HiQA Geotechnical is the leading provider of local geotechnical services for the Northern Territory, operating from locations in Alice Springs, Darwin, Katherine and Tennant Creek. HiQA delivers National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited geotechnical services for the government, construction, defence, and mining industries. “If you’ve driven on it, or lived in it, chances are we’ve tested and issued certificates for it,” says Daniel Gaunt, NT Operations Leader, HiQA Geotechnical.
Often operating in remote areas under challenging conditions across the Territory and into the surrounding States, HiQA prides itself on its ability to deliver accurate test results and reports on time and to budget. In the past ten years HiQA has grown from a single base laboratory in Katherine to four locations and a team of more than 35 staff. HiQA’s achievements were recognised in the Telstra Business Awards, with the company presented with 2017 Telstra Business of the Year for the NT.
As a result of the rapid growth of the business, in 2014 HiQA was still managing its operations with an ad hoc information and communications technology (ICT) set-up that relied on mobile phones, laptops, hard drives and Dropbox.
That made things increasingly difficult for the expanding business, especially in finding and keeping the specialist resources HiQA needed, who were often having to work in some of the more remote and isolated parts of the country.
“We realised that we needed a more homogeneous approach to ICT, so we started looking for a technology partner,” said Gaunt. In 2014 HiQA chose Calibre One (then Nexus Tel), which was one of the technology partners recommended by Telstra, HiQA’s mobile carrier and Internet service provider. Working with Calibre One and with no legacy ICT infrastructure, HiQA was able to quickly roll out Microsoft Office 365, Exchange Online and Remote Desktop Services for its entire team. The complete solution was hosted on Telstra’s CSX cloud platform.
“That gave us a reliable service, which was accessible anywhere we had an Internet connection,” said Gaunt.
Calibre One manages HiQA’s entire ICT environment and also took over the management and reporting on HiQA’s Telstra services. For the first time, that has given HiQA complete visibility on its telecommunications spend and a full overview of its consumption.
“Calibre One demystified all the Telstra data and lingo for us and has given us much better control over our telco services. They can also get things done much more quickly than we ever could with Telstra – I just have to send an email and Calibre One will execute,” said Gaunt.
Since completing the initial cloud deployment, Calibre One and HiQA have taken an even bigger step forward in infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) adoption.
HiQA has migrated to Microsoft SharePoint Online, which has given its team the flexibility to access all of the company’s key information and systems from any device – laptop, tablet or mobile – wherever they are, which is critical when so much of their time is spent out in the field.
“When we are out on the road, SharePoint Online has made it easy and quick for us to access the information we need, so we can focus on interacting with our customers – which is much more important to us,” said Gaunt.
Calibre One also implemented a Fortinet FortiGate solution, providing HiQA with advanced threat protection and a unified multicloud approach to securing the enterprise.
HiQA runs its main data management software on Telstra’s cloud. Spectra QEST is specialist software for the geotechnical industry that collates all the data sets from HiQA’s field and laboratory test results. Accessibility of the data in Spectra QEST has been a challenge, as it has been very difficult for HiQA to track the progress of its jobs. Working with Calibre One, HiQA has progressed to the design and feasibility stage, collating all its data sets and developing a series of reports and data visualisations using Microsoft Power BI that will provide better tracking and more timely reporting to its customers.
“We are dealing with over one million data sets, and we’ve developed a system that will be able to provide us with live tracking of our samples through the testing process. If you can imagine, it’s a bit like Domino’s Live Pizza Tracker,” said Gaunt.
“When fully deployed, this will address two key pain points for our customers: failed test results and overall timeliness in delivering results. The quicker we can let the customer know about a failed test, the quicker they can rectify it. And if we can reduce the turn around on test results from five days to three days, on a big site that could save the construction company anywhere between $20,000 to $30,000,” explained Gaunt.
“While we have to meet the deadlines on any project we do, this new capability will give us the opportunity to exceed our customers’ expectations.”
Gaunt highlights the important role that Calibre One has played over five years as HiQA’s technology partner.
“We aren’t ICT professionals, so it’s not practical for us to manage it ourselves. Calibre One has helped us become a lot more mature in our use of technology over the years. They are agile, and they get things done. Ultimately it comes down to Calibre One’s people. Their strong suit is delivering on projects and having a support helpdesk that gets things resolved quickly.”
HiQA has a number of projects in the pipeline. There is a plan in place to decommission its ISDN lines and move away from its current MPLSbased IP network to a business NBN connection for each of its sites. That’s expected to give HiQA more agility, much higher performance and connection speeds, and improve overall security.
HiQA will also be moving from its current cloud hosted domain servers to ID-as-a-service with Microsoft Azure Active Directory, giving the organisation more scalability and a true consumption-based, per month per user service for all components of its Microsoft environment.
The final stage in the adoption of cloud will come by the end of 2018 when HiQA migrates from its current on-premise IP telephony platform to Telstra Calling for Office 365, providing calls to landlines and mobiles natively from within Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams.
“Our team is so used to communicating this way, so it’s a natural next step for us to build this capability into whatever device we are on. It’s all about our users being technology agnostic in how they communicate,” concluded Gaunt.