A nationwide HVAC specialist experienced exponential growth and needed a new IT strategy that let them get ahead of the game – all without any internal IT staff.
Precise Air is a national heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) solutions and fire suppression service provider with clients across Australia. Starting in a small factory warehouse in Stanmore, New South Wales, the organisation is now home to over 400 staff. Of those, 120 are office-based, while many other employees are mobile service technicians who provide remote site visits and support.
Over nine years, Precise Air experienced an average exponential growth rate of 35% year on year. According to Precise Air’s chief financial officer Ben Flapper, this was due, at least in part, to the tremendous focus the business placed on service delivery.
Precise Air had decided early on to maintain internal capacities that focused 100% on client outcomes. Roles that did not directly involve HVAC or fire suppression were not considered a core service and were safe to outsource.
‘We’ve never had any internal IT staff.’
As all staff were related, in some way, to the delivery and servicing of HVAC and fire suppression solutions, business IT support relied on finding a managed service provider that matched Precise Air’s needs and budget.
But with such strong growth over nearly a decade, Precise Air was having a hard time getting the IT solutions they needed to continue their growth trajectory.
At the same time, Precise Air was using a dedicated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution called Pronto to integrate the management of main business processes in real-time. This solution managed many facets of the daily operations of the business. While the incumbent IT provider was initially able to satisfy the demands this solution placed on Precise Air’s infrastructure, the level of support could not keep up with demand over time. Things started slipping through the cracks.
One of the most important was future-proofing the business’ IT infrastructure. And Ben, as the primary contact for the incumbent IT support provider, had to push for changes.
The impact on operations was widespread, with unreliable connections and a system that was hard to manage. Both in-house staff and remote field technicians were becoming frustrated with slow configurations – a situation made worse when the business threw mobile technology into the mix.
“We were trying to work while operating with a five-second keystroke delay,” explains Ben.
At around the same time, Precise Air was acquired by a world leader in the HVAC market. The new parent company had many global requirements of its latest acquisition – especially around information security – and so an IT audit was required.
Ben led a tender process to determine if Precise Air could implement an IT environment that was scalable, efficient, and future proof. All while meeting their new security requirements. The process uncovered some significant gaps across the board.
Ben says: “It felt like we were putting Band-Aids on stuff along the way, with a little bit of tweaking here and there. But in general, there was no strategy. There was no move to get ahead of the game.”
Ben explains: “It was a huge wake-up call. The strategic decision to outsource our IT support and hardware management was always the right one to make. We don’t have the critical mass that requires internal IT. It would not be cost-effective at this stage. But we needed more.”
The company found it needed the forward-facing element of IT support that stops issues before they begin.
Over 16 months, Precise Air went on to roll out several follow-up projects. These included:
The first move undertaken by Precise Air was to renegotiate their agreement with their network provider. The mobile nature of their technicians meant that they needed reliable 24/7 connectivity, but at an affordable cost. Their new deal offered improved stability and faster connection speeds.
Precise Air then performed a ‘lift-and-shift operation with their data, transferring it to First Focus’ private cloud solution. Once it was in a stable environment, they could start looking at the information they had on hand and decide what to do with it.
This improved visibility made it possible to stop using Band-Aid fixes and start implementing infrastructure changes that made a difference to the end users across the business. These included an online ticketing system that tracked past issues and resolution efforts to help identify problems and demonstrate how strategic IT projects impacted the company.
Ben says: “Before, when we had a problem, there would be about six points of contact before IT support resolved an issue. There was no registration, no documentation. No data or information I could use to support strategic change.”
‘We couldn’t compare the costs and benefits.’
The new F-Connect ticketing system decentralised IT support and put the power in the hands of the end-users. Suddenly there was no need to contact a supervisor’s-manager’s-manager to fix an issue. Everyone had the authority and the right to lodge a ticket whenever needed – albeit with an approval workflow in place under escalation rules. This simple fix helped to improve staff relationships with their IT infrastructure.
‘It empowered them. Our employees felt in charge of their IT.’
Ben says: “Our ticket records let us track the history of any issues. We can make strategic changes to improve service delivery, customer support, IT security. After just six months, we had the visibility we needed to start making more changes.”
Precise Air continued to adopt an Azure-based infrastructure – however, with added redundancy, flexibility, and availability to improve the stability and performance of its environment while also controlling costs.
Adding to the cost-saving was the adoption of Azure Reserved Instances (Azure RI) for 36 months. This option lets Precise Air reserve virtual machines in advance, gaining a discount of 82% off standard pay-as-you-go pricing. As their workload is reasonably predictable and consistent, ensuring the resources were available in advance made sense. Despite the prepaid nature of the solution, Precise Air can still adjust – or cancel – their Azure RI environment with minimal repercussions.
The improved connectivity means that business operations are smoother than ever, with both office and remote staff free to collaborate and communicate regardless of location.
This decision combines well with the switch from a single private cloud server to a smart-cloud solution, with improved responsiveness, scalability and availability helping the company respond swiftly to changes in demand.
With greater visibility into both the IT metrics and the support tickets, Precise Air can track the outcomes of any IT projects they choose to roll out, as well as identify underlying issues that might impact service delivery.
Precise Air is now in a position where its staff are comfortable with their IT. They feel connected and empowered within the business and are not afraid to take advantage of the improved accessibility to professional IT support.
According to Ben, the differences in IT outcomes were hard to believe.
‘It’s just cheese and chalk from where we were.’
The ticket record system shows Precise Air a user-generated history of IT issues. Not only can these issues be used to identify the root cause of common problems, but they can also help provide the insights needed to make strategic changes to improve delivery, support, and security.
Ben stated: “The increase in IT visibility gave us the capacity to make and measure meaningful changes – and that was just after six months.”
‘We left the reactive Band-Aid world behind.’
“There was never again a five-second keystroke delay. Now when there is an IT issue, people are not afraid of voicing their concerns. They feel heard. And the monthly reviews give us space to check our ticket records, find insights, and act on them.”