Service Stream goes to AWS for IT platform

Telecommunications company and major NBN construction contractor Service Stream has placed its new IT platform, known as eSSential, into Amazon Web Services.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor on

When Service Stream CIO Craig Wishart started at the company in March 2012, the company's IT department had been struggling under the weight of legacy technology and hundreds of bespoke applications.

Service Stream, which in addition to rolling out the National Broadband Network (NBN) and other fixed-line networks, is also involved in constructing mobile towers, meter reading for water and electricity companies, and customer communication work, including the Do Not Call Register.

Wishart told ZDNet that when he came on board, he commenced an IT overhaul that saw the company reduce the number of applications from over 2,000 apps to under 35 on the "eSSential" platform that is hosted with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

"In the application side, what we found was that this was really an in-house development shop, with many bespoke applications and many of them built on stacks that were no longer relevant in a model where mobility was going to be key to how we got our work down," he said.

For a company that has so many workers out in the field, mobility is key, Wishart said, and shifting the company's IT platform into the cloud was a core part of that.

Late last year, the company moved to Office 365, and Wishart said this included deploying the Microsoft Lync video and audio communications platform, which he said now hosts up to 10,000 chats per day.

In March, the company flagged that it was close to completing a desktop refresh. Wishart said it wasn't a straight migration from HP to Lenovo, as the company had previously had a variety of devices. He said that Lenovo would be the predominant supplier in order to have a standardised fleet.

Service Stream has now finished its upgrade for the standard operating environment of the 1,350 desktops over to Windows 7 from XP as of two weeks ago, Wishart said.

"Our cycle times were anywhere up to 55 days to get a PC that was imaged and ready to work, and now that's down to less than five days," he said.

The company has considered Windows 8, he said, but it has yet to prove that it would be reliable.

"When we went down this path of setting a playbook for technology, we wanted to go with things we knew worked," he said.

"There wasn't really a driver [to go to Windows 7] except we wanted to get off XP because the support running out. It just didn't give us the functionality we need."

The company also rebuilt its Citrix farm for up to 500 users, and deployed nearly 500 mobile devices to its workforce.

Wishart said that the company is looking to decommission as many legacy systems as possible.

"It's very feasible that in six months, maybe 12 [months], that all our systems will run off one common platform," he said.

"Our objective remains clear. We want to reduce the cycle times of work, get our information management working really well, and just minimise manual touch points."

While Service Stream is heavily focused on moving as many of its applications out to the cloud as possible, Wishart said specific contracted services, such as the Do Not Call Register, would remain in-house.

"The Do Not Call Register is a good example of something you wouldn't put into the cloud unless your client said you could," he said. "Government tend to be very tight on how they want things done."

NBN ramps up

Part of the in-field deployment included bringing in a new ticketing system to work specifically on the NBN work undertaken by Service Stream. As controversy mounts over delays in the construction of the network, which NBN Co said has been due in large part to construction contractors not being able to deploy workers as quickly as required, Wishart said that 70 Service Stream workers out in the field are now using the ETADirect ticketing system to log, schedule, and complete their work.

The company implemented the system over nine weeks from November. Where before, Service Stream might not have known for up to two days whether a job had been completed, now the company is getting real-time updates through the web-based ETADirect application, which workers can access via an Android or iOS phone.

"If you've got 70 people in the field in a day, and people can't meet their commitments for whatever reason, they may have run into some rock or the design may not be right, you need to know that quickly so you can reschedule and reprioritise your workforce," Wishart said.

The company is still testing whether it would be compatible with Windows 8, he said.

While the system is only currently being used on one NBN contract, he said that Service Stream is talking to NBN Co about how it could be used in other parts of the company's work on the NBN.

In the next four weeks, the program will be expanded over to a contract with an energy and utility provider, with up to 300 people using the ticketing system.

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