Responding to a fierce competitive landscape driven by rapid changes in information technology, ECI Software Solutions, Inc. sought to transform its business model by delivering its products by subscription in the cloud.
By moving its infrastructure and solutions to IBM Cloud, ECI simplified its operations, expanded its customer base and increased revenue, providing more expedient implementation timelines and greater opportunity to develop more innovative products.
50 percent increaseto nearly 1,000 new users per year
Provides better servicethrough direct control over customer environments
Reduces time to deployfrom days to hours
Business challenge story
Pioneering spirit with vision
ECI helps independent enterprises stay competitive in an evolving marketplace. For more than 30 years, the Lumber, Building Materials and Hardlines (LBMH) division has delivered business management software solutions that automate back-office tasks and streamline operations for hardware stores, home centers, lumber and building materials dealers, and other related retailers.
The company historically sold its business management solutions through a traditional licensing model, which meant deploying software on premises in diverse IT environments owned and operated by its customers. These engagements typically required customers to purchase server and storage hardware and employ knowledgeable IT staff to operate those environments. As IT complexity and costs for ECI’s LBMH division and its customers began to escalate, the company faced longer deployment times, greater expenditures of time and resources for support, and lengthy deployments. The company could see that its business and those of its customers would suffer if it did not dramatically transform its solution delivery and support model.
To keep pace with changing demand and better meet the needs of its customers, the division made a strategic business decision to move away from a traditional, on-premises licensing model to a cloud-based, SaaS offering model, which the company would own, deliver and manage remotely.
Fast, flexible and in control
ECI’s LBMH division explored the offerings of several cloud providers before choosing an IBM Cloud infrastructure solution to support its portfolio of SaaS offerings. The IBM name and reputation as a trusted IT provider were key considerations, but ultimately the flexibility of IBM Cloud sealed the decision. With a combination of IBM Cloud Block Storage, IBM Cloud File Storage and IBM Cloud Object Storage options and flexible provisioning, the company can address specific customer requirements for bare metal or virtual server infrastructure.
“We use the IBM Cloud for servicing our customers,” says Brian Hildebrand, Manager of Cloud Operations at ECI. “With our SaaS portfolio, customers don't have to go out and buy hardware, manage that hardware, or pay people to manage it for them. We control the entire environment and manage backups, updates, antivirus — all of it — so they can focus on running their businesses.”
ECI’s LBMH division relies on IBM Cloud Block Storage technology to power its Microsoft SQL Server infrastructure for its speed, reliability, ease of deployment and ease of configuration. “Block Storage allows us to deploy our SQL in a manner that’s highly available and redundant,” says Hildebrand. “So, if a server were to have an issue, it’s not necessarily a high-priority issue since we have a failover or redundant server that’s going to pick up the load.”
John Maiuri, president of ECI’s LBMH Division, says the company moved to a SaaS business model for the steady and recurring revenue a subscription model provides. Quickly, the company understood that offering its solutions as a service on IBM Cloud had many other benefits — most importantly, flexibility and control of the environment. Compared to its former operating model, the company now has the ability to fine-tune its software to better meet customers’ needs. For instance, a trade services customer wanted to deploy peripherals in its environment but didn’t want the devices to be reliant on a VPN connection to function. The LBMH division created software for the customer’s specific environment that kept business peripherals operational, without the need for a VPN connection.
Although ECI’s LBMH division has been developing its IBM Cloud solution for six years, business has grown so quickly that Hildebrand says it feels as if the division’s journey is just getting started. “We began with 50 users and we’re at 9,000 now,” he says. “We didn’t anticipate that growth; our customers are excited. We now have the ability to use new technologies and improve our software — make it faster and more reliable — as we look at all the different opportunities that we have within the IBM Cloud.”
Exceptional scale and service
With a cloud strategy and SaaS portfolio, ECI can provide end-to-end solutions and better support for its growing number of users. Between new business and existing customers migrating to IBM Cloud, the LBMH division has increased its sales by up to 50 percent, with 300 new engagements per year — 3,500 new users — over the roughly 200 new customer engagements it saw when selling its software for on-premises deployments.
“We engaged with IBM and built the infrastructure on the IBM Cloud to support one customer,” says Maiuri. “Ultimately, it became the foundation for the full transition of our business — from a starkly on-premises, full-license sale model to a complete SaaS portfolio.”
About ECI Software Solutions, Inc.
ECI provides cloud-based software and services for small and medium-sized enterprises. The company offers business software solutions, point of sale, CRM, e-commerce software and dealer management systems tailored to specific industries, including manufacturing, wholesale and retail distribution, building and construction, and field service organizations. ECI is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, with offices across the US, in Europe and Australia.