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Monday, March 7, 2011

Help us we got iPads but we can only use them at the Coffee Shop!

Help us we got iPads but we can only use them at the Coffee Shop!

Ring Ring….Ring Ring…..

“Hello John speaking”

“Yes its Frank calling from Vaughan Holdings, Richard at Urbano Construction asked me to call you regarding some issues we are having”

“Sure, what issues?”

“We just got a handful of iPads for my guys and we can’t connect reliably to anything in the office and Robert brought in this SMC wireless router and that doesn’t work so people are now hanging out at the Starbucks across the street”

“OK be there in about 20 minutes”

“Thanks I’ll be in the Starbucks, I will be the guy with the orange iPad cover, yeah (chuckle) I already have pimped it out”

Kudos to Frank for running getting his staff some Tablets to help increase their productivity and get things done faster but he forgot to include their IT guy in the conversation.

Tablets in the office basically need Wi-Fi connectivity if they lack an Ethernet connection on the device. The small form factor means that it will be done through the internal wireless network and if activated can be done through the cellular 3G network. (With its appropriate monthly data plan).

Years ago, they installed a wireless access point for connectivity for laptops in the boardroom but some used it and some didn’t. The rollout was considered a secret so many didn’t have the password or even know that it existed. It was also configured incorrectly and only allowed 2 users on at any given time.

Since they have a small office with 30 employees, they tend to be their own IT department but typically Karpal is the prime support person leaving Frank who holds the purse strings to make all the decisions. It turns out Frank bought the iPads because he didn’t want to spend $10k for new laptops and then have to hire someone to maintain them but also because it would differentiate his sales guys from his old school competitor. In the construction business, hand shakes, image and having two Blackberries seems to be the way things get done.

After several discovery sessions and some whiteboarding with Frank, Connie in sales support, Robert the sales guy and Karpal it became obvious that they really didn’t have anything set up in place that would help them do business in a better way.

First, I had to have Frank commit to proper resources and training to keep things working after the fact. Karpal agreed that he would enjoy being the IT prime in addition to his CAD role but needed more training.

Frank was busy working on trying to win a large 30 Million dollar project and felt that he could invest some money into a solution that would set the foundation for increased sales in the future.

The proposed solution was pretty straightforward:

1) Avaya Wireless LAN with 4 Access points and it included Guest Access and security features. Now his users would have secure access and also allow guests to use their devices in his office.
2) Migrate current Nortel Norstar system to Avaya IP Office 7.0 and reuse their existing telephone sets for investment protection and add 2 IP Softphones for Frank and Connie to start. Now Frank and Connie could work from Home or remotely. His Norstar is 12 years old so now is a good time to change it. The new Avaya IP Office supports the Nortel sets so new telephones aren’t needed.
3) APC UPS system for the computer room in case of power failure
4) Upgrade their Reseller Internet connection to an Allstream business grade service for the utmost reliability and security
5) Mobile UC offering for Blackberry Integration
6) Financial Instrument for investment protection and monthly payments

After that Frank needs to really develop a Data Center mentality with proper back ups and some server consolidation. That’s another story..

This scenario is typical of smaller family owned businesses where the economy has prevented them from using the latest technology. First of Frank always thinks everything is so expensive including an oil change on his BMW and is now realizing that he needs to use the latest technology so he can compete against others. Frank understands the construction business better than anybody but doesn’t understand technology in a business manner. It is important to sit down with your customers and teach them and help them understand how the technology can help propel their business forward. It is important to understand how the employees would use the technology and it is important to advise your customers how thy can protect their investments in the future.

Two weeks later, Robert was excited when he slid his iPad across the boardroom table to show the customer the architectural renderings of their building proposal and the customer left with a strong impression that he was dealing with the right construction company.

John Leonardelli
Senior Unified Communications Consultant

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