As the VP, Data Strategy, IT and Operations at Communitech, Eric Bencina knows first-hand the challenges of enabling companies of all sizes to grow their businesses.
One of Communitech’s great strengths is forging strategic relationships and providing mentorship to support entrepreneurs. On any given (non-pandemic) day, Communitech’s offices at The Tannery and the Data Hub buzz with 100+ employees alongside a number of tenants – scale-ups, startups, as well as enterprise companies. Communitech is Waterloo Region’s clubhouse for tech, providing infrastructure, support, and spaces that incubate conversation, knowledge sharing, and innovation. In short, Communitech helps tech companies grow bigger, better, and most importantly: faster.
When COVID-19 caused Communitech to close its doors and move to a virtual environment last March, digitization and the technology that enables virtual workplaces came to the forefront. Eric’s first task was to re-envision what everyone needed from a space, network, and technology perspective. Eric was already onboard with the “digital isn’t optional” mindset; even before the pandemic, part of his mandate was to implement a digital transformation strategy. But the loss of physical proximity suddenly made data systems and technology even more vital to keep people informed in the absence of day-to-day water cooler catch-ups.
“Shifting to virtual work environments acted as digitization accelerant – like gasoline on the fire,” Eric said. “All of a sudden, we were discovering people’s relative comfort or lack of comfort with technology, tools, and our digital infrastructure. In addition, our engagement model with our customers needed to move to virtual while continuing to provide world-class program experiences. Most people in an office environment don’t think about things like their internet bandwidth and speed. Engaging in video conferencing or dialing into a conference bridge are taken for granted by people who work in tech or large organizations, but it was a big AHA moment for me to see how many people were not comfortable with these tools. Most people are used to having systems and technology that just work. All of a sudden they didn’t have access to it, and they were asking, ‘How do I do this? How do I set this up?’ We really had to re-envision what people needed, both from a space and technology perspective. When I am selecting the technology we need, the technology itself isn’t the destination, it is what the technology can do for people and how it can unlock their capabilities and unlock opportunities for them.”
As part of Communitech’s digital transformation strategy, Eric had already been in the process of updating their telecommunications system. Their existing system was starting to show its age with a feature set that was fitting their needs less and less.
When searching for new technology systems, Eric starts off looking for a robust set of features that helps his people work within a heightened digital environment. He wants features that are easy to use, malleable, scalable; factors that will allow Communitech to not just deal in the short-term with the reality of working from home during a pandemic but will support how they will and want to evolve in the future.
Another piece of the puzzle is cost-effectiveness. Eric knows that in the world of tech, higher-level feature sets are often available for fewer dollars over time. So, when upgrading systems, he’s always on the lookout for greater features and functionality in a system that solves real business problems at parity or cheaper than the current system.
NEWT checked all the boxes. NEWT was launched by Fibernetics in 2008, and its unique hybrid model has garnered significant market share since. NEWT is a fully managed system, with full remote-work capabilities, and it contains the core operational and technical factors Eric considers necessary.
“There are a lot of factors to consider when we are making these decisions. It always comes back to: what are the business needs and requirements, and how will this help us elevate our game? Again, the considerations are accessibility, usability, redundancy, and administration. I look at the equipment, the quality, and the user experience.
From the physical office point of view, NEWT will provide us with much better equipment than we’ve had before. From an accessibility and usability point of view, it’s huge that I can dial in from my cell phone and phone from a Communitech phone line. NEWT removes some of that administrative burden of having the infrastructure on premises; moving it to the Cloud enables some of those additional features and helps us be more agile as an organization. It also transfers some risk. We have to know a lot of things at Communitech, but Fibernetics knows this stuff inside and out, making security and redundancy one less thing to worry about. – Eric Bencina, VP, Data Strategy, IT and Operations at Communitech
The final piece of the puzzle is the relationship. Eric firmly believes that while businesses often hesitate to put all their eggs in one basket, there’s a lot to be said for cohesive integration where one vendor provides the majority of solutions.
“Fibernetics knows what our needs are and understands our infrastructure. When you fragment things, you might save a dollar here and there, but when you look at big buckets of things that you have within your environment and where they naturally fit together, that’s where I look to see if there’s a consolidation story that can give me all of the benefits that we desire now and in the future. NEWT by Fibernetics fits the criteria. They provide our connectivity, our phone systems are going over the same pipes, …it all just comes together in a way that makes sense for us.”
“When a company can provide that trifecta of more compelling features and key integrations – and provide it for less money; that’s a winner. That is ultimately why we are expanding our business relationship with Fibernetics & their NEWT phone system.”
“With all the choice that exists in the market,” says Fibernetics CEO, Jody Schnarr, “we’re always happy when businesses put their trust in NEWT. We’re especially excited when we get to work with one of our neighbours in the local community, and we look forward to serving Communitech through the pandemic and beyond. Our NEWT platform is based on 10 years of listening to our customers’ requirements and continually evolving and innovating to provide a holistic solution that empowers our customers for success.”