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"We were early cloud adopters. Seven years later I still think it's the best thing we've ever done."
“That’s the true value of the cloud – you can avoid the issues of people working from home or remotely as long as they have access to a laptop, our cloud-based environment and Office 365 they can continue to be as productive as if they were in the office.”
How cloud computing improved access to critical business data for SAM Mouldings
Back in 2013 SAM Mouldings hosted their IT systems in-house. IT Director, Tim Patton recognised that an on-premise solution was slowing the business down. Staff were struggling to access data and information when working remotely which was impacting the effectiveness of customer meetings and creating information silos. Tim also had concerns about losing data through hardware failure that could be catastrophic for the business. Tim knew he needed a provider and a strategic business partner to guide them through their digital transformation journey to the cloud, and that partner was Xperience.
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Overcoming the Challenges of Moving to Cloud
For SAM Mouldings, moving to the cloud was an easy decision. They understood the challenges that the business faced and they knew that moving to the cloud was going to make them more efficient and make data and information more available and secure. But, they also understood that it would require a ‘mindset change’.
Tim explained, “The big thing for us wasn’t so much moving our ERP and infrastructure to the cloud. It was trying to integrate with the legacy systems and those applications that had to remain on-premise. Some of our legacy databases needed to continue to function and run and couldn’t be moved to the cloud, but they still had to communicate with the applications and functions that I was putting in the cloud.”
SAM Mouldings had sales teams based across multiple locations which was difficult in terms of accessing information. Consequently, the company had productivity issues which impacted on their ability to provide great customer service and fulfil their schedule commitments.
Tim Patton said “We have a sales team working in England. Back then, when they were visiting customers, they struggled to connect to the office through the VPN to access information. It was clear that we had to help them and make the information more accessible from any device, from anywhere.”
Tim continued, “As an IT Director I had to equip the sales team with all the information they needed at their fingertips, whether it’s on their mobile phones or laptops, to enable them to have intelligent conversations with their customers. “
The move to the cloud is not the end of the journey. A new system means change, and nobody likes change.
Tim commented, “If people feel comfortable with their spreadsheets and their own subtle pockets or silos of information, it can be an ongoing challenge to encourage people to be more accepting of the change. I still see people open up a Word or Excel document and then try and find their data. Going to the cloud is a mindset change – focus on the data, not the tool to access it.”
The Cloud is Driving Efficiency for SAM Mouldings
In SAM Mouldings’ industry, delivering on time is essential to customer satisfaction. The company stores their design drawings on a server in their Antrim-based office, which wasn’t easily accessible to the other site. This impacted on the ability to share this documentation and slowed down employees’ ability to do their jobs.
Tim said, ‘Working with Xperience was great. Alongside their experienced engineers, we built a cloud environment and moved the drawings to the cloud server. Now we can access those drawings across locations and throughout the factory with the click of a button. Not only that, this documentation is available from any device, anywhere and it’s secure..”
Cloud has removed the physical walls of storing data. Tim explained, “I know our data is not held at our office, it’s in the cloud and that gives me peace of mind. Regardless of where you are, you have an eye on your data. All you need to do is log in. Hardware fails, computers fail, laptops break, but if your data is in the cloud you’re safe and protected.”
“We’re now using One Drive extensively to make sure that client information is easily accessible and the sales reps can share information quickly and efficiently with the customer. This relatively small change was a quantum leap for our salespeople. ““I think we were early Adopters to the cloud. It was a leap of faith but seven years later I still think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. “
The Cloud, Working from home and Security
Moving to the cloud is a good first step in the journey towards achieving IT resilience. 2020 has reinforced SAM Mouldings’ trust in the cloud after their shift to remote working.
Tim commented, ‘This year has been very tough, but with the cloud, SAM Mouldings was able to adapt quickly. We equipped as many people as we could in the first lockdown period. We were keen to establish a working environment in the safety of their homes where our staff could continue to work, collaborate and communicate. Prior to the lockdown I had tried to force people into using Microsoft Teams. I was getting resistance and pushback from colleagues saying ‘this will never work’ and ‘people will never accept this’. The irony is – now they can’t live without it.’
He continued, ‘That’s the true value of the cloud – you can avoid the issues of people working from home or remotely as long as they have access to a laptop, our cloud-based environment and Office 365 they can continue to be as productive as if they were in the office. Our employees can also access our ERP system and continue to work and that’s become so important. “
Some of our sales team were using their personal laptop alongside their work laptops to have a second screen, which prompted security concerns. However, when people access their Office 365 account from any PC, we know it’s secure. We are confident that OneDrive is robust and secure.”
Data at the heart of the business
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of data for our business. Tim said, “It helps us make better decisions, enables key strategic initiatives and helps us improve relationships with customers. It also ensures that we have our finger on the pulse of the financial health of our business”.
He continued, “The accessibility of data is of the highest importance. We’re now using Power BI as well to produce salient reports, monitoring sales and performance in real-time to react quickly to the ever-changing and dynamic market”.
Tim added, “Using Microsoft Teams with screen share, within minutes we know exactly the position of the company. At the end of the day cash is king so it’s important that we are agile and reactive as possible.”
The Cloud – A Scalable Return on Investment
Moving to the cloud brought cost savings and a return on investment to SAM Mouldings.
Tim said, ‘If I had not chosen the cloud, I would have needed to purchase servers, create a route to connect the two together, manage dataflow between the two sites and would have needed additional licensing for our software as well. With the cloud we’ve switched our focus now. All we need to do now is provide our employees with equipment and hardware that allows them to access data without worrying about the expense of servers etc. We believe that the cost of hosting and running the cloud-based environment is less than providing the same equipment on site.
The Future of Cloud for SAM Mouldings
A successful move to the cloud is much more than just moving data; it’s an opportunity to transform the way an organisation works and finding the best possible tools for the job.
This is exactly the route SAM Mouldings is taking. Currently, the company has a hybrid solution, with their ERP in the cloud, Office 365, One Drive documents and emails. After the successful data migration, they want to move their lorry route planning to the cloud, which is currently managed on a legacy on-premise database. But, it doesnt stop there. The company is planning to move their scheduling software to the cloud in 2021. Tim added the company will definitely be in touch with Xperience to help them make this shift.
SAM’s systems and infrastructure are now scalable, meaning they can quickly adapt to the ever-changing economic climate and scale up and down as they need.
Tim said, “With any projects going on, like upgrading our ERP, we can speak to Xperience about improving our hosting level and increasing memory. It’s all virtualized, there’s no engineer with a bag of tricks and a bag of spanners coming out to the site to do it. “
Tim added, “I was thinking of our manufacturing system, which doesn’t need to be accessible outside the factory, but I’m still looking at virtualizing it and putting it in the cloud because I know it’s safe. In the cloud, the hardware issues become irrelevant and I will know that it’s protected because we are also looking at business continuity and disaster recovery planning. If we have issues on our premises, with our manufacturing system in the cloud, we can still function.”
“We’re also looking at a unified communications project as well, removing the physical phones and moving to the cloud.”