It’s a tough time in the engineering world at present, according to Tonkin Consulting’s chief executive Gerry Doyle. Government spending is down, and the private sector isn’t coming to the party.
There are a couple of ways to cope with tough times. You hunker down and hope, or you keep investing with the view to better times ahead.
Tonkin Consulting, a civil engineering firm based in South Australia and founded over fifty years ago, has decided to take the second path.
“Being involved in the engineering industry, there’s always a push to be flexible and versatile in how we produce information,” Doyle told iTnews.
“There are lots of documents and drawings and there’s a need to interact with clients on documents as you work on them.”
Put another way, what’s needed is flexibility and mobility, especially when many of the projects the firm works on are in remote South Australia or the Northern Territory.
In line with the investing for the future strategy, the company has replaced ageing HP gear with IBM PureFlex infrastructure.
The key deliverable is a private cloud conferring all the benefits of a public cloud, including strong disaster recovery, but within the bounds of the company’s appetite for risk.
“Of course we looked at the public cloud,” said Doyle, who has been in the chief executive’s chair for 18 months, and boasts 12 years’ service with the company.
“But engineers by nature are risk averse. Having our own cloud set up gives us the flexibility benefits we need, as well as the control and risk management the company demands.”
Going with IBM wasn’t a slam-dunk, and Doyle commented the flexibility benefits from the long term technology investment aren’t going to come solely from PureFlex.
However, when the company did the numbers, looked at what was on the market, and worked with Vintek, a consulting firm, the IBM kit was what came out on top.
“The number one benefit from PureFlex is the flexibility and the ability for our engineers and consultants to move around freely and access work information in the places they need to be,” he observed. “The PureFlex isn’t something solely focused on ROI, but as part of broader strategy.”
The company is also in the process of upgrading communications links with its five regional offices.
“We have ADSL, and that’s basically inadequate,” he said, however he declined to comment further on which company would get the communications contracts.
As far as the mobility solution goes, Tonkin is sticking with Telstra for its communications in the field, citing the carrier’s range, scope and reliability.
Ideally, said Doyle, consultants will have tablets which they can take to clients, annotate documents and drawings, and then bring them back to the office. But that solution isn’t there yet, he said.
“I don’t think the technology is quite mature enough,” he noted. “But it will get there soon.”