Chris Lee – Finance Director, Jellyfish: As the world’s largest boutique digital agency, with ten offices across three continents, we had thrived primarily due to having a unique model that incorporated the accountability, agility and personality of a smaller consultancy with the scale, reach & experience of a global big-hitter.
After several years of rapid expansion, we’d reached the point where our IT function could no longer deliver what we needed in terms of service delivery, forward strategy, operational agility or even basic BI. Our vision was to grow the agency even further over the next few years, but as a management team we knew that we had to address the fact that rolling out further new offices, teams & services had to go on the backburner until we had a technology platform that could act as the cornerstone of our next phase of planned growth.
James Hunter-Paterson – Managing Director, Intalex: As often happens with any rapid-growth business, it became apparent to Chris & the rest of the management team that the one area where the company was behind the curve was IT. They got in touch with us and from the very first meeting it was clear that they were very serious about changing that. They had just moved into London’s most iconic office space towards the top of The Shard and everything about the company was incredibly switched-on, positive & future-focused. Our job would be to deliver a technology ecosystem that reflected & enabled that culture.
Chris: We had known for a while that we needed a new direction in how we leveraged technology, but we also knew that we didn’t know how to get there. We knew we wanted to create a lean, light-touch, hugely flexible & collaborative IT model that didn’t just reflect & enable our work culture, but that would become an intrinsic part of it, and we asked Intalex to help us achieve this.
James: There was agreement across the company that Jellyfish’s IT function hadn’t kept pace with the rest of the business and was now the elephant in the room. We were asked to carry out a root & branch review with the key deliverables of not only a fit-for-purpose 21st century technology infrastructure but also a dynamic, innovative & future-aware IT strategy that was fully aligned with the values & vision of the agency as a whole. In practical terms, this meant a huge rationalisation & consolidation of the existing server & hardware estate, a similarly wide-ranging review & refresh of their application & service stacks as well as looking at more flexible delivery models for these.
Chris: We had a lot of issues which all needed to be addressed. Fundamentally, we had historically lacked any real IT strategy, which, when combined with our rapid growth, had led to a piecemeal approach to deploying new network infrastructure & services. There was little or no monitoring in place, either at a network admin level and in terms of management reporting & oversight. It was absolutely imperative to us that James and his team address this aspect in addition to the more obvious challenges like our creaking infrastructure, bandwidth issues & hugely inefficient data management.
Another key area was staff flexibility and this was as much a cultural requirement as a technology one. We are a business that lives or dies on the applied creativity of our employees, so we asked James to devise a ‘work anywhere at any time on anything’ system that would ensure our people could deliver their absolute best with as few of the traditional nine-to-five shackles as possible.
James: As Chris says, undertaking a complete overhaul of the company’s IT was the main objective, and that’s obviously a massive project. It’s also, however, the perfect opportunity to deploy intelligent, comprehensive service management tools because you are essentially starting from scratch and you’re not burdened with integrating disparate processes, data & hierarchies. We incorporated this and the flexible working principle into our planning as we looked at each of their key pain points in order of priority. We looked at Jellyfish’s mid & long-term goals, at the existing infrastructure & services and then at numerous different solutions for each. We then rationalised these against defined interoperable compatibility criteria. Finally we arrived at a really streamlined, integrated, robust, scalable & future-proof solution design and presented it to the Jellyfish team.
Chris: By the time the full solution had been designed, costed & signed-off, Intalex had actually been providing a degree of day-to-day support for a couple of months, so, despite the scale & scope of the project, we already had full confidence in their ability to deliver. Even so, it was still a surprisingly smooth process. I can’t actually recall any hiccups, and we had daily communication as well as more structured weekly project update meetings. James is acting as our Virtual IT Director and we had already agreed on the forward IT strategy, and knowing it was in the best hands, we were happy to let them get on with it with full confidence!
James: To get technical for a minute, the first thing we did was migrate the core network infrastructure of around 60 servers and services to the Google Cloud platform, with the head office in London having its G Suite data backed-up to Amazon Cloud for disaster recovery purposes. Moving the company to the G Suite services meant that there was a uniform and ‘always-on’ user experience across the company (once we resolved the connectivity issues by deploying a managed MPLS circuit) and also meant real-time collaboration across all global offices was now available to everyone at the company. G Suite also has a very good Mobile Device Management component which we used to allow staff to safely & securely access appropriate data & applications from their own devices when not in the office.
As a digital agency with huge volumes of image & video files, data management had been a considerable challenge, both operationally & financially. We created a new storage and archiving protocol using Datto NAS in conjunction with Google Cloud, dramatically reducing data volumes & associated costs. We also deployed responsive monitoring across the entire global network, ensuring data-driven decision-making was possible for the first time.
The next phase, which we are currently working on, is to replace all PCs & laptops with Chromebooks, meaning anyone coming in to the office, whether they are staff or visitors, can simply take a Chromebook from one of the charging cabinets, log into their profile and work from anywhere in the office. This is perfect for meetings, as the Chromebooks replace the traditional note-book & relevant data & presentations become far more intuitive, interactive and comprehensive.
James: It’s probably better if I let Chris answer this one.
Chris: We’re delighted, to put it bluntly! Everyone’s energised & engaged with IT in a way that we haven’t seen for some time. The virtual data centre and managed connectivity have worked so well at our London office that we are preparing to roll them out globally. Downtime, network & bandwidth availability are no longer issues, we have a really effective data management & storage policy for the first time, which is saving us lots of money as well as lots of headaches.
We also have service management tools in place which make decision-making & resource-planning more informed & data-driven than we previously had, which, in conjunction with having a really strong IT roadmap in place, makes planning & budgeting for our next phase of growth more commercially & operationally credible than before. Everything we wanted, Intalex has delivered, and we’re very, very pleased to have them working with us.