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: IT North from Fort St. John, British Columbia

Describe the solution, service or initiative
Over the past 12 months, our client, a transportation company serving the oil and gas industry experienced explosive growth – opening 3 new city locations and growing 400% in size. Their existing infrastructure, telephony and productivity applications could not keep up. Communication and travel costs were sky-rocketing. Employees were less productive impacting the ability of staff to do their job while continuing to provide high levels of customer service. Their IT department looked to leverage technology to improve efficiencies. They compared Microsoft offerings to Open Source and decided that Open Source was the way to go. The owner of the client’s company placed a call to ITnorth. “When the Safety & Compliance Manager of our client called me. I was shocked they had made the technology decision without consulting us. They had been our client for 12 years and had always been happy with our service,” said Akos Zsufa, General Manager, ITnorth. “I asked him if they had considered Microsoft and he replied that they took a quick look but it was much too expensive for them – that Open Source was free.” Akos asked the client to grant ITnorth a meeting. Akos explained that while Open Source might appear to be free, there were hidden costs and the client should be aware of all factors before making the final decision. The client agreed and invited Akos and his team to present. The ITnorth approach to every client is consultative. So they began with really trying to understand the business objectives of the client. ITnorth completed a cost of ownership assessment for their company. They were able to factor in several areas that the client hadn’t considered when doing their cost analysis including integration, overhead for administration and delivery of the solution. The results of the assessment opened the eyes of the management team at Energetic. The report clearly showed that Office 365 would be 100% more cost effective by the end of twelve months. An Open Source decision for the client would be a costly mistake. In addition, the client felt relieved by the flexibility of the Microsoft licensing options – as their business expanded or if it declined, their licensing would reflect their business needs. When ITnorth delivered the report, they also offered to arrange for the client to speak to reference customers or even Microsoft to verify the results. For a completely non-biased view, the client went to an independent third party source. They confirmed that the evaluation completed by ITnorth was accurate and painted a true reflection of what Energetic’s real costs would be. “I was thrilled that the client used third party research to validate our findings,” said Akos. “It proved to them that we were truly a partner and could be trusted to provide them with the right information to make an informed decision. It further deepened our trust relationship with them.” The solution took advantage of the full value of the Microsoft platform including Office 365, SharePoint, Lync (replacing an aging Nortel PBX), Exchange and Windows Server. “With this solution we are much better positioned to manage our growth,” said a representative of the client. “We can retire older technology that can’t grow with us and we’ve solved some of our biggest challenges. Our new Lync system is saving us thousands of dollars in long distance charges – we even use Lync on our mobile phones – and our employees have reduced their travel and associated costs by about 60%. Our time is spent more productively and it is showing up in better customer service, reduced stress for staff and upward trends in our bottom line.” The client represents an average size client for us and includes: End Users – 110 ; Desktops – 105;  Servers – 2; Hosts – 12 virtualized servers – all running Hyper-V and SCVVM.

What makes it original or innovative?
IT North provided a detailed cost/benefit analysis for the client which they then encouraged the client to validate with a third party resource. In the process, IT North found other areas where the client could realize greater savings such as replacing their legacy Nortel system with Lync. The client had simply been looking at office productivity tools and had not considered communications until IT North suggested it.

Describe the improvement this solution made to the customer’s sales or revenues and provide measurable evidence of such.
This solution impacted operational efficiencies as noted in the next response.

Describe the improvement that was made to the customers efficiency, with measurable evidence.
Specifically, the client has seen an immediate impact since switching to their new solution. In the past staff spent a lot of time on the road attending board meetings, dispatcher meetings, departmental meetings and the need to get together with team members and customers was growing. Staff felt frustrated that they would often spend three or four hours in a car several times a week. This was inefficient, was impacting their quality of work, cutting into family time, increasing hard costs and increasing stress levels. When staff were on the phone, they were racking up thousands of dollars in long distance charges every month. Their phone system was antiquated and offered no options for collaboration. Documents were shared inefficiently – using email or fax to send copies around. Duplicates were created causing confusion around the “right” version and time was wasted trying to track copies or collect feedback. In particular the client has realized: – Significant savings – previously they were spending $107,562 annually on technology and communications – now they are spending $45,530 annually – a reduction of almost 60% – Collaboration with Lync and SharePoint has further reduced travel costs by 60% – Long distance had been reduced by thousands of dollars – Staff are reporting improved efficiency and productivity and the client has conservatively estimated this at about 30%.

How did the solution improve the customer’s ability to serve internal or external clients?
“Because our staff are travelling less and using familiar tools to communicate and collaborate, we are seeing huge productivity gains – probably in the ballpark of 30%. But we can’t just measure it in improved efficiencies, our staff are feeling more job satisfaction and less frustration. This has reduced stress and improved morale – all contributors to personal health which we take very seriously at our company. Family is one of our six building blocks for a healthy, vibrant organization so we want our employees to work in an environment that contributes to their ability to function well at work and at home.” said the client’s Safety & Compliance Manager.

In what ways does the solution go above and beyond industry expectations?
Based in northern British Columbia, we live and work in the most rugged and remote communities, serving populations that do not have easy access to technology providers or solutions. Whenever one of our customers “gets it right” everybody else wants to copy what they are doing. Even though many of our customers are located hundreds of miles apart and may only be accessible by snow-mobile, float-planes or logging roads for large portions of time, they still represent a closed community. Our very remoteness is what connects all of us and our successes and failures are communicated quickly. The success of our “Cloud for Business in a Box” has given our sales-people a repeatable story that they can get behind and easily sell to our existing customers as well as open doors to new clients who are looking to leverage the power of cloud solutions for their business. 

How does the solution further your customer’s green or environmentally friendly plans?
Delivering solutions on a public cloud has reduced energy consumption and IT footprint at the client site.

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