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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.