XCentral In Action

There’s something magical about making IT challenges disappear. We’ve compiled some of our client’s thoughts in to how they felt when it happened.

Guardian Strata

Overview:

Established in 2007, Guardian Strata is an award-winning strata management company in Sydney with a loyal and hardworking team of 12 staff. 

When XCentral assessed the business as part of Microsoft Australia’s major 'Small Business Makeover #ModernBiz' initiative, they found a very frustrated team crying out for an IT overhaul from the ground up.

“We have a genuine passion for customer satisfaction. But it’s frustrating that we can’t run any faster with the technology that we’ve got. The staff are trying their best and I’d love to take that pressure off them.”

- Ossie Pisanu, Founder, Guardian Strata


The entire process was documented in a series of video case studies, see the preview below or watch the full series here.

 

THE CHALLENGE


Episode One: Not so Modern Biz

Meet the hardworking team at Guardian Strata, and see how their struggles with out-dated technology and a lack of mobility aren’t just affecting their work, but their personal lives.

Watch Episode One Here

The XCentral team was faced with outdated, unsupported, ad-hoc and insecure systems that were causing lot of complexity and risk in the business. Much of the hardware and software hadn’t been updated for 12 years!

Guardian Strata operated on Windows XP with Office 2003, both of which are no longer supported, and various old server versions including SBS 2003, which is about to go end-of-life, SBS 2011, and Windows Server 2008. XCentral’s audit revealed dozens of incompatible systems, expired software, and duplicated data, missing security updates, unreliable backups, cumbersome remote access and several paper-based processes. With 140+ buildings to manage and 2,500+ individuals to serve, it was no surprise that the small team was stretched to breaking point, despite the long hours and dedication.

To understand the core challenges faced by the business, let’s hear directly from the staff members themselves:


OWNER OSSIE UNDER FIRE

With IT costs going up, productivity going down, and an increasingly stressed and frustrated workforce, Guardian Strata Founder Ossie Pisanu is prevented from growing the business he loves.

“I’m getting hammered from every direction. I’ve got staff frustrations and I’ve got issues to do with IT costs going up as a result of out-dated and disjointed technology – support costs have risen almost 300%! All our computers run XP. I’ve become a defacto IT manager!”


RENEE AT THE END OF HER TETHER

Renee Freedman, a successful and hardworking Strata Manager and working mum, is being held back by ancient IT.

“I can’t even describe the levels of frustration because of the technology limitations! I manage 68 buildings and I have around 1000 clients. My day often starts at 4am so I can get an hour or two of work in. We are all pushed to capacity working long hours and on the weekend. We cannot do any more, without changing technology. We will remain the business we are now … and lose out to other businesses who have better resources and technology.”


Episode Two: The work/life battle

What a difference a week makes. Armed with new mobile technology, Renee’s old frustrations have been replaced with a feeling of empowerment.

Watch Episode Two Here


HANDBRAKE ON FOR MOE

Business Development Manager Moe Serdal is held back from reaching his full potential at Guardian Strata. He has great ideas, but is unable to realise them.

“The daily tech struggles mean I only get to focus on the ‘right now’ problems. A big challenge is that the PCs are so slow. That hurts! I use Office 2003 everyday and I face a lot of problems. For example I send documents to other businesses that always come back with new versions. When I try to work from home I have disconnection issues, and the screen size is unbearable! Mobility is definitely a problem.”


BRINGING LISA TO TEARS

Finance Manager Lisa Lin uses Excel 2003 to run reports and her computer crashes regularly. She works late so often that she even had to buy her own car to avoid commuting at night.

“I run the financial reports every day, however it takes me at least an hour using my old PC! I’ve cried a few times, because often I wait for the report to eventually finalise and the system crashes. Sometimes the whole report is gone and I can’t recover it. Often I wait until everyone has left for the day to run the reports, so I need to work late or on weekends. A lot of the software is only installed on my PC, so I can’t work from anywhere else.”


Episode Three: Work Interrupted

When we last saw Lisa, crazy hours were taking their toll. Will new office tech, fresh Excel skills and Angela’s coaching help Lisa achieve what she really wants… a balanced life?

Watch Episode Three Here 

 

Solved:

THE SOLUTION

XCentral developed a comprehensive hybrid solution that integrated on-site and cloud systems. Here we outline how the solution delivered on key goals and the business benefits of each:

Grow Efficiently & Operate Productively

Guardian Strata’s legacy technology was a handbrake. Our aim was to use IT to reduce costs and be an enabler of growth.

Key technology & benefits:

  • Standardising the server software using Server 2012 R2 for streamlined management, integration and performance
  • Standardising the desktop/laptop/tablet using Windows 8.1 Pro for a consistent experience
  • Upgrading to Office 2016 gives staff powerful productivity tools to update skills and stay motivated

"The new integrated systems have given our team anew lease on life. Not just in the office, but on the road and in all our personal lives. It shows that, when used well, technology is not just a box in a corner - It can touch people's lives. Using the cloud i can work productively at home and spend time with my boys - while still being there for my team. Plus, I'm no longer the defacto IT manager!"

- Ossie Pisanu Founder

 

Do Business Anywhere

It was critical that the team can work together from anywhere. Mobility was a priority for all the team, especially Ossie:

“It’s important that I can work from home, because I’ve got kids with special needs who require social interaction. Currently I bring them into work because our technology doesn’t allow me to work productively remotely.”

Key technology & benefits:

  • Combining Office 365 with new Lumia 930 phones and Lenovo ThinkPad Helix 2nd 2-IN-1 devices has been life-changing for Moe, Lisa, Renee and Ossie, by untethering them from their desks using the power of the cloud
  • With Remote Desktop Services (RDS) it is now simple to login and Ossie can rest easy with encrypted security

"I can now run financial reports in a minute that used to take an hour! And I can access the system from anywhere. I can now spend more time with my friends. I’m even planning a visit to my family overseas soon, and will still be able to work remotely when I’m there so I can stay longer – it’s been a while!”

- Lisa Lin, Finance Manager


Connect With Customers and Colleagues

Renee attends a lot of onsite meetings. Before she had remote access, would write meeting notes by hand and then type them up and share once she was back in the office the next day, effectively halving her productivity and slowing down the flow of information.

Renee is now empowered to work from anywhere. In strata meetings she types or writes with her digitizer pen directly on her tablet using OneNote. When inspecting properties, she uses Office Lens to photograph repairs needed and shares them instantly via SharePoint or Yammer.

Key technology & benefits:

  •  Combining SharePoint & OneNote, Strata Managers have 100% productivity on the road
  •  Yammer improves teamwork, plus Strata Managers upload photos using Office Lens from onsite for immediate team feedback
  •  Skype for Business revolutionises staff/client communications, with less reliance on email 

Before the makeover, i canstantly had that uncomfortable feeling in my stomach not knowing if all the issues were addressed when I was away from the office. Having full mobile access has alleviated an enormous amount of pressure. Now I can get more done during the day – and from home when needed – so I can get through my work within reasonable hours each day.“

- Renee Freeman, Strata Manager


Safeguard The Business

XCentral discovered major weaknesses in security, backups, disaster recovery and user access management. Protecting their business became a priority.

Key technology & benefits:

  • Azure Active Directory synched with the on-site Active Directory enabling single user-password access to all systems, including Identity and Access Management
  • Enhanced security including Multi-Factor Authentication, BitLocker, SSL and all devices managed and secured with InTune
  • Enterprise-grade cloud backup and Azure Site Recovery (ASR) gives Ossie peace of mind knowing that even in a disaster the business can run again within 15 minutes


Equipped For The Future

Guardian Strata now has a scalable platform for growth. Ossie plans to build out a franchise model, and his new systems offer a technology blueprint that is easily replicable to new franchisees.

Key technology & benefits:

  • Cloud/subscription model means Guardian Strata grow incrementally without large capital expense
  • Guardian Strata now has Power BI on top of Excel, so the team can build in new intelligence
  • Dynamics CRM Online Pro will energise sales and marketing effectiveness

"Now that i don't have a tech handbrake, it opens the door to new opportunities. I’m free to focus on business growth ideas – such as social media and digital media – to help take things to the next level. It’s much easier to share plans with everyone else. And a lot easier for Ossie to motivate and lead the staff without the burden of backward technology.”

- Moe Serdal, Business Development Manager

 

The Technology

We adopted a hybrid mix of on-premise and cloud-based Microsoft technology, including:

  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Pro
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Standard with Hyper-V
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Standard
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS)
  • Microsoft Office 365 E3 including:
    • Email
    • SharePoint
    • Yammer
    • OneDrive for Business
    • Skype for Business
  • Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS):
    • Azure AD Premium, Office 365 directory and Azure.
    • Microsoft Intune
    • Azure Rights Management (ARM)
  • Microsoft Azure:
    • Azure Site Recovery (ASR)
    • Asure Active Directory Premium
    • My App Portal
  • Microsoft Power BI
  • Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
  • Microsoft Bitlocker Encryption 
  • Microsoft Office 2013 Pro-Plus 
  • Microsoft Office 2016 Pro-Plus with Skype for Business Technical Preview 
  • Microsoft OneNote with company sharing


Partnership Approach

As the core element of a major $500k ‘Small Business Makeover’ initiative campaign from Microsoft, this solution was the result of a powerful partnership between Microsoft itself and four carefully selected Microsoft Partners to implement the vision.

In addition to XCentral, the three other partners that worked together with Microsoft on this initiative were Lenovo, New Horizons Learning Solutions (NHLS) and Microchannel Services.

“It was an honour to be selected and trusted by Microsoft Australia to work with them and the other Microsoft Partners on such an important and public facing project. We are proud to be part of the team that transformed this small business, and all the people in it.“

- Phil Patelis, Managing Director, XCentral


The Future Looks Bright With Dynamics CRM Online Pro

On day one, the inbuilt functionality of Office365 and Dynamics CRM Online Pro, enabled us to eliminate two disparate software systems. This represented an immediate saving of $2,500 per annum for the first system, and $700 per month for the second.

Furthermore, Guardian Strata currently has six core Line of Business (LOB) applications running across the business. Working closely with Microchannel Services, our goal is to consolidate and integrate these systems onto Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Pro to generate even more savings and efficiencies. Integrating these legacy business processes will take just a few months, with the four partners working closely with Ossie and his team to consolidate all LOB applications into Dynamics CRM Online Pro backed onto SharePoint and Power BI. The result is.

By creating a robust hybrid solution now that delivers a flexible and scalable end-to-end productivity platform across the business, we are providing Guardian Strata with a cloud platform that they can build on into the future.

This integrated approach will also help achieve Guardian Strata’s vision to deliver a blueprint for a franchise growth model. They will have a simple multi-tenantable system, easier billing, fewer systems to manage, less data duplication and less complexity. This means reduced risks and lower costs of engaging and training new franchisees.

“It’s so fulfilling for XCentral and our other Microsoft Partners to see that not only are we transforming the way Guardian Strata does business, but we are genuinely improving the personal lives of each employee. That is technology at its best!”

- Phil Patelis, Managing Director, XCentral

“The new technology means I can be connected to the office while still giving my boys the social interaction which they love, and they need, in terms of fulfilling their potential as human beings … that takes a huge burden and pressure off me.”

- Ossie Pisanu, Founder, Guardian Strata

 

Episode Four: Control.Alt.Delete

Business owner Ossie reflects on life before and after his business’ tech transformation. Now, he’s got plenty of time to work on the business and stay competitive.

Watch Episode Four Here

 

Steve Waugh Foundation

Problem:

Founded by Steve and Lynette Waugh, the Steve Waugh Foundation’s mission is to improve the lives of children and families affected by a rare disease. The Foundation quickly outgrew its home office and basic computer set up. It needed a scalable solution to support a growing team and business in Australia and overseas.

Solved:

After consulting with the Board of Management on their immediate and future IT needs,

XCentral designed and implemented a fully hosted email solution with an in-house customer relationship management and business application including hardware, software and charity licensing. The team is now able to access all their mission-critical data and tools from anywhere and they have a rock-solid platform that can easily grow with Foundation developments.

Recruitment Systems

Problem:

Recruitment Systems is the maker of TRIS – the Total Recruitment Information System. TRIS is process automation software designed for the recruitment sector. When installed and configured, TRIS can radically transform a client’s business and deliver significant productivity gains and direct contribution to the bottom line. As a mission-critical application, TRIS needs to be available at all times to the agency and their consultants. If there is an infrastructure issue that compromises access to TRIS the effects on the business are immediate and profound.

Solved:

By delivering an end-to-end hosted solution, XCentral provides a fast, stable and fully supported hosting solution that Recruitment Systems can deliver to its clients via a simply monthly fee. As a total solution, it integrates seamlessly with email and office software. With a solid platform and technical support included, support requirements have dropped by over 60%.

Ruminator

Problem:

With three sites in Melbourne, one site in Hawaii and a lot of travelling in between, it became clear that the in-house server was limiting the business performance – speed was sluggish, remote access unworkable and team collaboration not possible.

Solved:

Being in the investment industry Ruminator had enterprise-grade performance, backup and security requirements.

Through a combination of in-house and cloud technology business applications, files and email are all accessible securely online from anywhere in real-time – even from Hawaii. Due to high security needs, email is hosted on Australian-based DSG-G certified infrastructure.

Jigsaw Search

Problem:

More than any other business, recruitment is all about connecting and collaborating with people. With offices across Australia, staff working increasingly from the road and confidential real-time databases, Jigsaw Search needed their consultants, candidates and employers to be able to collaborate efficiently and securely from anywhere throughout the day.

Solved:

Combining cloud-based applications and managed services, XCentral delivered a hosted desktop solution including email, document storage, business applications and website data integration.

Now the whole Jigsaw team can work as one – anywhere and anytime from their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. With data securely hosted in a tier-one Australian data centre, web searches of their databases are also extremely fast for staff and customers.

Testimonials
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Deborah Hutton
Media Personality

Thanks guys! I really appreciate how fast you get back to me every time. Friendly and responsive service seems to be rare in this industry. I’m particularly thrilled with the remote support.