Having outgrown their old servers and systems, SAM brought in Xperience Group to define a complete IT strategy and create a solid, stable platform that would deliver significant benefits as the business expands, reducing costs and driving up productivity.

Business Needs

We’d always hosted our IT systems in-house”, explains SAM’s IT Director, Tim Patton, “but by early 2014 they were literally creaking at the seams and urgently needed replacing with technologies and systems that were going to be more solid and stable. We had expanded to the point where we were no longer in a position to support the levels required in-house, we needed a complete solution from an external provider who could be more of a strategic business partner than simply a support arm“.

“We had very specific requirements, For instance we’d grown to the point where we had sales teams in mainland UK and Europe as well as here in Northern Ireland. Many of these people are only in Antrim for a couple of days each month yet need to access information to the same level of detail as our staff at Head Office. Any new system had to allow for this and facilitate email, video conferencing and voice calls between offices.

“We had acquired a company in Wales called Hi-Spec Doorsets and needed to service them as well. It made sense to establish a plug-and-play system that any other businesses we acquire could parachute into. Plus, the company that hosted our ERP system were pulling out of the sector, so we needed help there too. Taking all these factors on board, we went out to the market.”

Our Solution

“Over the next few months I went to various events hosted by Xperience in conjunction with Microsoft and other partners, to get a flavour of what was out there. I talked with various companies and looked into possible providers’ and solutions, including Xperience and Office 365.”

“In terms of market position and customer feedback, Xperience came back with the best scores with regard to delivering what we were looking for – a complete IT solution and service package. We decided to go ahead with their proposals, which initially involved stabilising our ageing systems, building a new server platform and upgrading to Office 365“.

“We chose Christmas 2014 as the best time to do all the infrastructure work. We literally ripped out the old legacy systems, put in the new system and prepared to move to the new servers in January and February. It all went extremely well; Xperiences’ engineers did a fantastic job. Indeed the way they had anticipated, prepared and sold it to us was exactly the way it all came together. We’ve been running for 12 months and, in terms of stability and dependability, and all the other things you look for from an IT system, it’s top drawer. “

The Benefits

“Everyone seems to be getting on with the new system just fine – and, from my point of view as the IT Director, no news is good news! It’s very, very stable, and because we no longer have to spend time fixing problems, we’re able to redeploy resources towards training and developmental areas, take on new technology and generally push things forward.”

“For instance, we are now at the point where we’re looking at SharePoint, which is going to take some of the remains of our legacy systems, some databases, our home folders and intranet drives and make those available outside the company in a full SharePoint environment. We’re very excited about this next step and are looking forward to working with Xperience on it. “

“Upgrading to Office 365 has also been an excellent move. For one thing, I no longer have to worry about managing all the various licenses and upgrades. It is subscription-based so I can control my costs, and of course updates take place automatically. From a facilities management point of view it is nice, clean and simple. “

“It works as effectively on older computers as it does on Macs. Office 365 integrates with our mobile telephone systems and other devices. Staff can access emails and data at anytime from anywhere – on the shop floor on their tablets or on the road on their mobile phones.”

“From a support point of view Office 365 is very low maintenance. Users are familiar with it and we’re gradually introducing advanced applications such as HD video conferencing with Skype for Business and a facility called Power BI which does some business intelligence work for us. Basically Office 365 has given us complete IT flexibility and control from a full, installed Office experience that allows our people to get work done wherever they are.”

Conclusion

“As I said earlier, we were looking for a business partner rather than just a support service. So whenever we’re making decisions about acquisitions and moves into different markets, we include Xperience in the conversation. I’ve been able to ask them things like: will our systems cope, which way should we go, how should we upscale, how best to integrate the Wales-based company into the system and so on. After all, there’s little point in making a decision only to find you don’t have the capability.”

“Another bonus is that Xperience have premises and facilities in mainland UK. As much of our market is over there, they can simply send people out to the relevant site as and when required. Xperience has also taken over our Cloud-based ERP system. Actually, we’re paying less than we did with our previous provider for a greater storage capacity – and it runs faster too.”

“So in simple terms, it’s a win-win for us. Having all of these facilities under one umbrella has been indispensable. Xperience is also very pro-active in terms of how they manage their customers, and they have dedicated experts in different areas – an Office 365 expert, a networking expert, a server expert and so on. With Xperience, you really are getting into a business relationship rather than simply making a purchase. Certainly our experience of Xperience has been outstanding. I don’t have any complaints!”

About SAM’s

Founded by Sam and Julienne McCrea in 1990, family-owned SAM is the UK’s leading manufacturer of internal and external MDF mouldings. Its ten acre, purpose-built facility in Antrim is one of the most advanced in Europe, allowing SAM to create exceptional quality products made to the highest specification.