycle: A company doesn’t have the resources to upgrade its IT infrastructure, so IT staffers spend their time plugging holes in an aging system instead of doing the type of planning needed to invest in new tech.
It’s exactly the situation Gary Hollis was intent on avoiding. The vice president of software development at FM: Systems, Hollis knew investing in IT was critical to the company’s development. Founded in 1984, FM: Systems helps facilities teams manage their building portfolios by offering easy-to-use software for a broad range of management services. Since Hollis started at the company ten years ago, it’s gone from 23 employees, who had a single shared email account, to just over 100 today.
“We kind of grew from a small, mom-and-pop business into a medium-sized business rapidly, while keeping the small company values and culture” Hollis said. As a tech company, FM: Systems had to be able not only to service customers effectively—in particular, managing ever-increasing collections of data—but constantly innovate to grow. In other words, keep its employees focused on finding solutions, not fixing problems. To do so, the company needed to trust its IT.
FM:Systems turned to Dell EMC’s suite of end-to-end IT solutions to refresh its data center and workstations, as well as reinforce its network with SonicWall next-generation firewall protection to help safeguard sensitive client data. It also leaned on Dell EMC’s ProSupport, as well as Financial Services, which worked with FM: Systems on an economical leasing agreement. This allowed the company to procure hardware it otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford, allowing for more cost-effective scalability.
“Dell EMC’s willingness to take the time to educate us on what to do and how to use the proper technologies—they were more consultants to us,” Hollis said, adding that the expert service the company receives via ProSupport often goes above and beyond. “Without pushing for sales, they would say, ‘Look at these technologies. Here are the advantages of each. Let me understand how you’re going to use it for your business, and I can guide you to which one will be the best fit.’”
And if there’s a problem? “It’s a single phone call,” Hollis said.
With these tools, FM: Systems has a foundation that empowers its workforce to be innovative and perform well for its customers. “We have grown our business on average 30 percent to 40 percent year-over-year in our hosted offering because of the hardware we’ve been able to put in, and the reliability and service that we get,” Hollis said.
Unlocking IT ingenuity
When Piramal Glass’s IT team got the okay to upgrade the company’s infrastructure, the staff also looked to Dell EMC to find IT solutions that would meet the performance demands of their end users. The company ultimately chose to streamline data center operations with the VxRail Hyper-Converged Infrastructure solution and outfit end users with Latitude laptops, OptiPlex desktops and Precision Mobile and Fixed Workstations.
For implementation and troubleshooting, the company opted for Dell EMC’s ProDeploy Plus and ProSupport Plus service packages, effectively allowing the IT staff to act as project managers rather than the ones doing the heavy lifting. “They completed everything from racking and stacking the hyper-converged solution and deploying it, to rolling out and migrating 84 computers and erasing the data from the old computers,” Lawson said. “This saved us time and money.”
With the proactive and preventative monitoring supplied by ProSupport Plus, the IT team can also rest easy knowing it’ll be alerted to—and can thus get ahead of—any potential problems before they occur. “If there is one absolute headache that has gone away, it is that we no longer must worry about our backups and servers,” Lawson said. “It’s on autopilot, requiring very little management.”
The fact that Dell EMC offered an end-to-end solution along with expert and highly responsive tech support was a big selling point, said the IT manager, who, like Hollis, took advantage of Dell EMC’s Financial Services to negotiate a cost-effective agreement. The impact across the enterprise, Lawson reported, has been huge. Piramal Glass USA has been able to expand its functionalities and capabilities and increase company-wide workflow. “Sometimes I can have 100 to 110 people on my network, and it doesn't even budge the VxRail,” he said.
And now that he doesn’t have to worry about the servers anymore, Lawson said he and the IT team have time to dedicate to more important, forward-looking projects, including upgrades to the company’s central door access and security camera systems, among others.
Another plus? No more tapes.
“Man,” Lawson said, “I definitely don’t miss changing tapes every day.”
Sources: 2017 Mid-Market Technology Trends report, Deloitte; US Midmarket Digital Transformation Trends report, Techaisle