Each year, our sister publication Computer Dealer News hosts the Channel Elite Awards to recognize IT Solution Provider for their innovation, leadership, and commitment for creating value for their customers. As Canada’s leading IT channel publication, CDN invited solution providers to submit their best work to nine different categories for 2013’s awards. Here, we present the case studies these award nominees put forward to us. Find out who the big winners are on Sept. 11 when CDN presents them at the CEA Awards Gala.

Learn more about CDN’s Channel Elite Awards 2013

Nominee: Ideaca from Toronto, Ontario

Cloud Solution description

Our client is a private non-profit organization in the entertainment industry.  It had a strong desire to move away from its current systems which are completely disparate and do not talk to one other (i.e. Ruby, PHP). Their systems require significant attention, outside resources for customization and overall are not delivering the business value and functionality they ultimately require. Some of the key issues and challenges faced by the client today include: • Changes to applications require web page and Access database changes • Multiple different sites written in different technologies (ASP.NET, PHP, Ruby on Rails) • No dedicated IT staff • the client personnel need to be able to modify application data • Form/document generation o Applications o Auto-responses o Certificates • Reminders/activities • the client requires ad-hoc and static reporting capabilities • Large volume of historical data • Older interface, difficult to shift site to different provider • Applicants lack visibility into status and history of applications past and present o e.g. OMDC has features such as current/past applications, action items, and upcoming deadlines • Amount of the client support required for each applicant • Applicants have to re-upload same documents over-and-over o Document expiry tracking Opportunity: The Client is embarking on a strategic business initiative that will improve the way their organization handles communication with their artists and applicants. On the front-end, the client requires a more efficient way of managing the artist application process as well as ongoing client interactions. On the back-end, the client also has a strong need for a system that can better handle and manage their artist/applicant documents (distributed grants, status of grants, grant repayment process, etc.). In addition, the client requires and integrated solution, one that connects their website(s) to their internal processes and systems. Diving deeper into the client’s challenges and determining their target state, we took more of an out-of-the-box approach and recommended a unique solution that would leverage the Cloud using the Windows Azure platform to utilize the core functionality of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to provide a solid foundation which we could expand into a robust xRM solution to best suit their needs. The opportunity for the client to excel in the Cloud is two-fold. On the back-end of their business (private), a custom management application that employs Dynamics CRM Online and Exchange incorporates a fully featured CRM solution, in addition to workflow management, reporting, document generation & management etc., and working from the Cloud allows the client staff to access all of their information both on premise and remotely. On the front-end of their business (public), increased synergies exist in removing disparate systems to consolidate their public-facing portals into one central platform where both the client employees, applicants and jurors can access information instantly, such as registrations & verifications, online payments, assessment application management, tracking, client collaboration & communication, member self-service, etc. The full product suite for this implementation includes Windows Azure, Adxstudio and Dynamics CRM Online.

What type of cloud architecture was deployed and how were these decisions made with security in mind?

Upfront Ideaca took security very seriously, and took every step to ensure the client was compliant with their information standards. In accordance with that, our Cloud solution was a hybrid model. The majority of the project was built in a public Cloud so that anyone, anywhere could have a secure user-based experience to apply, track, and receive grant information. However the client wanted to keep their accounting system in a private cloud for compliance reasons, so Ideaca designed an infrastructure that allowed for seamless information flow between the systems.

How does this solution push the boundaries of a typical cloud computing solution and qualify as innovative?

This was a completely end-to-end solution that touched every aspect of the client’s business. From an applicant submitting a form for funding, right through tracking, approvals, payments, and consolidations. Ideaca had to work closely with the client to collaborate on improving process flows and process in every area of the company. Ideaca created something very specific and unique to help a non-profit company become leaner, and more efficient to maximize the time and money available for their clients. This solution forced our staff to not only implement a ‘tool set’, but develop a thorough business strategy right through to solution for a very complex and time based process. With a hybrid cloud approach that covers the entire business lifecycle, we believe we have created something very powerful and different in the marketplace.

Why was this type of cloud solution the right choice for this business case?

The client had no IT personnel to manage a new system, and was very concerned with cutting any IT related costs so that they could ensure they maximized the amount of money getting into the hands of Canadian applicants looking for a chance to launch their music career. They also needed a solution which was highly scalable to account for several peek times throughout the year where higher numbers of people would be accessing their information. And most importantly, they needed a place where their clients could assess from anywhere in the world at any time. Moving to the Cloud provided the savings and flexibility they needed to provide their service to the Canadian public.

How was the success of the system measured and what were the results?

Benefits: The client has realized significant productivity gains and ROI in several areas: • With a small IT department and by eliminating their dependence on significant IT infrastructure, current employees will be freed up to focus on other core strategic business tasks and objectives. • Application automation has resulted in significantly less manual effort, which in turn allows jurors and employees reviewing artist applications to perform more assessments, thereby increasing their daily productivity. • All stakeholders in the organization (jurors, employees, applicants, etc.) can now retrieve the latest information in CRM or on the various portals whenever and wherever they are. • The client now has complete access to platform speed, elasticity and scalability that will grow with their business at all times. • As new portals, applicants, artists and jurors emerge, it provides the client with the flexibility to deploy additional new applications fast and without worry about strain on their existing systems. • The client can now easily and affordably scale their Cloud to anticipate and react to peek use periods that happen several times a year, in accordance with application deadlines – Enhanced compliance and created a documented audit trail which has simplified the audit process and avoided unnecessary audit fines

How did the design and implementation of the solution break new ground for you as a solution provider?

Combining private and public clouds, and integrating with several key systems and dozens of business processes was very complex and broke new ground for Ideaca. We had to master an entire industry, with extreme detail to cost savings and privacy. The success of this project has since lead to other successful projects and a true insight into the music industry and non-profit business model.

How does the solution further your client’s green or environmentally friendly plans?

This solution allowed the client to cut back on their physical IT footprint, and wasted energy up-keeping servers that would have only been utilized during peak times of the year when business spiked. Going to the Cloud empowered the client to improve business while cutting back on energy and unused hardware.

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