IT departments are shrinking as they switch to cloud services, thanks to the relative ease of managing IT service levels rather than technology itself. But the new IT services-centric world must be easy to manage or the technology headache it was designed to cure mutates into a management nightmare.

Established in 1854, iconic Christchurch department store Ballantynes has survived war times, the catastrophic earthquakes of 2011, and today continues to prosper in the age of fearsome online retail giants.

With so much history, Ballantynes is a story of evolution. Just as the retailer’s store interiors and product SKUs have changed, its technology ecosystem has grown to support digitised infrastructure and retail systems bridging physical and online shopping.

“Nothing’s a problem for CCL. We’re not a large company and yet they’ve been flexible and willing to accommodate whatever we need customer-centric service delivery.”

Antony Collins, IT Manager, Ballantynes

Vendor proliferation creates major headache

Ballantynes’ growing technology footprint created a new problem: proliferation of species or, rather, technology vendors. Ballantynes had many vendors on the books, and it was causing a headache.

“Each time there was a problem, vendors pointed at each other,” said Antony Collins, IT Manager at Ballantynes. “It was very challenging.”

With an IT team at the time of just four people responsible for running the retailer’s network, including a store in Timaru and a blend of 250-plus devices, Collins wanted to deal with a single IT supplier to simplify management and accelerate a programme of IT services and cloud adoption.

One company, one invoice 

CCL’s great reputation and presence in the southern region ensured it was in a good position to help move Ballantynes forward. But clinching the deal for Ballantynes was the opportunity to deal with a single supplier for everything – including cloud services, networks, voice, data, mobile, and ongoing support.

Early work rehomed Ballantynes’ software applications on CCL’s IaaS platform and servers co-located in the CCL’s Christchurch datacentre. Next came Microsoft M365, which delivers Ballantynes’ cloud application stack for workplace applications, communication, and collaboration tools. The retailer also was one of CCL’s first customers to roll out Microsoft Teams Calling, in conjunction with CCL parent Spark.

CCL also delivers networks, both local and wide area, firewall protection, and network backup – all ‘as a service’. Managed Service Desk keeps the wheels turning, providing Collins and his team with expert help and incident management 24/7/365.

“That’s the big advantage of dealing with a Spark-owned provider – we’re able to get IT and communications services from a single supplier,” said Collins.

Small is good

With less physical IT to watch Ballantynes today runs a more efficient IT management operation, now just three people.

IT service management is more efficient with one supplier, said Collins. “Everything is quicker to resolve – what used to take hours and days now takes minutes, because we’re no longer in the middle of vendors,” said Collins.

Switching from hardware to services-centric IT has also taken a load off, switching Collins’ focus to monthly cost management and more accurate demand-based forecasting. “And technology upgrades are all part of the service – they just happen in the background,” he said.

The move to services has also reduced Ballantynes’ risk profile, said Collins. “We’re less dependent on the skills and availability of inhouse staff. CCL gives us access to a broader range of expertise and resource 24/7.”   

Hybrid cloud paves the way for transformation

Now working within an IT services framework, Collins is gearing up to consolidate remaining systems before driving a wider transformation that will recast the lion’s share of Ballantynes’ systems in the cloud.

“Cloud services make life easier, but the real value is proximity to new technology and ways to do business,” said Collins. “We’re able to adopt new features and functions the moment they’re available.

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