Tips from a visionary: How to make IT a partner in the success of your business

Once upon a time—say, 10 years ago—the job of an IT director at a small or medium-sized business was mainly about keeping the digital “lights” on: making sure computer systems were running, planning and implementing repeated hardware and software upgrades, managing user requests as much as possible. You didn’t need to look very far down the technology road.

 

Today, you need to be a visionary. Just ask Alan Levien, Vice President of IT at REVShare, a TV advertising broker that distributes advertisers’ “cost-per-action” commercials across a network of more than 1,700 local market TV stations, cable systems, syndicators, and others.

“We can’t afford to be rigid.”

“IT used to be a hardware and software supplier to the business,” says Levien. “But that’s not ideal for any company, certainly not a small company like ours. We can’t afford to keep experts on staff for all the systems we need. We can’t afford the wholesale replacement of hardware every three years. Most of all, we can’t afford to be rigid in how we respond to the needs of the business.”

What’s an IT visionary to do? Levien has overseen the transformation of REVShare’s IT department from an in-house systems provider to a services provider. “Becoming a services provider means you can be more agile, more flexible,” he says. “Now, when the business comes to us with an unusual ask, we don’t have to say ‘no.’ We’re probably already working on it.”

Goodbye to capital expenses

To build that flexibility into the DNA of REVShare’s IT operations, Levien has moved those operations from an on-premises infrastructure to the cloud. Doing so has a tremendous impact on cashflow.“We’re moving capital expenses to operating expenses,” Levien says. “That lowers the cost and makes that cost more predictable. It also gives us the flexibility to scale up or down whenever appropriate, and always pay just for what we use. We don’t need to maintain systems administrators on staff for systems that are hosted and managed in the cloud.”

Not every cloud is equal and Levien didn’t choose just any cloud—he chose the Microsoft cloud. REVShare was an early adopter of Microsoft Office 365 and a beta user of Microsoft Azure. More recently it added Microsoft StorSimple, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Surface Pro tablets, and system management tools such as Windows Intune.

“The Microsoft cloud services all work together, so they simplify things for us and for our users,” he says. “We spend less time on integration, less time onboarding employees, and more time providing services.”

An easy decision in digital telephony

A case in point is REVShare’s adoption of Skype for Business. When REVShare decided to drop its digital telephony system over security issues, it decided to adopt Skype for Business. It was an easy decision, according to James Enriquez, Senior Systems Administrator.

“We were already using Office 365, so Skype for Business as our PBX was a natural extension,” he says. “We also adopted Skype for web conferencing and presence instead of our old GoToMeeting system. By consolidating on Microsoft, we’re able to do more while also reducing costs.”

REVShare sought the assistance of its cloud partner, AgileIT, which implemented the move to Skype for Business quickly and smoothly. “They’re experts in Office 365 and the Microsoft environment,” says Enriquez.

The company has found that even the most mundane tasks can be a source of cost savings and organizational efficiency. For example, every employee from the newest hire to the CEO can now schedule his or her own meetings on the fly, without having to go through the receptionist. “Meetings that took hours to schedule are now scheduled in minutes,” says Enriquez. “That makes collaboration faster and easier, so employees work more productively.”

On the cost side, REVShare saves more than 50 percent on telephony costs, achieving 100 percent ROI in just 11 months. There are more savings, too, from web conferencing and from using Azure to transmit massive, high-definition TV commercials.

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The biggest benefit of all

“Pushing infrastructure to the Microsoft cloud frees us to work more closely with the business as resident consultants on the solutions that drive productivity, revenues, and market growth,” says Levien. “That’s the biggest benefit of all.”

Spoken like a true IT visionary.

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