In business for more than a quarter century, Stockman General Contractors does major works for a select number of at-scale customers, including roadworks and related infrastructure and civil contracting. Through a careful focus on its niche and the cultivation of solid partnerships with its customers, Stockman prides itself on quality and reliable delivery.
Like many businesses across New Zealand, Stockman came to a point where it had to consider upgrading existing computer hardware and key applications necessary to run its business. The alternative was application modernisation, eliminating the server and putting key systems into the cloud. By opting for a move to Amazon Web Services with the able assistance of Lancom Technology, the business today enjoys revitalised business systems, greater flexibility and improved resilience. Maintenance of costly on-premise equipment has also been removed.
The initial move has had a further benefit, demonstrating the possibilities offered by the cloud and setting the company on the path to more efficient business, with plans for further future adoption of cloud services.
The usual way for a construction business like Stockman to run its core business systems – in this case Workbench Project Management – is on a physical server. Located in Mount Wellington, this machine was, like all computers eventually do, nearing end of life says Don Ryrie, Technology Manager at Stockman. “We looked at all the options including adding a lot more disk to the existing machine, replacing it with a new one, or making the move to a cloud-based Amazon Web Services option.”
There were other factors, too. Daily business for Stockman was highly paper-intensive, and with teams working at sites around the country, a constant necessity for collaboration was hindered by cumbersome processes which involved scanning and sending plans, consents and other paperwork from one place to another.
With head office in Clevedon and operations largely in Mount Wellington, connectivity issues rendered systems access difficult. “We had servers in both locations; exchanging files was done by email and goodness knows what else,” Ryrie remarks.
And further, support for the Stockman installation was jeopardised, as the small contractor providing this service was scaling down.
“At this point, we brought in Lancom for an assessment to see what could be done in terms of moving Workbench to the cloud – primarily – and examine how a partnership with a solid technology provider would improve other aspects of our business,” Ryrie notes.
Lancom conducted a full assessment of Stockman’s business and technology requirements and recommended moving Workbench and other core workloads used by Stockman into Amazon Web Services cloud. Ryrie says that despite being a strongly traditional business, Stockman’s management and CEO had little hesitation in moving to the cloud. “There are always questions around security, sovereignty and access, but Lancom provided the necessary justifications and assurances through its business consultative approach. Stockman's founder is by nature security-minded, so there was sound oversight from that quarter as we migrated our systems.”
Just as systems were being migrated to cloud, communication links at the Mount Wellington operations and the Clevedon premises were upgraded, to UFB and 4G connectivity respectively. This is an essential component of a working cloud solution, as application performance depends to a large extent on the quality of internet access.
With the move to the cloud well established, the company opted for an upgrade of its productivity software to Microsoft’s Office 365, again with the support and expertise of Lancom. Ryrie acknowledges that this all amounted to substantial and rapid change for the business. “When making upgrades of this nature, there’s a fair bit of staff retraining and a fair bit of detailed technical planning to make sure it all goes well, and Lancom assisted us in every single step of the journey. But what I can say is in the end, the massively improved access and performance you get from being in the cloud meant staff were rapt.”
“There’s a dramatic upturn in the amount of information we can put through and the accuracy of it, and the convenience of being able to access information where and whenever we need to have made life really easy for all of us.” Ryrie confirms
In the short term, the configuration of the AWS servers mirrors that of the on-premise solution, but Ryrie says digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. “Being in the cloud means we now have access to a multitude of services, so with Lancom’s support, we’re examining how those can be put to our advantage.”
Adding Office 365 into the equation has proven a revelation. “We used to operate with a lot of paper, with plans of services etc to be laid being annotated in the office and then transmitted to the field so workers would know what to do. Now, with OneDrive and a tablet, people can access what they need directly from the job site. It’s not just a time saving, but a far more satisfying way of working,” Ryrie explains.
Teams and SharePoint are being assessed, with integrations with its AWS instance being examined for suitability before migrating to these tools.
There’s no hesitation when it comes to appreciating that data, productivity tools and applications in the cloud just make better sense.
“We value the engagement with Lancom highly. Along with transitioning us to bigger and better platforms Lancom has also assisted our staff operate more effectively, making it easier for our people to do their jobs. Lancom’s become a trusted partner which we don't hesitate to recommend. We look forward to continuing on a path of continuous improvement,” Ryrie concludes.