When he was first appointed to head up the IT team at the Australian Property Institute (API) some 18-months ago, CIO Joel Leslie, found an organisation struggling with its current customer relationship management (CRM) system.
The API represents about 10,000 property professionals throughout Australia, including the likes of residential and commercial valuers, property advisers and analysts, property fund and asset managers, property facility managers, property lawyers, and property researchers and academics.
The organisation has offices in each capital city around the country, which house a staff of about 35, plus “a stack” of home users.
Upon his arrival at the API, Leslie identified an environment in dire need of a shake-up and promptly wrote a new “holistic” strategy that was similar to what he had implemented previously as head of IT at real estate firm Raine and Horne.
“I used the same type of philosophy at API and it’s been working really well since,” he said. “We had to compress the infrastructure of the internet as it was quite flaky around the country so by moving resources around we found that investing in good internet connection reduced the costs.”
“When I started at the API they were at the tail-end of implementing an ERP [enterprise resource planning] type CRM system nationally and it wasn’t really on any infrastructure,” Leslie said.
“The system was from a local provider and they’ve had inherent problems dealing with the company, let alone the solution so it was a big stumbling block… a million dollars for an ERP solution for 30 people sounds a bit much.”
“It was on a mail server pipeline and when a whole bunch of emails were sent out the connection died off,” he said. “It was a traditional data centre and I think at the time they implemented the product they also had to go and buy more hardware because it just wasn’t functioning.”
With an implementation of Amazon Web Services (AWS) at Raine and Horne under his belt, Leslie began weighing up the pros and cons of how the business could best leverage off a Cloud platform, following which he opted to carry out a similar project at the API.
“We did look around [at other options] because it was such new technology even 18 months ago. There are a few Australian players but I wanted something reliable because my reputation was relying on this to work.”
According to Leslie, the infrastructure-as-a-service model was best suited to the business as the CRM system needed to connect to a terminal server.
“We ended up purchasing a whole bunch of instances and setting it up as a data centre and then putting our application in over the top.
“The good thing about what we’ve got is that we can adjust the amount of resources per instance as we need, so in the downtime at night when no one is using it we can scale it right back and then during the day we can fire it up, which saves a stack of money.”