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: Infinite IT Solutions Inc. from Mississauga, Ontario
Describe the solution or service provided
Our client is a leading provider of marine dry bulk cargo handling and delivery services, and the world’s largest owner and operator of self-unloading vessels. Headquartered in Montreal, the client is a privately-owned Canadian-based shipping companies with offices in Halifax, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Beverly (USA), Windsor (UK), Bergen (Norway), Singapore and Sydney (Australia). With over 2,000 people world-wide, the client is one of the world’s larger shipping companies that keeps the world economy flowing. The client employees that are shipboard live in some of the harshest of conditions known to humankind. Away from their families 6-9 months of the year, the client’s staff has always desired a way to remain connected to their loved ones in a heavy work-unbalanced lifestyle. The client has tried to address the matter on several times over the years, but could never find a way to enhance the employee work-life balance without affecting the business operations. The client engaged with Infinite IT to see if there was a cost-effective way to provide enhanced data services to their staff. They had tried to provide internet services over satellite connectivity, but the most staff were able to do over that was sit in the common “mess-hall” area and text-email with their loved ones.
What makes this solution original and innovative?
Infinite IT designed a highly-available solution based purely on Cisco infrastructure that not only took advantage of the existing Satellite connectivity while abroad, but utilizes LTE-Cellular services from both US and Canadian carriers to provide an even faster and more enhanced experience. Now staff have the ability to engage with Social Networking, play interactive games with their children online, and even video-chat with their loved ones while aboard the ship. The end-to-end solution required over a hundred hours in planning, designing, testing and piloting the solution. Infinite IT worked closely with the client’s team to ensure the solution would do what was promised prior to officially announcing this to their staff, or even more importantly to their unions. The leaders at the client’s company wanted to deliver a world-class solution that truly provides an unparalleled work-life balance in their industry, and the devil was obviously in the details. Being able to coordinate with a US wireless Carrier, a Canadian Wireless Carrier, their Satellite service provider, several different crews including asbestos technicians, specialized electricians, specialized cabling crews, ship captains, waterway locks, distribution and Infinite IT resources was an undertaking in itself. Trying to make the technology work was something that needed proper engineering, but coordinating the hundreds of people that were involved with the project was a feat in itself. Then ensuring that the solution complies with international laws, local government laws, embargo laws and has the highest level of security possible made the solution all that more complicated. Infinite IT spent hundreds of hours planning for the solution, which included several technologies such as Security, BYOD, Wireless, Switching, power management, cabling management, project management, LTE-wireless cellular hardware, and wireless carrier and satellite service coordination. The entire solution seems simple on the surface: put Wi-Fi access points on every ship and “magically” make it all work. The client rapidly realized the project was quite a bit more than just “magically making it work”. Being used to dealing with the harshest of scenarios, they quickly understood the complexities of the project, and what it would take to complete their objectives but still gave the project a green light as they really wanted to improve the quality of life on the ships for their staff. The project had it’s own set of unique complexities as well, which made achieving success an even greater stride for Infinite IT. Every ship had to have a comprehensive wireless survey to ensure we had 100% coverage in all areas of the ships, which meant many hours per ship was spent on advanced antenna theory to maximize antenna coverage and minimize access point requirements. Of the 20+ ships completed to date, no two ships have been exactly the same, and Infinite IT’s staff have had to react quickly to the need. Imagine being in the middle of Thunder Bay when it is negative 25 degrees Celsius, and the ship is frozen solid in the ice and the only way to get access to the ship is via a frozen port in the middle of nowhere. Or having to get on a ship at a canal-lock when the ship has only stopped moving for less than a couple of minutes going up or down a lock, tossing all the gear and equipment aboard so that you do not impact the ship’s time, only to get done 12 hours later and be brought back to shore on an inflatable dingy while the ship is in the middle of a Lake. This project truly pushed our engineers to the most extreme physical tolerance along with the high-pressure of having to instinctively know what to do next without the ability to quickly “same-day drop ship replacement equipment” when in a pinch. Quality Control and the Highest Skills available were the only things that Infinite IT’s staff could do to ensure that nothing went wrong. The solution also had to accommodate any device the staff wish to use, securely, efficiently, and without any complicated steps. Infinite IT had to ensure that all Wi-Fi devices were able to connect regardless of brand, operating system, Wi-Fi type or distance from an access point. “Everything and anything has to work from anywhere seamlessly and at all times” was the requirement. Extensive testing had to occur with every imaginable device to make sure that the devices all worked extremely easy for the least tech-savvy individuals imaginable. Infinite IT tested Apple devices (iPad, iPod, iTouch and iPhone from iOS 3 to 5), Windows Devices (Dell Latitude 10 Windows 8 Pro tablet and Lenovo ThinkPad W series with Windows 7), Android Devices (Samsung Galaxy S2 and Lenovo ThinkPad tablet) and even Blackberry devices (Torch, Bold, Playbook and the new Z10/Q10 BBOS10 series) to ensure everything worked everywhere. Testing was extensive yet proved to be successful every single time.
What were the benefits to the customer’s sales, revenues, and/or efficiency? Provide measurable evidence.
So far the benefits to the client have been absolutely astonishing. By far, the biggest impact is to the people that work for the client. As can be imagined, there are a lot of human resource issues that a company like the client would have, from staff claiming disability, to lodging complaints against the company for working in such a harsh environment and so forth. Ultimately, the client’s staff were (for the most part) unhappy. This solution has connected the client’s staff to the real world again, having created a much better work environment, a 20% reduction in employee complaints so far and staff that actually seem happier at work. Financially speaking, Infinite IT has helped reduce lifecycle management costs by over 50%, and enabled each ship to decrease delivery timelines by approximately 4%, and decrease satellite communications by 50% while increasing throughput infinitely (from 64/64 kbps on satellite to a 50/10 mbps LTE connection – the difference has been earth-shattering). The business benefits to the client have been drastic. Most staff are saying they don’t know how they worked there Pre-Wi-Fi. By far, the biggest impact to the client has been the overall Employee Work-Life Balance to encourage better Employee Well Being.
How did your organization achieve customer satisfaction and how was this demonstrated by the customer?
Throughout the entire process, Infinite IT had to ensure no impact to the business was felt. As such, our engineers flew all over Canada and the world to board ships at the most convenient time. Some staff at Infinite IT even underwent specialized immunizations and “booster shots” in order to work in the most extreme locations in the world that have little to no health care. The client has put so much faith into Infinite IT that the company has now employed Infinite IT to manage the solution for all 30 ships, and as new ships roll off the production line in China, Infinite IT staff are now advising to the manufacturers how to build the ships in order to accommodate the most efficient deployments. Infinite IT staff will be travelling to China in 2013 to deploy the network, wireless and security equipment on each ship prior to it being completed on the production lines, and will have the ships ready to go before they are even delivered to their final destination around the world. Many of the company’s captains will do whatever they can to accommodate Infinite IT staff needs, including setting up quarters for the staff to sleep on while migrating a ship to having customized meals cooked for the staff a-la-carte and served to their private quarters. Infinite IT staff were treated as warm and welcoming as possible by all staff, from the top down at all times. The client’s company is working with the global Director of Communications and a worldwide leader in networks to publish a blog, a written case study and a video data sheet on our design. Infinite IT is also going to conduct interviews with the ship captains’ and staff in 2014 to conduct a study on how the solution has impacted the work-life of all employees ship bound for most of the year, and will be publishing a study on the results. Infinite IT has also been awarded the contract to augment the client’s staff involvement with all lifecycle management of IT on their ships. Traditionally, the client required three to four resources over the course of 5-10 business days per ship to do a full lifecycle migration at the end of their hardware lifecycle. Infinite IT offered to help in this area as well, and was able to do a full physical-to-virtual migration of all the aging servers on each ship, upgrade from Windows Server 2000+ to the latest version of Windows Server, re-designed the entire Active Directory structure, and completely migrated each ship’s Exchange deployment with only two engineers over three days. What took the client between 15-40 working days to complete, Infinite IT was able to complete in less than 5-6 working days (100% of the time). Infinite IT now also managed and supports all desktops and servers on the entire global fleet for the client’s company, and has proven to be able to do this with a 25% savings over managing things internally with a proactive approach in place versus the reactive remediation that was previously in place.
Describe the benefits of this solution to your organization in terms of new skills, certifications, products, and services.
Many wonderful things happened to Infinite IT because of this project. Certifications, financial growth, increased profitability, increased industry certifications and so much more. Infinite IT staff have worked in the most extreme and harsh conditions known to humankind (literally), sacrificing their family and personal lives to support the client with their aggressive initiatives to help improve the lives of their employees. Infinite IT has also worked in many countries around the world to achieve the project objectives, with staff working remotely or in many cases physically flying to all parts of Canada and the US, along with China, Singapore, Australia and the UK. The project has helped Infinite IT justify 4 more full-time technical resources as well as 2 more administration resources. The client has also agreed to speak publicly on behalf of Infinite IT and our strengths as a Cisco and VMware solution provider. The client’s staff have expressed extreme gratitude to Infinite IT for going well above and beyond normal expectations of any service provider they have ever dealt with in the past (according to the client’s CIO). Sending Infinite IT staff into the harshest human conditions such as the middle of a frozen lake in the Arctic, internationally to areas of the world that may have posed a risk to the individual’s health due to unsanitary conditions, flying staff out on small aircraft to get to the most remote areas in northern Quebec and then travelling on a rubber dingy to get hoisted up the side of an extremely large ship during a rain storm and making the engineers available 24×7 to be dispatched out to a lock at the last minute because a ship may be a day ahead of schedule and the engineers have to race to the locks in Weland to get on the ship before it gets through the locks… the staff at Infinite IT have truly earned the reputation of “Extreme Technical Consultants – going where no one else wants to go”. The experience has truly separated Infinite IT from other solution providers in North America, and has already earned Infinite IT other awards in Canada and the US for the extreme uniqueness of the project.
How did the solution improve your customer’s ability to serve its internal and external clients?
Infinite IT is now engaging on other fronts with the client, and the relationship is anticipated to grow even further. Since the project was commenced, Infinite IT has earned respect from other clients that learned about the solution. Other clients are now inquiring how Infinite IT can help their organization realize the benefits of a strategic Wireless/BYOD solution to improve operations, employee productivity, and enhance their customer experience the same way we have impacted CSL’s. infinite IT has recently secured a large Collaboration solution that includes all of the same Cisco technologies, which has also recently expanded to include Voice and Video for that project. That solution is geared to start up August 1 2013, and should be completed within 4 months, with a total revenue of approximately $1.2M Several other smaller solutions are also being rolled out as we speak as a result of the impact realized with the client. Our next major focus is to go after the client’s biggest competitors and bring them the same conceptual solution to help improve their productivity, employee work-life balance, and increase their overall operational costs.
How does the solution or service go above and beyond industry norms and expectations?
As the first ever startup to win the Solution Provider of the Year, Infinite IT has once again risen to the occasion and challenged the most extreme environmental and technological limits of what we do in the technology industry. Delivering world class solutions in the most unique ways is what Infinite IT strives to bring to the market – not following status quo yet setting the bar in which the rest follow. Once again this year, Infinite IT has sought out the most unique of solutions and succeeded in delivering what will become the new global standard for employees that work on ships most of their lives. The staff at Infinite IT literally worked in the most extreme and harshest conditions, and did so for months on end. Some evenings the staff were unable to return to a hotel room, so they would just sleep on the ships. For IT technicians, enduring this project was truly a test of skill and personality. Infinite IT continues to challenge its own capabilities, and looks forward to being at the Channel Elite Award ceremony in September 2013, hopefully as the Solution Provider of the year once again. Thank you for all you have done over the years for us CDN. We are true followers, and respect what you do for our industry and for the channel.
How does the solution further your customer’s green or environmentally friendly plans?
The client would routinely dock ships on a regular basis to allow for staff to have some personal time. Typically, the ships would dock once a month to let the staff off for 12-24 hours to connect with the outside world. Since project completion, this has been reduced to once per quarter. This means that ships do not have to sit idling in a port for 12-24 hours at a time, going out of their way to dock, which means less fuel is being wasted. This will have a huge impact on the environment over the long-run as it means less greenhouse gases are being burned and ships can do more with less. There are several other ways in which the solution is improving the client’s green efforts such as increasing their IT uptime, which means less wasted time ashore and greater time shipping product. (One of the largest inefficiencies is when a ship is taken off-line due to issues – it could take 12-36 hours to transfer cargo from one ship to another, at which point both ships are burning fuel. The results of the repair and extra efforts to accommodate the breakdown can also cost the client a lot of time and money as well. With the new proactive approach, the client will be able to mitigate 2/3 of all downtime while enjoying a much more efficient and positive online experience.