Vigor Industrial is a privately-owned ship repair and complex fabrication company headquartered in Portland, Oregon with operations in Ketchikan, Alaska. They employ close to 5,000 people, ranging from FTEs to journeymen. 

 

The company builds a wide range of seacraft, including fishing boats, tugs, ferries, barges, fireboats, high performance combatant crafts, and a variety of aluminum workboats. Their repair operations range from small fishing boats to the country’s largest catcher processors, from basic barges to state-of-the-art articulated tug and barge sets, from offshore supply vessels to floating drill rigs, and from aircraft carriers to cruise ships.  

 

Vigor’s expertise further stretches to heavy, high complexity projects from structural bridge girders to nuclear containment devices, from dam lift gates to space launch towers. They service a smorgasbord of US government agencies, as well as private and public companies on both the East and West coasts. 

 

History 

 

In 2018, Vigor realized the need for an assessment of their IT operations. Their application infrastructure was enormous, with different applications performing tasks that could be done by a few already in use. As you’ll read below, their IT organization, governance, and interaction with the business was in need of an overhaul. 

 

Assessment Strategy 

 

Observations 

 

  1. Business Applications 

 

In order to better understand how changes could be strategized, SSNW went back to basics: looking at Vigor’s business needs in the present, near future, and long-term plan. We realized that by fully utilizing a core software architecture and standardizing processes with a view toward continuous, scalable improvement, Vigor could get a substantially larger ROI. 

 

  1. IT Infrastructure 

 

Vigor’s IT department had overdeveloped their infrastructure, continually adding apps and integrations to carry out each new business need. This resulted in:  

  • A complex environment that required a lot of support 

  • Carried no plans for future growth  

  • Weakened Vigor’s IT security.  

Topping this, little to none of Vigor’s IT infrastructure was backed up to the cloud, leaving them vulnerable to significant slowdowns in case of system issues. 

 

  1. Help desk 

 

For any company, the help desk is an essential interface with clients and partners that create and maintain the company’s image, reliability, and ease of access. More importantly, it bridges various divisions within a company, allowing them to interact and make decisions more quickly.  

Vigor’s help desk was plagued with systemic issues:  

  • Ticket volumes were always high without a structure for resolving such volume in time 

  • Maintaining service level agreements was not part of the culture 

  • There was no other way for users to communicate without it.  

These factors significantly affected pace. 

 

  1. IT Organization 

 

Since the problems at the help desk were largely systemic, similar problems cropped up in the organization of the IT department, whose structure was anything but streamlined.  

  • Responsibilities were split atypically 

  • Security was walled off from the infrastructure and application teams 

  • There was a high overdependence on external resources. 

 

  1. IT Governance 

 

IT governance spans both applications and infrastructure. It is the means through which an organization deploys technology in a way that drives business value as efficiently as possible. At Vigor, we observed:  

  • Very little documentation 

  • No consistent understanding of the relationships between business functions and applications used 

  • The steering committee was informal at best.  

All this resulted in a skewed relationship between business and IT, with IT driving decisions due simply to the fact that the business was largely unable to understand what IT was doing. 

 

  1. Controls 

 

IT Controls are specific activities performed by persons or systems designed to ensure that business objectives are met. Their objectives relate to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, as well as overall management of IT. At Vigor, we found that at the basic level, there were no major issues. While the company was struggling with many issues, by and large the IT department was able to meet the bare minimum. However, we found: 

  • Questions around ownership, seen in the atypical arrangement of responsibilities 

  • A unilateral application of security controls  

  • Aging infrastructure  

  • Ill-defined lifecycles for major IT assets. 

 

Recommendations 

 

  1. Business Applications 

  • Rationalize the application portfolio around the maximization of core applications 

  • Change project methodology to be more consistent, and include an IT manager and business manager to each project. 

 

  1. IT Infrastructure 

  • Document full asset inventory and topology 

  • Consolidate existing server network, analyze capability for consolidating information in the cloud 

  • Create a long term asset replacement plan 

 

  1. Help desk 

  • Automate some processes and diversify communication capabilities amongst other departments, streamline all remaining non-automated processes 

  • Update internal processes to tackle problems at their cause, quickly and efficiently 

  • Increase staffing until changes show improvement 

  • Re-evaluate outsourcing as help desk improves 

 

  1. IT organization 

  • Put someone in charge of senior level operations 

  • Part-time DBA reports to the IT engineering team 

  • Consider increasing or decreasing engineering team post-server consolidation 

  • Part-time security analyst in IT 

 

  1. IT Governance 

  • Reconfigure how the steering committee works, its importance and impact on day-to-day operations 

  • Steer IT toward consolidation of applications to better execute existing core software 

  • Use steering committee to address issues found in IT controls 

 

Timeline for Implementation 

 

While SSNW was only hired to assess existing issues in Vigor’s IT landscape, we also provided Vigor with an idea of efficient timelines if and when they decided to move forward with implementation. In all, we estimated that it would take 60-70 weeks (a little over a year), to implement all our recommended changes using our implementation strategies. 

 

 

 

SSNW’s Implementation of Cherwell ERP 

 

After we presented our recommendations, Vigor asked us to provide project leadership and subject matter expertise for the implementation of Cherwell, a new IT Service Management solution that formed an important component of our suggested improvements.  

 

Along with basic implementation, our team (which included a senior member from the initial assessment team) developed a full technical architecture based on Cherwell, mapping a path for future integrations and workflows. We facilitated key discussion around Service Level Agreements, helping to solve some of Vigor’s help desk issues. Finally, we provided training plans and change management. 

 

Strategic Solutions NW 

 

Founded in Beaverton, Oregon in 2002, Strategic Solutions NW prides itself as a trusted advisor in unifying people, business processes, and technology to improve the employee experience, maximize efficiency and meet industry best practices. 

  

Organizations are always changing.  Whether you're anticipating growth, managing acquisitions and mergers, or just looking to streamline operations, we have the industry and technology expertise to spur your success.   

  

We hire the best and take pride in the investment and retention of our people.  With an average tenure at SSNW of 9.8 years, we have a tight-knit group of outstanding professionals ready to take on projects of all sizes.  We bring an organization-wide perspective to technology solutions and approach each client with a long-term relationship in mind, providing continued support and advice beyond the initial project. 

SSNW assesses existing business applications, IT infrastructure, organization, and governance, issues with the help desk, and controls. 

© 2020 by Strategic Solutions NW

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