St Leonards Motors
SLM are a successful motor dealership which began trading in 1959 and as of 2022, the family group consists of 12 sites across East Anglia, Sussex and Kent.
The business runs franchises with Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, Fiat and Vauxhall, and includes two body shops and Sussex Used Cars.
Historically, both hardware and software had grown organically and without structure. Cloud technology was not integrated into the environment, limiting flexibility and capability. The SLM board felt it was time to take a more progressive approach and needed a solution to allow their team to work collaboratively in a secure and safe environment from a range of devices. Reliability and consistency for users was a key requirement, as was the need for centralised management and strategic development to support the future ambitions of the business.
Astec worked closely to understand SLMs’ specific challenges and future plans, allowing us to develop a robust IT strategy using technology road mapping. This process helped us to build and create a reliable, efficient platform which would enable the group to take full advantage of the benefits of a Microsoft cloud environment.
Microsoft 365 was key to this approach and as a Microsoft Gold Partner with competencies in Cloud Solutions, Astec were able to work with SLM to unlock the value in the Microsoft 365 suite.
Cloud technology was at the core of this digital transformation project. Although the existing servers were replaced with current generation hardware for on-premise management of Active Directory, these integrate with a Microsoft Azure cloud Active Directory environment, creating a hybrid cloud environment and joining all SLM sites into one centrally managed structure. SLM’s print management solution was moved into a Microsoft Azure hosted environment, for centralised management and control across the whole group.
Astec moved SLM away from their existing legacy mail solution into Microsoft 365 to provide not only hosted email but a consistent, up to date desktop and cloud application suite.
SLM’s data cabling infrastructure and wireless networking was brought up to standard. The legacy wireless networks was replaced with a modern group wide, centrally managed Wi-Fi solution, providing a robust, reliable, secure and fast internal communications infrastructure.
SLM’s SharePoint Zone, which Astec developed as SLM’s central platform for business operations. Everything runs from here, shared internal document access, access to external cloud applications and it is all secured and centrally managed based on an employee’s job role, giving them access to everything they need for their job. This allowed fully collaborative working across every dealership.
A custom built Annual Leave Management solution was built into the Microsoft environment allowing for simple and easy leave management across the whole group providing a transparent and frustration free process for the team.
Desktop and laptop hardware across the group was replaced with fast, new technology, removing performance bottlenecks previously experienced by end users and providing robust and warranted devices to ensure maximum uptime and interruption free working.
Astec also deployed Microsoft Enterprise Mobility and Security (EM+S) suite to provide a range of security solutions to protect critical customer data and help protect devices and user environments from malicious attacks and data leakage.
With the new system deployed, Astec now deliver their PromisePlus IT support and managed services agreement which gives all users a best in class central, friendly point of contact for all technology issues and saving the group £70,000 + per annum in internal staff costs. All technology is now centrally managed and pro-actively maintained on behalf of SLM and Astec continue to work with the board in developing and implementing a technology roadmap to support the ambitions of the group.
Significant performance improvements across the whole business were immediately noticed and previous system reliability issues disappeared.
SLM’s staff now access their shared data online from within their Astec designed ‘Zone’ where their data is safely secured on Microsoft servers in the Cloud and is accessible from anywhere with Internet connectivity. A customised navigation structure makes getting to relevant information easy and logical. Staff can easily share and co-author live documents and collaborate effectively across the organisation regardless of their location.
Staff now feel that the technology is there to aid them in their role rather than being a hindrance to them. Combined with rapid and friendly support provided when issues or queries arise, a hugely positive impact on morale has been seen.
Efficiency and productivity has improved as systems work as expected, every time and the workflow processes implemented reduce manual effort and wasted time.
Data security is greatly improved and as a result Astec were able to deliver Cyber Essentials accreditation for SLM Group following completion of the project.
There is a confidence in the environment and peace of mind for the board now that SLM has a partner that has taken away the technology headaches and is helping to drive the future strategy.
But this is still only the beginning of the journey as Astec work with SLM to further leverage the investments made to date.
Astec are continuing to work with SLM to deliver enhanced productivity solutions built using the Microsoft PowerApps and SharePoint platform to deliver an increasing series of productivity gains for SLM and help the teams and the board in fully exploiting the tools available, enabling them to work even more productively and efficiently.
Astec are now implementing a communications rationalisation and upgrade programme to replace multiple communications technologies with fast, reliable and centrally managed leased line solutions, saving money and improving performance and reliability.
A review of the mixed telecoms solutions is underway with the aim of implementing a Microsoft Teams calling solution across all group sites for a seamless, integrated and flexible communications solution.
From the very first meeting with Astec they seemed to have an innate understanding of our business and our IT needs. The Astec people were so reassuring, and it was quickly apparent that these guys were at the absolute top of their game.”