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How Coverdell modernized their business strategy with Azure

By Microsoft in Business Team on June 21, 2018

Filed under Microsoft in Business

Digital Transformation: Optimize Operations

Since its inception in 1964, Coverdell has spent the last five decades reinforcing their industry leadership through delivering quality products, outstanding service, and significant savings to their customers. Headquartered in Chicago, the business creates, markets, and administers cost-saving membership products supporting more than six million customers around the country. Coverdell’s five key services include direct-to-consumer, affinity marketing, wholesale, insurance programs, and administration. 

Until recently, Coverdell’s business strategy focused entirely on B2B2C companies to ensure they could market directly to a consistent customer base. To expand their market reach and encourage company growth, Coverdell’s leadership developed a new business strategy to include B2C offerings. VP, Information Technology, Vince L’Erario, recognized that the business’ original tools and systems wouldn’t be sufficient to manage their new strategy. In charge of overseeing application development, infrastructure, and security across Coverdell’s technologies, L’Erario understood that a company-wide digital transformation would be the next step.

Exploring digital innovation to advance Coverdell’s new business strategy

As Coverdell continued developing and strengthening their expanded business strategy, they realized they needed to find a digital solution to better support the needs of their broader audience and new offerings. For example, Coverdell’s Chicago headquarters were housed in a building that didn’t have back-up power and was subject to brown-outs and system disruptions. However, the business knew they couldn’t manage their direct-to-consumer product offerings with unreliable technology.

The business initiated their digital transformation by first using Azure to address their hosting needs for a specific collection of websites.

“If we had a power outage or a brown-out in this building, we knew that our customer-facing website and other access points were still up because we had the reliability of Azure and that datacenter,” explained L’Erario. “And in the process, we were able to realize a huge cost-savings.”

Before using Azure, Coverdell relied on colocation facilities for this specific block of websites, costing the company $6,000 per month in hosting fees. By migrating to an Azure Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) platform, Coverdell modernized their hosting services while reducing their monthly costs to under $1,000 per month. These significant benefits motivated the company to explore Azure-based solutions to support the entire company’s transformation.

SWC Technology Partners helps Coverdell capitalize on Azure’s cutting-edge technology

After a successful and cost-effective website migration, Coverdell began exploring other Azure use cases related to their core applications, data, services, and the underlying on-premises infrastructure of their administrative platform.

In partnership with SWC, an IT consulting firm and award-winning Microsoft Gold Certified partner, the team developed a multi-phase timeline, guided by SWC’s Azure-specific expertise. In addition to supporting Coverdell’s team of developers and IT engineers, SWC also laid the groundwork for Coverdell to take the lead on the company’s transition, facilitating a successful migration process for these mission-critical assets.

“While we have a great team of highly competent developers and infrastructure people, nobody had significant experience in Azure,” said L’Erario. “So SWC really flattened that learning curve for us.”

With the deadline to renew their Salesforce subscription looming and a successful Azure transformation project well underway, Coverdell decided to migrate their remaining co-located, Salesforce-administered websites and inherited infrastructure to the Microsoft cloud.

“Having done countless Azure transformation projects, it was refreshing to partner with organizations like Coverdell who embrace partners as extensions of their team and have the technical prowess to execute against an aggressive roadmap,” said Ric Opal, VP of Infrastructure Solutions at SWC.

Migrating to Azure results in record cost savings

As it turns out, Coverdell’s initial cost savings discovery with their first block of websites was only the beginning of the company’s financial benefits. Their decision to unify the company’s websites, applications, data, and infrastructure in an Azure environment eliminated $54,000 in monthly colocation upkeep costs. According to L’Erario, Coverdell’s Azure-based digital transformation is on track to save the company an estimated $1 million over the next 2-3 years.

Azure’s technology also enables Coverdell’s IT team to simplify and streamline internal process and infrastructure. With the cloud, the business’ technology team can more easily and quickly update its website. In fact, Coverdell’s developers can now manage the process over 2-3 days rather than over 2-3 weeks. As L’Erario notes, the company’s internal customers have already noticed a big difference in response times, adding that the simplified technology improves efficiency across the board.

“It was just a spaghetti of legacy code, and we were able to just cut through that, bring it to our existing infrastructure, and drastically simplify with Azure,” said L’Erario.

The cloud’s powerful technology also immediately serves as a cost-effective solution for Coverdell’s building challenges. The company’s platforms now benefit from better reliability, increased processing power—and even improved performance in some cases, without requiring the company to spend more for a stronger internet connection. With improved reliability, Coverdell’s customer service, customer-facing websites and platforms, and other processes continue to drive the business’s growth and success.

“We’ve had outages here, and some of our partners that help us service our customers still keep operating on our Azure infrastructure without noticing any outage,” L’Erario said. “So, when we’re down here, our websites are still up and taking in new customers, which is huge.”

Discovering additional opportunities to optimize operations

As Coverdell continues leveraging innovative benefits from their Azure migration, the organization’s technology team also develops new features and services to enhance business operations. Using Azure’s technology, the organization was able to establish their own enterprise service bus (ESB) for a fraction of their original $20,000 budget—and in a matter of weeks rather than months or years.

Recently, they also implemented an intuitive, customer-facing dashboard with Power BI that allows Coverdell’s leadership team to leverage self-reporting and analytics capabilities. They also used Power BI to more effectively interpret and share valuable data insights with other departments and teams across the organization.

In the future, Coverdell plans to explore more innovative opportunities through cloud technology, laying the foundation for a migration from their on-premises Office and Exchange to an Azure-based Office 365 environment. With so many benefits and massive cost savings, the business knows their new strategy will only be enhanced by Microsoft’s cutting-edge, cloud-based solutions.


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