4-page Case Study
Posted: 4/1/2014
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Powercor Microsoft Premier Support brings structure to operations for improved efficiencies and 99.99 uptime

Powercor Australia is an electricity distribution company that operates throughout western Victoria and Melbourne. As a leader in engineering and innovation, Powercor has an increasing emphasis and dependence on technology. They’re at the forefront of smart meter technology, and have maintained a strong focus on automation across the business. Powercor’s IT team provides support related to IT infrastructure, networks, and mobility for the entire organization.

   

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* The dollar for dollar value we get out of the Microsoft Premier Support agreement is far greater than anything else *

Jason Price
Manager, Infrastructure Services
Powercor

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Business Needs

Powercor uses technology to increase efficiency, collaborate, and supply internal and external stakeholders with up-to-date information. Field workers can wirelessly access real-time information on mobile devices, and outage information is automatically fed onto the website and through their automated call-in contact center.

With a relatively small IT team providing services to over 2,200 employees, Powercor relies on additional support from a tier one managed service partner.. However, Powercor felt that they were not in sync with their partner, and were not getting the value or level of service they needed from the partnership.

“There were a lot of issues coming out of Active Directory and the Windows environment, which had been managed by the same team for quite some time,” said Jason Price, Manager of Infrastructure Services at Powercor. “We were asking questions and they were being a bit technically arrogant. It was hard to keep them honest in terms of the level and delivery of their services.”

The Active Directory issues were causing poor system availability and performance, which directly impacted the productivity of internal IT customers.

“We weren’t able to provide the service to our user base that we wanted to and that we needed to within our service level agreements,” said Price.

Additionally, high operating costs drove Price and his team to continuously look for ways to drive down operational expenditure through increased efficiencies.

Solution

Not satisfied with the services provided by their partner, Powercor sought another level of support to enhance their partner’s services in order to reach their IT performance goals.

“Strategically, I thought, if a tier one partner can’t help us, I’m not going to go to another third party supplier. I’ll go straight to the source and see what they have to offer,” said Price. “Let’s bring in the people that write this stuff.”

Powercor therefore approached Microsoft Services Premier Support. To try them out, Powercor first had them perform an Active Directory risk assessment, part of their Risk Assessment Program (RAP), in which they assess Active Directory to identify risks and diagnose issues.

“What we saw was a very professional organization that was well organized, had a very well-rehearsed way of doing things, and a really effective technical team who came on site to guide us through our AD RAP,” said Price.

After the initial risk assessment, Microsoft Premier Support reviewed their findings and provided a succinct list of technical recommendations for Powercor to remediate their issues. They also recommended strategies, which included processes and best practices, to prevent those issues from recurring, and to optimize the Powercor environment moving forward.

“From a technical perspective their recommendations were very succinct. ‘You need to make this change for this reason.’ They were quite prescriptive in that regard,” said Price. “So we would then sit down and have technical discussion with our partner and basically knock these things off.”

“Some really interesting information came out of the RAP service and from there, we built our relationship with Microsoft and partnered with Premier Support Services from that point onwards.”

By partnering with Microsoft Premier Support, Powercor established a more proactive approach to IT health. Microsoft Premier Support guided Powercor and their partner towards best practices and disciplines which they could apply to their day-to-day IT services. They also provided training and support to enhance both organization’s skillsets. Premier Support continues to provide smaller, ongoing health checks, which are used to ensure that Powercor and their partner adhere to the new strategies and processes.

Benefits

Microsoft Premier Support’s in-depth RAP services not only provided remedies for acute issues in Powercor’s Active Directory environment, it also brought rigor and structure to the way Powercor and their partner approached their overall IT health and technical processes. Price complimented Microsoft’s overall delivery approach and professionalism, and was pleased to align his team with Microsoft’s best practices, maturity, and culture.

“The RAPs have provided us which reassurance and have enabled us to better understand the health of our environment,” said Price. “With that, we have a stronger understanding of the capabilities of our own product suites, and how those capabilities can be leveraged to increase productivity, communication, and promote the overall efficiency and effectiveness of our business.”

Focused strategy planning and execution with a single point of accountability

The Microsoft Technical Account Managers (TAMs) working with Powercor played a key role throughout the engagement in assessing, planning and executing support needs. They provided fresh thinking, and new approaches to solving Powercor’s problems based on global experience and in-depth knowledge of Microsoft products.

“The TAM is key in the Premier Support relationship. If the TAM doesn’t have the technical capability or understanding of their own product suite, or understanding of our business and how we can generate value out of the Microsoft products, then it’s not worth having them here. I would not have continued with the Premier agreement had the TAM not had this capability. We’ve had three TAMs, and each brought something really key with them in terms of being able to understand their own product suite and the impact it would have on our organization when leveraged properly,” noted Price.

99.99% uptime of key systems helps to achieve overall business objectives

By following the recommendations that came out of Microsoft Premier Support’s risk assessment, Powercor gained significant performance improvements in Active Directory, its SQL servers, and in the Microsoft Office Suite.

“It took a lot of noise out of the system in terms of capacity management and things like that. We’re now at 99.99% uptime,” said Price. “I can’t remember the last time we had an issue with Active Directory. From a customer perspective, that is quite powerful.”

Higher key system availability and improved performance have enabled Powercor to better serve their customers, and drive toward overall business objectives.

Operational cost savings and stronger position for further optimization

Due to technical and behavioral improvements, Powercor will save approximately $30–$60,000 per year in operational costs, and are now positioned for further optimization of their environment through consolidation.

“The improved performance of our systems and ongoing monitoring reassures us that the system is healthy and that we can take the next steps toward consolidation and working towards being more efficient.”

Collaborative engagement enhances value from third party vendor

Microsoft Premier Support worked collaboratively with both Powercor and their partner to introduce structure and processes into day-to-day operations. Additional governance was enforced to track performance and results, and the partner was given clear deliverables and guidelines to follow. Microsoft orchestrated the changes that needed to be made, based on recommendations coming from the RAP, and took ownership of the work from beginning to end in order to achieve the targeted results. This ensured that Powercor would receive the most value from their partnership with their partner.

“At one point, we had a SQL server out and were getting really poor leverage out of our partner at that stage. Their team really wasn’t engaging us very well,” said Price. “Seeing that we were not getting the help we needed, the Microsoft TAM really took control of the situation. He began running weekly conference calls with our partner’s Service Delivery Manager and Team Lead in order to really hold them accountable. It was fantastic the way he handled it. It took the pressure right off us.

“Our partner now understands that we treat SQL Server as seriously as any of our other systems and that they need to focus on it just as much as anything else,” finished Price.

Significant knowledge transfer led to streamlined processes and improved day-to-day operations

Powercor’s internal IT team has benefited from significant knowledge transfer gained through the course of the engagement with Microsoft Premier Support. Following the Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF), Premier Support shared and instilled best practices, strategies and governance to help Powercor deliver IT services more efficiently, reliably, and cost-effectively, both now and into the future.

Deep expertise available through strong, supportive partnership with Microsoft Premier Support

“One of the challenges we have as an internal organization is that with a relatively small team, we have a lot of work outsourced to our partner to fill in the gaps. But we try and implement best practices and hold onto as much intellectual property internally as we can,” said Price. “So having the backing of an organization like Microsoft to help my team through some of the harder stuff is very helpful to us.”

Price was especially impressed by the connection he and his team have developed with the Microsoft Premier Support Team.

“They are really capable of building relationships, understanding people, and being able to get the most out of them,” said Price. “What has been the most positive for me is their ability to connect with us and really understand our business, and show that they have a personal stake in it. They take real personal pride in good delivery.”

Looking Forward

Powercor has now established a continuous improvement process and mindset based on the Microsoft Operations Framework. They plan to continue their partnership with Microsoft Premier Support.

“We’re going to make a significant investment in this compared to some of our other partners because of the impact they’ve had on some of the key areas of our organization,” said Price. “The dollar for dollar value we get out of the Microsoft Premier Support agreement is far greater than anything else.”

Powercor has some major strategic decisions to make over the next 12 months, as some of their key technologies and long term agreements are coming to an end. Price noted that they will be looking to Microsoft Premier Support to help them understand their options, and guide them to the best decisions for the organization.

“I want Microsoft at the table,” said Price. “Our success is very, very important to them. You get lip service from many organizations, everyone tells you that your success is their success, but the Microsoft team on this account really demonstrated it. They walk the walk.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 2200 employees

Organization Profile

Powercor is an Australian electricity distributor. Responsible for the quality and reliability of customers’ power supply, their core business is to manage the poles, wires and equipment that deliver electricity to homes and businesses in Melbourne and throughout central and western Victoria.


Business Situation
Powercor felt that they were not getting the value or level of service they needed out of their technology partner. There were several issues with Active Directory and the Windows environment that were not being resolved, causing poor system reliability and performance. This directly impacted the productivity of internal IT customers. Additionally, the IT team needed to find ways to drive down operational expenditure through increased efficiencies.

Solution
Powercor engaged Microsoft Services Premier Support to run an Active Directory risk assessment to identify problems and diagnose issues. Microsoft Premier Support provided a succinct list of technical recommendations for Powercor to remediate their issues, as well as strategies which included processes and best practices to prevent those issues from recurring and to optimize their environment moving forward.

Benefits
  • Focused strategy planning and execution with single point of accountability
  • 99.99% uptime of key systems helps to achieve overall business objectives
  • Operational cost savings and stronger position for further optimization
  • Collaborative engagement enhances value from third party vendor
  • Deep expertise available through strong, supportive partnership with Microsoft Premier Support

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Services Premier Support
  • Microsoft System Center Operations Manager

Vertical Industries
Power & Utilities

Country/Region
Australia

IT Issue
Asset Management

Languages
English

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