Made to measure: not all small businesses understand and buy technology the same way. Being attentive to a company's particular needs will result in better long-term solutions and increased customer satisfaction



Walton Marina, housed in an 18th-century boathouse, provides a base for more than 200 leisure boats. With a growing number of customers using their vessels as floating offices for their business and professional activities, the owner, Mike Cook, decided to upgrade his IT systems. By improving his company's internal technology systems, he would be able to raise the level of service he delivered to his customers. Cook turned to his company's established IT reseller, A & P Computers, for help. The challenge, he said, was to incorporate leading-edge technology into Walton's facility without altering the physical structure of the historical boathouse. The technology would enable the marina to expand its business while delivering reliable communications services to its customers.

"We recommended a Toshiba wireless mobility server, which acts as the gateway," says Shahid Azeem of A & P Computers. With several hotspots around the marina, Walton customers now have access to pay-as-you-use Internet service from their boats. For the marina's staff, A & P advised Cook to acquire six Toshiba Tecra S1 notebooks equipped with Intel[R] Centrino[TM] mobile technology. "We recommended the Intel Centrino-based notebooks because of the combination of high performance and outstanding battery life," says Azeem.

A 50 PER CENT INCREASE IN PRODUCTIVITY

The wireless network will have a major impact on Walton Marina's operations, says Cook. The company's engineers, for example, were selected to test a new Honda Marine service system. With their wireless notebooks, they can now diagnose engine problems directly on board a boat and download repair instructions without wasting time going back and forth from the boat to the computer in the office. That means Walton engineers don't always have to remove an outboard engine from a boat and take it into the service workshop for repair and maintenance. Instead, they can often make the repairs on board the boat itself. According to Azeem, this capacity alone will increase the productivity of Walton's service engineers by more than 50 per cent.

Meanwhile, to deliver leading-edge service to his customers, Cook installed wireless cards in his old notebook computers. He now rents them to boat owners who want to go online while using the marina. With the added capacity of Walton's new technology, Cook can accommodate new staff as his business grows. In fact, says Azeem, the wireless system allows Walton to add as many as 30 more employees to its current payroll of 20.

By paying close attention to the unique requirements of Walton Marina, A & P Computers provided the right technology at the right time, reinforcing its relationship with its customer while helping the company operate more effectively. "By understanding the way a small business buys and uses technology, a reseller can help the company achieve its objectives at the same time as it builds a closer and longer-lasting relationship," says Doug Cooper, Country Manager of Intel Canada.

As Cooper points out, one company's well-defined objective may be another company's incidental benefit. One company may want to raise the productivity of its employees, for example, while another may want to provide more immediate service to its customers. Similarly, some companies take an inclusive approach to upgrading their technology while others upgrade in bits and pieces. Again, new technology can help clients achieve their objectives, but one will require different components than the other, and each will place different demands on its reseller.

Being mindful of its customers' unique needs enabled Connoiseur Electronics, a computer systems integrator, to create a tailor-made solution to the challenges facing Sasken Communication Technologies. Sasken provides telecommunications software and consulting services to network-equipment and terminal-device manufacturers and to semiconductor companies around the world. On behalf of its customers, Sasken designs, develops and maintains network services, including provisioning, billing and customer-care capabilities.

As Sasken grew, its managers decided to expand its communications focus. In particular, management concluded that the company needed more than a single operating system environment to accommodate its innovative software design and rigorous testing procedures. Sasken contacted Connoiseur Electronics for a back-end solution that would provide the company with a flexible, open standard. Sasken managers realized that the cost of patching the company's current systems would exceed the potential returns. As an alternative, Sasken decided to convert Connoiseur's existing server network to an open, Intel architecture-based system.

NO DISRUPTION TO CUSTOMER SERVICE

Connoiseur, an Intel Premier Provider and Product Integrator, devised a server solution for Sasken that included servers with dual Intel Xeon[TM] processors and a 533-megahertz system bus, enabled for Hyper-Threading (HT) Technology. The new technology was installed without any disruption to Sasken's production schedule or customer service requirements. While a multiple-platform operating environment allows Sasken to develop and test device-driver software in Windows and Linux, it also delivers more computing power, giving the company room to grow. And when Sasken needs advice about the system, the company contacts Connoiseur. Together, they consult with Intel technical support to devise a solution and provide sample configurations. "The cost of maintaining our computer network has been significantly reduced," says Sasken's IT manager, Sunil Dath, "primarily because our Intel server product updates and technical consultations are at no additional charge."

Whether a company wants to grow its business, respond more quickly to customers, streamline office operations or gain access to secure business data on the fly, a reseller can deliver more valuable service by understanding the way technology can help a particular company achieve its objectives. "As a reseller, you have to fit the right technology to the client's goals," says Cooper. "The more efficiently a reseller can customize and install a solution tailored to a company's unique needs, the more value the client will place on your services. Taking the time now to understand the customer will pay off in the future, when the client has to upgrade or refurbish its technology."

For more information on small-business IT solutions, visit intel.ca/reseller.
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