Retailer gets boost from a managed IT provider

Monday, 11 January, 2016

When Chris Palin joined Australian Kitchen Industries in 2010, the company was in an uncomfortable financial position, with a history of marginal profits and a board of directors in favour of closing the business and walking away. After a management buyout in 2012, KWB Group was formed and an internal restructure commenced that focused on trimming away the excess and running a tighter business.

KWB Group is the largest standalone kitchen retailer in Queensland and South Australia, with 12 retail stores and a permanent staff of 85. Taking into account the drivers, subcontractors and other tradesmen that the business relies on, the IT department is responsible for the information flow and communications of close to 150 people.

When the management buy-out took place, the company made a decision to move to a more flexible, scalable outsourced IT model. Over time, KWB Group has moved all systems and infrastructure across to blueAPACHE’s fully managed service platform.

blueAPACHE now manages almost all of KWB Group’s systems from its cloud-based model, including applications, data storage and recovery, as well as office and retail outlet phone systems.

With apps stored in blueAPACHE’s cloud solution, staff at KWB Group are able to log onto any device in the company’s system and access their personal files and applications. Whereas previously the information was locked down to an individual’s computer, the new system allows staff to access work from home, when travelling or from remote locations, a flexibility which is greatly increasing productivity.

“Within the cloud environment, I can walk up to a computer, log on through Citrix, and I am at work within a minute, with full access to my files,” said Palin. “Since I travel a fair bit, this is very productive for me.”

The scalability of the IT-as-a-service model allows KWB Group to expand much more easily than before, reducing limitations and simplifying new store openings. Effectively, ‘switching on’ a new retail outlet takes one phone call to blueAPACHE, a reliable link and a router on-site.

When floods hit Queensland not too many years ago, KWB Group was able to close at-risk retail outlets, and by requesting that blueAPACHE re-route phones to another store, was able to maintain business operations without serious downtime.

Palin also cites staffing flexibility as another strong benefit of the outsourced model, and finding an account manager that fits the company ethos is very important for the business relationship.

“We run a fairly tight ship, with not many admin staff,” said Palin. “We treat blueAPACHE very much as our IT managers, so they are always involved in major decisions, such as opening new stores. The breadth of knowledge is really a major advantage, because we would otherwise need lots of people with wide expertise or to bring in outsiders, because you simply can’t know it all. Using a managed services provider, you get that breadth of knowledge.

“It really was one of the better rollouts I have experienced — blueAPACHE did most of the heavy lifting for us,” said Palin.

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