Integrated IT support for Gustafson Porter + Bowman: Identifying, implementing, and sharing the technology advantage

Gustafson Porter + Bowman

Meet Gustafson Porter + Bowman

Gustafson Porter + Bowman (GP+B) is an award-winning landscape architecture practice which frequently receives public acclaim for creating authentically engaging spaces within a global portfolio. The development of their design work has continuously pushed the boundaries of landscape design.

Spanning climate zones, geographical characters, historical and cultural backgrounds, GP+B’s exciting and varied projects include The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial in Hyde Park; Zeytouneh Square in Beirut; Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam’; the Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales; and the first ever landscape installation at the 11th Architecture Biennale in Venice.

React | Adapt | Predict

The practice’s relationship with Symetri began when Donncha O Shea, partner at GP+B, was experiencing growing dissatisfaction at the approach of IT support providers. He felt that their focus appeared to be on their own commercial advantage rather than in their clients’ interests. Donncha—in addition to his leadership role—manages technology at GP+B; everything from CAD software selection, to hardware issues, investment choices, and delivering the tools that GP+B’s architects and designers need, to deliver high quality and forward-looking landscape designs.

“There was an upsell or a cross-sell angle to recommendations from people we wanted to rely on to offer impartial, best practice, guidance”, says Donncha, “Symetri were just not like that. Their values were client-first, and they demonstrated breadth of capability, combined with deep knowledge around the technology used in architecture and landscaping. Since bringing Symetri on board, we haven’t looked back”.  

The evolution of GP+B’s IT infrastructure has certainly involved remedial measures along the way, but ensuring business-as-usual has been just one dimension of the relationship. Symetri has also helped the company to adapt through difficult times occasioned by the emergent nature of home and hybrid working, to learn from real-world events what a flexible IT infrastructure needs to look like and where investment in IT, and digital communications, should be most appropriately channelled to support efficient anywhere working into the future.

 

Challenge: Ensuring a stable IT environment, expanding where and how people can work

When servers fail to serve
Often when a server fails, it does so in incremental stages rather than all at once. This is what happened over a two-week period at GP+B. Occasional user problems when logging on became more widespread. Functionality started to degrade. Initial assumptions at GP+B that these were minor events turned into a realisation that something more serious was happening.

“A crisis shows how much you need IT support”, says Donncha. “Symetri evaluated our server requirement, built up the specifications for a new server, and sent one of their engineers to our office to install it. The whole process was complete in under 48 hours. Not only did the new server resolve the user problems but it was also a critical foundation for a disaster recovery plan designed to make sure that crises of this nature would be contained to being mere blips in the future. Symetri supported in creating a disaster recovery plan for Gustafson Porter + Bowman”.

When communications are put to the test
Meanwhile, as GP+B’s contract for its telephony system came to an end, Donncha reviewed what the practice’s options might be. Costs of the analogue system were unjustifiable and its limitations were evident, particularly when compared to the benefits that could be gained with a VoIP alternative.

“We asked Symetri to review and recommend. Since they know how we work, I felt they could best evaluate how we could make our communications work better. When they suggested a digital communications route, I was sceptical. I suspected that it may require a whole bunch of new skills for our team. Symetri changed my view, changed our system, and changed so much for the better how we now communicate externally and internally at GP+B”.

Solutions: Seamless communications with RingCentral Cloud VoIP, and IT support for every issue

A single platform for communications freedom
On the communications front, the Symetri team put Donncha in touch with a communications specialist from RingCentral, providers of Cloud VoIP telephone communication solutions. “Symetri never have a hidden agenda and are refreshingly transparent in arranging direct contact with vendors so that you can understand exactly what’s on offer”, says Donncha.  

RingCentral requires no special equipment; just an internet connection. It functions just like an app. For any company using it, communication becomes possible wherever the user may be, from mobile phone to desktop. It allows freedom of movement rather than, in GP+B’s case, dedicated ‘front-desk’ staff having to be permanently in attendance to take calls. As a cloud-based solution, it represents significant savings on traditional fixed telephony systems.

Smooth-running IT | Optimum performance | Maximum uptime
The new VoIP system was installed against a backdrop of a much-improved IT support approach, whereby GP+B had chosen Symetri’s Gold Support Package. They can now rely on support for every user as and when it may be required. It’s not just about panic issues either.

If a member of the GP+B team has a query—such as sluggishness in downloading, or even how to use certain functionalities in certain programmes—they can seek input from a Symetri engineer. If their work is being hampered, then the nature of the query is escalated.

If a user has a more urgent issue—literally cannot work due to a perceived IT or system problem—then it is escalated to the highest level. From unlimited remote support, through to on-site support, patching, and proactive monitoring, the GP+B team can go about daily life with confidence that crises will, indeed, always be mere blips.

 

Outcomes: 30% saved on GP+B communications spend

Symetri worked with GP+B to revolutionise its approach to telephony and communications before COVID arrived. When it did, the nature of work globally became something different, very quickly. Home and remote working—which had previously been a choice—became a rule. Companies had to adapt. GP+B already had.

“Symetri had helped make sure that our transition from an office-based business to an altogether more dispersed entity was not in the least problematical”, says Donncha. “Both from the communications perspective—with RingCentral—and from a general IT view, we were covered, supported, and liberated. We have also saved 30% off our spend on telephony, which has freed up investment money for other projects”.

 

“Our team loves it”
When the new telephony system was installed, users at GP+B found it easy to use; none of the skills adjustment that Donncha had feared may be involved: “It’s all intuitive. Our team loves it”, he says.

“Working with Symetri, both for ongoing IT support and on new projects as they come along, is a real pleasure. They are not protective about their knowledge. In fact, they share it enthusiastically and encouragingly. They also use plain English and never techno-jargon. If they happen not to have a certain specialist area of expertise, they will investigate it on our behalf, and I trust them to always have GP+B’s best interest at heart. We have a strong working relationship with them and wherever we go next on our digital journey it will be because Symetri has guided us there”.

Symetri also provided BIM consultancy for GP+B, undertook the necessary gap analysis in preparation for their BIM accreditation, and ensured alignment in areas of nonconformity. GP+B is now BIM accredited.

Challenges

  • Ensuring robust contingences for server failure fall-out.
  • To minimise downtime, disruption and dissatisfaction.
  • Making sure no calls are ever missed, no contact ever elusive, and no client ever frustrated.
  • Equipping the team with the means to communicate regardless of location; from home to office, and everywhere in-between.

Solutions

  • Remote back-up server; from specification to installation in just 48 hours.
  • Symetri IT Support services, including 14 full-time expert helpdesk technicians.
  • Cloud-based VoIP telephony, digital communications for the modern business.

Benefits

  • Continuous user efficiency and satisfaction.
  • A resource to rely on—for the IT environment, the good of the business, and the reassurance for users; that if things go wrong, they’ll be put right.
  • Freedom to move anywhere, yet always be in contact.
  • An essential pillar of remote, home, and hybrid working.

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