By Janet DeBerardinis, CIO, Caliber Collision Centers
When I joined Caliber Collision in July 2011, we had 86 locations in two states and minimal IT investment in people, processes or technology.
For 2012, a new objective was set by our Senior Management team and the Board— double the business every three years.
Caliber’s hyper-growth vision was set. And to execute this vision, we required a complete re-engineering of Caliber’s IT organization across every element of the company’s people, processes, and technology.
Recommended IT strategies to achieve hyper-growth were given a maximum of eighteen months for implementation. Defining actionable and measureable strategies and corresponding tactics is core to any great IT organization. The difference was accepting Caliber’s hyper-growth objective as the new norm across the enterprise.
Today, Caliber has 500 locations in 17 states. Corporate revenue has increased from $280M in 2012 to projected $2.4B in 2017—almost a 10 times increase in less than 5 years that speaks volume about the efforts of more than 10,500 teammates servicing an excess of 800,000 customers per year.
Today, the maxim that drives Caliber is ‘open new branches in two or three locations every week.’ This includes new software implementations along with from-the-ground up new hardware build-outs per location.
Establishing the culture of excellence witin IT to sustain hyper-growth strategies demand insightful leadership. And at the same time IT must morph itself as a true enabler of hyper-growth strategies coupled with continuous innovation framework.
The major IT implementation that has taken place over the past five years in Caliber includes the following:
The journey to 500 and beyond required an investment not only in technology but also in our most important asset—people.
Recruiting, hiring, and retaining talent for a hyper-growth environment is significantly different from a more mature environment viewpoint. It requires hiring core leaders that have the experience in IT organizations going through hyper-growth.
The key for Caliber to successfully acquire and maintain locations weekly required day one visibility into both Operational and Financial data
It requires building on the foundations of disparate industries that hone the skill sets required to meet and exceed hyper-growth business objectives.
Caliber’s IT leadership team was recruited through the lens of the skills, experiences and best practices gleaned by working in large distributed retail, manufacturing, and/or acquisition environments.
Companies like TGI Friday’s, JC Penney, and ACE Cash Express (large distributed environments and acquisitions) combined with National Semiconductor, Samsung, and AMX by Harman International (manufacturing and acquisitions). Success in achieving our hyper-growth objective required having those charged with executing the plan to have “Been there! Done that!” Hyper-growth does not provide time for learning curves.
The ability to successfully maintain and continue to grow in a hyper-growth environment requires processes that can sustain rapid growth velocity.
Supporting technology and IT administration functions require an evaluation of current as-is processes and defining them that enable the to-be vision.
Supporting and managing 86 locations and 2,000 team members cannot be accomplished manually. As the growth increased in both areas, there was a thriving need to develop processes through automation to 1) maintain existing support levels; 2) allow immediate integration into Caliber environment for acquisitions; and 3) define processes that are flexible enough to adjust as per business need.
The phrase “building the plane while flying it” is used often to communicate the difficulties IT organizations face when implementing change, averting the negative impact on business, while constantly updating and changing the environment.
In a hyper-growth organization, the plane is already running at a higher speed and the landscape is continuously changing.
Implementation of in-house and Cloud-based solutions was critical to facilitate day one integration for acquisitions. Taking the time to build in-house security management enabling full integration into the HRMS system to drive security and integrity, both internal and external, was also critical to the enterprise’s long-term success. Controls cannot be jeopardized and this is achieved through sound processes and procedures that are automation-driven, hence reducing the risk of human error.
Process changes throughout IT were also required. Help Desk, Applications, and Infrastructure and Operations teams evaluated their existing processes to determine the tipping point when manual processes would no longer be sustainable.
This provided the timeline for the design and implementation of the hyper-growth processes properly aligned with our growing organization. This is where the value of bringing in resources who have “Been there! Done that!” eases the implementation of best practices and tools designed to support current and future IT environments.
There are many arguments circling Cloud computing. When or why should we move to it?
The Cloud was a cornerstone of Caliber’s hyper-growth strategy. Many companies grow through acquisitions and throughout a certain period of time will run on parallel systems, mashing the data together for financials, and requiring multiple systems to view overall transactional performance.
The key for Caliber to successfully acquire and maintain locations weekly required day one visibility into both operational and financial data. With appropriate Internet, leveraging Cloud-based technologies enables this day one integration.
Building integration points between a Cloud-based management system into the accounting and HR Cloud-based systems (as well as our internal data warehouse) provides complete visibility into each existing and new center we acquire or build from the ground up. This allows for performance visibility of the acquired location as well as a more positive user experience for our newly acquired team members as they are using the same technology solutions as the rest of their teammates across the organization. Cookie cutter technology and business processes are essential for effective growth.
As the distributed environment grows, the WAN design becomes a critical success factor. Transitioning from MPLS to SD-WAN environment leveraging Meraki provided the necessary flexibility, speed, and single pane of glass administration to maintain growth.
This aligns with an overarching strategy of leveraging technology to support processes without dramatically increasing IT headcount. Solid processes and monitoring technologies are the components enabling a high level of continuous service across the growing organization without the need to increase resources.
For any IT organization to be successful as an enabler of their business, the team must continue to function in a constant improvement mode. Leveraging new technologies and continuous process improvement paradigms are essential to enabling frictionless hyper-growth.
The greatest failure an organization can have is becoming stagnant. As we continue to add new locations weekly, the Caliber IT team is energized and working closely with the business to continue providing technology solutions that efficiently and effectively solve ever-changing business opportunities.