Calibre One Case Study

Aldebaran Contracting

About

Headquartered in the rugged Northern Territory, Aldebaran Contracting is a civil works and earthmoving company that provides a range of services from road maintenance to design and construction projects for water, sewage, culvert, concrete, construction and more. The company has been responsible for a number of important projects in the region, including the development of a large section of the Gunn Point Road and the design and construction of a new boat ramp at Shady Camp, for which it was recognised by the NT’s Civil Contractors Federation with an award in 2018. The organisation, based in Manton which is 60kms south of Darwin, has been operating since March 2008. Aldebaran is a family Company led by Directors Daniel and Jacqueline Skewes. General Manager Ken Skewes leads a team of just under 80 staff.
Aldebaran Contracting Grows Revenue 525% Throughout Digital Transformation

Challenge

Civil Contracting firm Aldebaran Contracting operates across a large rural area of the Northern Territory, often at remote sites far from head office. For many years, the company relied on satellite internet solutions, isolated computing systems and paper-based business processes to conduct its operations.

These assets were slow, expensive, complex, inefficient and failed to adequately connect a large team of 80 staff, many of whom were constantly on the move.

Solution

Calibre One worked with Aldebaran to set them on a digital transformation journey. Aldebaran now have centralised systems with Microsoft 365 and Azure solutions on a protected software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN). Most recently, with the rollout of fibre, their internet access and speed has been improved dramatically at a much lower cost.

Benefits

  • 525% revenue growth since starting their digital transformation with Calibre One in 2013
  • In partnership with Telstra and Fortinet, the delivery of fibre internet to head office and 4G wireless internet services at remote sites connected using NextGen Firewalls and SD-WAN which have delivered a fast and cost-effective solution with over a 50% reduction in costs and increasing speeds from 2Mbps to 100Mbps.
  • Through digital transformation and investment into Fibre and 4G networks, Aldebaran eliminated daily downtime events due to patchy satellite and mobile internet, legacy network infrastructure and on-premise systems.
  • Centralised, cloud-based Microsoft 365 productivity, email and file systems provide staff with access to all business systems from anywhere.
  • Cloud-powered Telstra Calling for Microsoft Teams accessible from anywhere on the internet replaced a traditional, limited phone system and fully integrated with all Microsoft 365 systems.
  • Removal of paper-based business system thanks to in-house solution developed with Microsoft PowerApps.

Key Innovations

  • In partnership with Telstra, the deployment of dedicated fibre connectivity to head office and fast 4G wireless connections at remote sites, delivering speeds of up to 100Mbps.
  • Rollout of a sophisticated Fortigate SD-WAN, providing staff with secure access to internal business systems from any site.
  • Migration to a modern desktop, serverless environment, with productivity powered by Microsoft 365’s software-as-a-service solution, including SharePoint for file hosting, Microsoft Endpoint Manager across new desktops and a number of Azure services to support industry specific applications.
  • Rollout of Microsoft Teams for modern communication and collaboration, a major game changer for connecting Aldebaran’s staff wherever they happened to be working.
  • Access to Microsoft PowerApps, which has empowered Aldebaran to develop its own in-house ordering application.

Calibre One steps up

Headquartered in the rugged Northern Territory, Aldebaran Contracting is a civil works and earthmoving company that provides a range of services from road maintenance to design and construction projects for water, sewage, culvert, concrete, construction and more.

The company has been responsible for a number of important projects in the region, including the development of a large section of the Gunn Point Road and the design and construction of a new boat ramp at Shady Camp, for which it was recognised by the NT’s Civil Contractors Federation with an award in 2018.

The organisation, based in Manton which is 60kms south of Darwin, has been operating since March 2008. Aldebaran is a family Company led by Directors Daniel and Jacqueline Skewes. General Manager Ken Skewes leads a team of just under 80 staff.

Life on The Move

In its 12-year history, Aldebaran Contracting has completed many projects, stimulating the local economy, and keeping the people and industry of the NT moving. It’s continued success and value to the region has made the organisation a thriving, growing business. In 2021, the company’s revenue is 600 percent greater than it was eight years ago, before their digital transformation with Calibre One.

Prior to its digital transformation journey however, Aldebaran’s growth trajectory was challenged by several environmental and business factors.

The Need for a Communications Infrastructure

Aldebaran’s staff work all over the Northern Territory and sometimes even beyond the state’s borders. Coordinating work sites and communicating with construction teams is critical to ensuring work gets done efficiently, that resources are where they need to be and that everyone’s happy on site.

“Several years ago, I spent time really understanding all the workflows within the business and how we operate,” Skewes said.

“What I found was that we had some really significant challenges regarding communications across our business due to location. We would travel out to remote locations like way out along the Carpentaria Highway, or right up the Victoria Highway, and there’s no communications infrastructure out there.”

Keeping a workforce connected over long distances and across multiple sites is hard work at the best of times. Satellite internet, the only option early on for Aldebaran, provided slow, patchy service at astronomical costs.

The Cost of Inferior Technology

“We were running on a satellite connection that performed at 2mpbs download speed and about 500kb upload. That came with a satellite dish that had to be manually configured by the guys on site. It used to cost us $2000 a month,” Skewes said. Additionally, In Aldebaran’s offices, ageing computer systems and isolated file systems were cumbersome and tough to navigate, paper-based workflows for purchasing took up too much time, and multi-vendor solutions for various business processes felt more complicated than they needed to be. “Originally, we had individual desktops that had no centralised repositories of information. You would have your individual computer with Microsoft Office downloaded on it, and that was that. If you went from one computer to another you would have needed to copy your hard drive across,” Skewes said. With big growth ambitions, Aldebaran recognised the need to re-architect its technology stack with the aim of driving reducing complexity and cost in its communication and business technology systems.

Digital Transformation Journey

Starting its digital transformation journey in 2013, Aldebaran partnered with Calibre One to design and execute modern, Microsoft cloud-based productivity and communication technologies to drive growth and business agility.

During the first steps of its upgrade, Calibre One helped Aldebaran migrate from workgroup PCs to a cloud-based remote desktop and server environment running on Telstra Shared Computer Cloud in 2014.

Aldebaran’s internet woes were put to rest in 2017 when Calibre One, in partnership with Telstra, deployed dedicated fibre connectivity to their head office, which delivered speeds of 100Mbps, and switched remote sites over to 4G wireless connections. This was a huge improvement from their previous speeds of 2mpbs download speed and 500kb upload that cost $2000 each month, as well as saving us nearly 60% or just under $14,000 per year in ongoing costs.

In 2019, Aldebaran’s internal network was upgraded to a new Fortigate SD-WAN solution, unifying working locations on a highly secure network running over the internet.

With low-bandwidth internet no longer preventing Aldebaran from taking full advantage of modern cloud technology, Calibre One was able to initiate the second major part of the business’ digital transformation process in 2020.

The company’s systems were migrated to a modern desktop, serverless environment, with productivity powered by Microsoft 365’s software as a service solution, including SharePoint for file hosting, Microsoft Endpoint Manager (formerly known as Intune) across their new fleet of desktops and a number of Azure services to support some industry specific applications. A cloud-based print management solution, Printix, was also deployed to provide reliable access to on-site document management.

This shift to Microsoft 365 included the rollout of Microsoft Teams for modern communication and collaboration, a major game changer for connecting Aldebaran’s staff wherever they were. Microsoft Teams via M365 now provides staff with access to a cloud connected phone system from their desktop, laptop or mobile, without the need for any on-premises telecommunications hardware. As long as they are on the network, staff can access calling, video meetings, chat and collaboration services on the go.

Game-Changing Modernisations

The business outcomes Calibre One helped Aldebaran realise included lower-cost connectivity infrastructure, high network and security reliability, performance computing and centralised data systems that can be accessed by anyone from anywhere on the network.

“The improvement in our communication and file systems from where we started has been huge,” Skewes said. “After shifting off isolated desktops, we took our first steps onto hosted servers where we had remained for about five to six years before our recent cloud migration into a serverless environment with Azure.

“These days, everything in our organisation is cloud based, from our documents to applications. I’d say with roughly 30 different applications that we use across the organisation, every single one of them now has some form of cloud-based capacity.

“With Azure and Microsoft 365, whatever location you are in, you log in with your credentials and away you go. That combined with the internet and Teams communication has been a game-changer.”

“We can have a remote site become a fully functioning office with its own printing and scanning capability within minutes. Documents can be completed, saved and pushed back up into our SharePoint. We’re in a position where we have more visibility than ever before over our documents.”

Innovating on Their Own Terms

A highlight result of Calibre One’s work with Aldebaran was how the customer embraced the Microsoft 365 suite to create its own in-house software. Using Microsoft’s PowerApps software, Mr. Skewes developed an in-house purchasing system for Aldebaran that replaced an arduous paper-based system.

“It was a triplicate system in those small A5 books,” Skewes said. “We had several books running at the same time in a number of different locations which gave our poor accounts staff a real headache trying to maintain compliance with the issued orders.

“I spent a couple of weekends building our purchase order form and register inside Microsoft PowerApps. It allows our staff to use a single system with the information stored in a SharePoint List.

“Now our accounts team can review the information quickly and easily, and everyone in our management group gets a push notification when purchase orders are issued above a certain limit to give better visibility of what’s happening within the business.”

Looking Ahead

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Aldebaran’s decade-long cloud journey has coincided with positive company growth that Skewes is confident traces back to the organisation’s initial workflow review, desire to improve and its partnership with trusted provider Calibre One.

“Since 2012 we have had 525% percent revenue growth. We have been able to achieve that while significantly reducing labour costs and increasing the amount of work we do,” Skewes said.

“From an administrative capacity, I’ve been able coordinate it with the same number of people.
We also do so much more paperwork and documentation, and information transfer between the group than we used to previously, but it’s all available and searchable from anywhere at any time.

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Aiming to Increase Growth 150% in 5 Years

Looking to the future, Aldebaran has growth goals of a further 150 percent over the next five years and will continue to build on its cloud strategy in partnership with Calibre One.

“There are so many opportunities for us to improve, we are constantly searching for new opportunities to make ourselves more efficient, more productive and increase the scope and set of our skills,” Skewes said.

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