Clear Concepts for Solution Provider of the Year

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: Clear Concepts from Winnipeg, Manitoba

Describe the solution or service provided
The solution starts with the implementation of a First Nations community electronic medical records (cEMR) application called Mustimuhw (pronounced Moose tee mook) and ends with long-term remote managed service contracts with customers from secluded communities. The results are efficiency, productivity, trust, respect, and pride. Some of the essential IT services we provide to our clients in these remote communities are: Server, network device, and desktop monitoring and maintenance; Helpdesk support; Virtualization solutions; Business application support; Wireless technology; Remote access; Hosted Exchange; Hosted backups; Website design, hosting, and support; Training; Security solutions; Product procurement and deployment. Clear Concepts provides expert remote IT managed services and support to over 40 First Nations and over 30 remote health centres. Our clients are met with several challenges to becoming self-sustaining as well as providing quality healthcare to their people. We offer expert remote services and solutions to help them overcome those challenges. Mustimuhw is a unique cEMR system distributed by the Cowichan First Nation for First Nations that incorporates current medical practices with First Nations traditions and teachings. It is the top cEMR product used by First Nations Health Centres across Canada. The reason it is so popular is that it empowers community health centres to educate local people on improving health by incorporating cultural teachings along with traditional medicine. It also aids in the reduction of unemployment by hiring local people and advancing their abilities through learning the program and promoting wellness throughout the community. Our solutions help these communities by giving them a stable foundation and reliable support so they can ultimately enhance the lives of their people.

What makes this solution original and innovative?
Many of our remote community clients have come to us either through acquiring the Cowichan Tribe’s Mustimuhw cEMR, for which we are the sole authorized installer and support, or through word of mouth. Initially, we attend their site for a network readiness assessment, usually prior to the installation of Mustimuhw. Once there, we tend to discover common issues among these remote, secluded communities. Generally, their major problems are how to: Increase business continuity and productivity;  Reduce risks for potential data loss, theft, privacy issues; Reduce costs by having anticipated IT support fees; Spend less time concerned about IT issues and focus on core competencies; Access information on new technologies and IT knowledge;  Maintain reliable and skilled IT support; Connectivity internally and externally Assist in training local people to learn IT skills; Retaining the right person or people with the skills and knowledge to support their cultural requirements for advancement; Respond to changes or advancements in IT or other business conditions. In each case, we propose a customized remote managed service solution which has ultimately been the silver bullet for addressing all their current IT pain points. These services include those mentioned in the previous section. We have also partnered with a small airline company that is familiar with remote community access limitations. This has greatly improved our logistics process and our ability to reach out to clients by transporting technicians and equipment in an efficient, responsive manner. This has allowed us to increase response times by not having to send technicians or material by ground, or attempting to work within commercial airline schedules. The result is little impact to the community because our technicians can quickly perform any physical tasks and leave immediately once the job is complete. Also, costs are substantially reduced through flexible schedules and pre-arranged negotiated rates with the local airline. This not only saves time, it also saves an average of $500 per trip in flight, hotel, and meal costs. The First Nations communities we serve span throughout Manitoba as well as other isolated areas in other provinces. The work we do impacts the lives of well over 80,000 people who are striving for better living conditions in their communities. Current technology plays an important role for achieving their advancement goals and our job is to enable them with the tools to make it happen and support them throughout their progression. Some of the larger organizations we work where our solutions have been successfully replicated are:  Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs; Birdtail Sioux First Nation; Brokenhead Ojibway Nation; Canupawakpa Health CenterCross Lake Band of Indians; Dauphin River First Nation; Fox Lake Cree Nation; H’ulh-etun Health Society; Hailika’as Heiltsuk Health Centre; Hollow Water First Nation; Lake St. Martin First Nation; Little Grand Rapids; Little Shuswap Band Health Centre; Manitoba First Nations SchoolNet; Norway House Cree Nation; Old Massett Haida Health Centre; Opaskwayak Cree Nation; Peguis First Nation; Pinaymootang First Nation; Redstone Health Centre; Sagkeeng First Nation; Sandy Bay First Nation; Skidegate First Nation; South Indian Lake First Nation; Swampy Cree Tribal Council.  The reason our services go beyond the accepted norm is because of the established connection we have to our clients in remote communities. We are able to supply them with all the products and services they need regardless of distance. We supply managed services with true full remote capabilities including validation and automation of processes.  We have cultural sensitivity to their practices and traditions. We streamline our logistics processes to provide greener and more cost-effective solutions for challenging physical and time-sensitive deliveries. We ensure our staff are up to date on the features and benefits of Mustimuhw.

What were the benefits to the customer’s sales, revenues, and/or efficiency? Provide measurable evidence.
Based on client testimonials and healthcare success stories that we have noted throughout this submission, we are proud to say our remote managed service solutions has proven extremely successful for our remote clients. Word continues to spread about the benefits these services have to anyone in isolated communities that share the challenges mentioned earlier. One of our healthcare clients located on a secluded island 3,000 km away in British Columbia was able to get approval for a much-needed Telehealth system (technology to facilitate medical services including consultations, research, and education across distances) to help deliver medical services that otherwise would not have been available to their community. They needed extensive network enhancements before Telehealth could function in their environment. The solution we implemented included a major cabling and switch upgrade to increase network performance. We delivered equipment and technicians to the remote island to perform cabling upgrades, wireless building interconnectivity, and Juniper switch replacements which were all completed 2 weeks ahead of schedule. Subsequent diagnostics indicated a network performance increase of over 200.0%. They now have access to seven provincial Telehealth authorities for onsite education and training, medical advice, and consultations. The medical services they offer now include Telepsychiatry which treatment was non-existent prior to the upgrade. Patients no longer have to travel by air to Vancouver for consultations or treatment, saving the clinic over $150,000 annually and staff receive the benefits of enhancing their medical knowledge through remote-based training. “Clear Concepts has given us an affordable solution and are familiar with our needs. Their techs are very thorough and are always up front in determining what our needs are and giving us cost-effective solutions to address them. I highly recommend Clear Concepts.” Bo Reid, IT Manager, HHHC. Another notable success story was when we were contacted by a Northern Tribal Council who supplies education, funding, and oversees the operations of eight First Nation communities. They heard of our services through one of our other First Nation clients and subsequently contacted us to help them out of a desperate condition. They had gone through several IT staff and also tried the services of local IT service providers, all of which left their network in a very poorly configured, unproductive, vulnerable, and unsecured state. The client had no safeguards against private data from theft or misuse, files were frequently lost or misplaced, personal and private employee information exposed throughout the entire network, and confidential financial information was available to everyone. This was not only a concern for their employees, but also for the 17,000 community members who trust the Council to manage their affairs. If their personal information had been available to the wrong people, several lives could have been negatively affected resulting in extensive litigation. As a governing body, our client was very concerned about non-compliance with the Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession (OCAP) and Canadian Standard Association (CSA) principles that govern First Nations. They ran the risk of sustaining detrimental legal consequences had the situation not been resolved quickly. They were losing hope in being able to find anyone who was network qualified and could address their dire need to have their systems secured. Since we engaged with the Tribal Council, we rebuilt their network to a proper and secure configuration using Active Directory security and permissions and also scaling them down to a single domain for their 50 users. We educated their staff on some of the changes that were implemented and how those changes were needed to achieve a secure environment. They are now empowered with the knowledge and support to move forward and educate the rest of their communities on how to adopt new technologies and achieve the confidence to become self-sustaining and enhance their own economic growth. “After Clear Concepts got us up and running, no more downtime! Our productivity increased over 50% and we now have access to many competent techs to help us with our other communities.” Peter Norman, Finance Manager, Swampy Cree Tribal Council.

How did your organization achieve customer satisfaction and how was this demonstrated by the customer?
The key to any successful IT solution is to clearly understand the client’s needs and goals. We take the time to listen to what our clients are trying to achieve and offer the most beneficial and cost-effective solutions for them. The result is an ongoing business relationship to ensure the solution continues to meet their needs, or enhance existing technology to enable them to achieve their goals. Here’s what our clients have to say about our services: “With our business being located on the Central Coast of British Columbia and our community being a remote island, Clear Concepts Business Solutions has managed our network remotely from another province. With their remote managed services, our network has been seamless. We highly recommend Clear Concepts Business Solutions for any businesses that require immediate technical support for their networks.” Bo Reid, IT Department Manager Hailika’as Heiltsuk Health Centre Bella Bella, BC “We have been working with Clear Concepts since 2008 and I can say their service is top notch. Recently, they helped us move the network to our new building a week under schedule with no downtime. Anytime we call, we always get an answer right away or a quick return call. I can’t say enough about how great the service is. How you treat a client is so important. You could have the best product, but if you don’t treat your client properly, it doesn’t mean much. Even though our office is over 600 km away, I would still absolutely recommend Clear Concepts to anyone needing quality technical services regardless of how far away you are from Winnipeg.” Nicole Lathlin, Administration Opaskwayak Cree Nation Health Authority The Pas, Manitoba “Our network had experienced lots of neglect over the years. We tried different IT people, but no one seemed to be able to fix our network. Now that we are on board with Clear Concepts, we have access to more information to help us get other communities up to date. Instead of one tech, now we have eight. I would highly recommend their services to anyone looking for remote services and network support.” Peter Norman, Manager of Finance Swampy Cree Tribal Council The Pas, Manitoba We sincerely appreciate the business that is passed on to us from our rural clients. We believe that when our clients recommend us to others, it is a true testament to our success as an expert remote managed service provider.

Describe the benefits of this solution to your organization in terms of new skills, certifications, products, and services.
Providing remote managed services to remote locations has allowed us to expand our knowledge and expertise to accommodate clients wherever they may be. In our small but cohesive environment, our team collaborates using creative thinking to find cost-effective solutions that work. For example, our client had requested a cabling job to connect two buildings located next to each other. After our sales team met with our technicians, they found that a wireless point to point made more sense and was more cost effective for the environment. In addition, our technicians pointed out to the client the benefits of using Lync to communicate and collaborate between the locations instead of using phone lines. This has increased their productivity by 50.0% by decreasing the use of phone and voicemail as their main communication method. In addition, our team continually looks for ways to improve processes and logistics. However, currently, our system is serving us well so far and client feedback has been positive. One of the services we have achieved exceptional knowledge in is providing installation and support for Mustimuhw. Our technicians not only need to understand installation requirements, but also the culturally unique medical environment and terminology of our First Nations clients in order to support them post installation. Because of the frequent communications our technicians have with our clients, they have established a mutually respectful working relationship. Clients appreciate our technicians who take the time to listen and understand their concerns. Another area where we have built advanced skills is wireless point-to-point technology. Our remote clients usually have several buildings located around their community that require sharing of secured information. We have partnered with a few vendors that allow us to provide the most beneficial and cost-effective solution depending on the exact needs of the client in terms of distance between points, sightlines, number of access points required, number of connections, and bandwidth restrictions. These proven results are replicated for other clients as required. Because of the remote nature of our work, our staff have developed scripting skills that have allowed us to validate and automate processes for clients that allow us to remotely manage desktops and servers. We use scripting tools to push out important security updates while utilizing the advantages of vPro in order to remotely power machines on and off with no user intervention required. This gives us full remote management capabilities without any onsite IT support so the client can stay focused on improving their communities. This also allows for energy conservation by letting our clients turn off their computers when not in use.

How did the solution improve your customer’s ability to serve its internal and external clients?
There are many managed service providers across Canada, but we can accurately state that our managed services are truly remote. Because of the niche services we provide to over 100 remote communities, we have established the reputation among them as their reliable expert source for all IT requirements. Through our association with the Cowichan Tribe, we have developed a remote/secluded client base that has allowed us to streamline our support and logistics systems with ultimate precision. Also, our partnership with a local airline service enhances the efficiency of our process. This allows us to effectively and efficiently handle any potential IT concern regardless of how secluded our clients may be. Our remote monitoring system alerts our staff to any potential hazards which may otherwise go undetected until it’s too late. We can be proactive with solutions critical to the business continuity of many of our isolated clients, particularly those in the healthcare sector. The benefits are that we are able to serve several communities and accommodate many new customers through this process. This has been very beneficial for establishing our position in the market and building a reputation for providing quality IT support to isolated communities who struggle with technology challenges. The annual cost for remote managed services is on par with hiring a full-time IT person. However, it can be substantially less when you consider unscheduled overtime costs, benefits costs, hiring costs etc. The advantages are that clients can be confident their concerns will be addressed proactively and that they have a team of reliable and skilled technicians who will always be available. For example, in 2012, our clients in the three scenarios mentioned below used an average of 210 hours each for helpdesk tickets and regular maintenance, patch alerts. The value of the service benefits alone was roughly $25,000 per client. This was all covered under their support contracts and dealt with proactively and quickly to seamlessly resolve their issues. Without regular reliable support, travel, diagnostic, and repair time would take much longer and costs could be substantially higher on a reactive basis, especially given the remoteness of their locations. In one case, after we engaged our remote community healthcare client and transformed their network to a secure and functional state, they were finally approved for an onsite physician and a new health centre facility. This has allowed them to reduce their transportation costs by over $100,000 annually by being able to treat more patients locally, as well as realizing the benefit of having regular onsite professional medical advice. Additionally, many community members did not have a family physician or required to travel out of town 140 to 620 km away to be seen which was detrimental to the health of the local people and their families. Now, they have the opportunity to be treated in their home community which means early detection and treatment is more likely for serious illnesses. According to OHA’s administration staff, with the enhancements made to the cabling and network infrastructure in their new facility, overall efficiency has increased by 85.0%.

How does the solution or service go above and beyond industry norms and expectations?
We have a cultural sensitivity to the needs of First Nations which allows us to work effectively within their structure with a relationship of mutual trust and respect. Our long-standing relationships with our clients help us truly understand the similar challenges they face. That knowledge has enabled us to streamline our planning and logistics processes in order to repeat these efficiencies to other new clients in remote isolated communities. Because of our commitment to excellence, we have established a solid reputation as an “expert remote community solutions provider”. We measure our own success based on our clients’ references. Our clients have iterated their overall service satisfaction through voluntary testimonials and recommendations to other communities. This reinforces our principles and motivates us to continue to excel in the services we offer to clients. We also share our clients’ passion for achieving a quality standard of living. Their common goals are to provide their people with economic development and quality healthcare while trying to maintain the delicate balance with their cultural uniqueness and proud heritage. Our job is to give them the tools, knowledge, and backup support they need to help achieve those goals. On a number of occasions we have welcomed an interested community member to our office to be mentored by our team for up to 6 weeks. This supports the communities’ desire to be as self-sufficient as possible, as these trainees will then go back and use the skills they learned in their communities. They also know that we are always only a phone call or email away for additional support. There is no charge for this service, it is just another way we give back to the communities we serve.

How does the solution further your customer’s green or environmentally friendly plans?
The Opaskwayak Health Authority (OHA) has an internal program where they arrange to reprocess all recyclable products such as cans, plastics, toner cartridges, and any old office equipment. They avoid using landfills at all costs. Culturally, environmental preservation is especially significant to First Nations’ people. They believe it is important to “respect the Creator’s gifts” and it is expected that “each person do their part to sustain the natural beauty of the land”. Also respecting OHA’s green initiatives, thanks to having an onsite physician at their facility, more patients are able to be seen locally rather than travelling 140 to 620 km, in some cases, to the nearest doctor. At an average of 20 patients per month required for round-trip travel, the fuel reduction per year is over 14,000 litres (over 32,000 kg of carbon emissions) for their community alone. Since OHA moved to their new facility and able to use their new communication tools, they are effectively connecting with the community by engaging them in programs to promote healthy living and natural awareness. This includes conducting education sessions, providing garden boxes and composting systems for people to grow their own produce to promote self-sufficiency and reduce emissions required to transport food. Even reducing the emissions of 3 trucks per year travelling 620 km, saves over 12,000 litres of fuel (which in turn saves 28,000 kg of carbon emissions). Another client, the Hailika’as Heiltsuk Health Centre (HHHC) realizes that frequently transporting their 50 to 60 patients round trip to Vancouver each month is harmful to the environment. By implementing the new Telehealth system, HHHC will be able to decrease fuel emissions through reducing fuel consumption by almost 73,000 litres per year (saving 171,000 kg of carbon emissions). They are also able to further reduce fuel consumption by inter-networking the two local facilities, which means less travel by doctors, nurses, and staff between buildings. Generally, whenever we quote client desktops or laptops for remote managed services, it always includes vPro technology. This is in line with both our client’s green initiatives as well as our own. In order to reduce their carbon footprint we encourage our clients to turn their machines off when not in use to save energy. Utilizing vPro, we have the capability to turn the machines on when needed to perform updates or any other necessary maintenance that may be required without any onsite user intervention. This accounts for over 600 desktops for our remote community clients. Additionally, we quote Lenovo servers for our remote clients as they have substantially reduced power consumption: are Energy Star compliant; utilize Intel’s dynamic core power adjustments: average 85% high efficiency power rating; and feature over 50.0% recycled plastics, half of which is from post-consumer content. Our vendor partner products include the following green certifications: 80 Plus, EPEAT, and Energy Star. Finally, through the process of virtualization, the servers are consolidated further decreasing clients’ energy consumption. Many of our clients request to return their old computer equipment for recycling. In those cases, we will arrange to have the equipment shipped to our office to remove sensitive and secure data and then once a month we deliver all recyclable hardware to one of the local depots for recycling or to be reused for charitable purposes.

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