Dan Mallory, CIO of accounting firm Aprio, worried about whether the company would receive all the endpoint devices it needed in time for its planned office move. Then, its partners came to the rescue.

Sep 19 2022

With Good Partners and Smart Planning, Companies Overcome Supply Chain Problems

Limited availability of devices has upended businesses over the past couple of years, but work-arounds are possible.

As the accounting firm Aprio prepared for a move to a new Atlanta headquarters this spring, employees looked forward to the change from a cubicle farm to a more modern office design, says CIO Dan Mallory.

“We knew we needed to re-energize and revitalize the space,” Mallory says. “We wanted to make it look like the startups and tech companies that we interact with on a day-to-day basis.

”But as the May moving date approached, apprehension grew among company leaders that they wouldn’t be able to get the tech devices and infrastructure they needed to support employees in the new space.

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“We had worries, and many of them were realized,” Mallory says. “Our tech vendors and partners did a good job of setting expectations, but the choke points in the supply chain kept changing.

”The supply chain challenges of the past couple of years have taught IT and business leaders to be more adaptable and proactive when it comes to tech procurement, says Alla Valente, a senior analyst at Forrester. “People understand now that one minor glitch can suddenly cause their technology to get stuck on a ship in the middle of the ocean,” she says. “We’ve learned that to minimize the probability and impact of supply chain shortages, we need to get better at planning ahead.”

IT Leaders Must Adapt to the New Normal

When Guru Vasudeva became CIO for infrastructure and operations at Nationwide Mutual Insurance in 2019, he introduced a cost-cutting measure: Rather than replacing laptops every four years for the company’s 35,000 employees and contractors, the insurer would move to a five-year refresh cycle.

At first, as IT costs came down, the move seemed like a stroke of genius. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and workers began using their laptops for hours of videoconferencing each day. Many of the devices couldn’t hold up to the new demands, and Nationwide struggled to replace them in a timely manner due to supply chain constraints.

“We never got to a point where people didn’t have devices, but at least 15 percent of them had older or suboptimal devices,” Vasudeva says. “We have monitoring technology deployed on all our machines, so we knew that around 5 percent of our people were definitely having challenges, and an additional 10 percent were just getting by.”

To weather the storm, Nationwide took tactical and strategic actions, increasing memory and optimizing lap-tops. It also expanded the types of devices it supports, adding Dell laptops and Microsoft Surface tablets to its HP portfolio. “The technology needs for various user groups are quite different,” Vasudeva notes. “The hybrid world really changed things, and we began tailoring our technology more to specific use cases.”

The organization also reclaimed devices from people who were leaving the company and distributed them to employees who needed them. And, rather than continuing to stretch out its refresh cycle, Nationwide began placing its orders earlier and getting devices into the organization as quickly as possible. “By the end of this year, we’ll have deployed 15,000 new laptops,” Vasudeva says. “We’re close to 50 percent refreshed. That puts us in a great position.”

Trusted Partnerships Can Offer Valuable Help

As for Aprio, the firm wanted to outfit its new offices with an equally modern and best-in-class client experience center, including cutting-edge video conferencing equipment, integrated visitor management and mobile access control, as well as a Meraki wireless network. The company also wanted to provide employees with new Dell laptops and equip in-office workstations with new docks, monitors and peripherals such as headsets and keyboards.

To make the move a success, Mallory says, the organization adopted an “operationally agile” mindset — getting technology deployed that would at least meet users’ needs in the moment, then filling in any gaps later. This meant, for instance, moving old Meraki networking gear to the new office until newer access points became available.

Still, Aprio knew it would need help, so it relied on partners including CDW to help track down scarce resources.

“Businesses shouldn’t be afraid to ask us for help,” says Chase Ierna, who was Aprio’s CDW account manager at the time of the move. “Internal IT professionals can’t know everything, and we have people who are subject matter experts in every specific silo.”

READ MORE: Discover the most common IT challenges leaders face in a work-from-anywhere world.

However, Aprio needed more than just access to the devices themselves; the company also needed the devices fully configured and ready to go out of the box. It worked with CDW partner eBryIT to configure devices at scale using Microsoft Intune. The partner also stored the devices until Aprio needed them and ultimately delivered them to employees.

“That really helped remove some painful manual processes on our side and scale something that had been a sore area for us,” Mallory says. “They offered a white-glove, no-touch deployment, which really modernized our ability to deliver laptops to a remote workforce.”

Mallory says he was delighted by the degree to which CDW was able to flex its resources to help remove barriers and get the firm the devices it needed quickly.

“If we’re moving down one path and it dries up, we know that CDW will find a creative way to help us procure some equipment,” he says. “There have been times I was ready to hit the panic button, and CDW has been able to track down the resources we needed in the time frame we needed them.”

Dan Mallory
We’ve learned that to minimize the probabil-ity and impact of supply chain shortages, we need to get better at planning ahead.”

Dan Mallory CIO, Aprio

Flexibility Can Help Alleviate Some Supply Chain Woes

Alabama ONE Credit Union, which operates 22 locations and manages nearly $1 billion in assets, planned to refresh its wireless network and data center between 2020 and 2022, but both projects were hampered by supply chain challenges. The data center refresh included Nimble storage and Aruba CX switches, and the organization had to delay the project until equipment became available, says Bobby Umfress II, director of IT infrastructure and operations.

“We put an order in for our storage at the beginning of last November, but the delivery date got pushed back twice,” Umfress says. “We didn’t receive that equipment until April or May of this year. The vendor simply couldn’t get the parts in, and we thought we might have to put the project on hold.

”Ultimately, the move was a success, but it required Umfress and his team to be flexible and plan ahead. “We had a lot of the software we needed ready to go,” he says. “It was just a matter of pointing it to the actual storage once it got delivered. We had some floating dates, because we knew equipment was going to be hard to come by. When we got the equipment in, we were able to make the move just two or three weeks later.”

Photography by Gregory Miller

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