Facilitating the move to Cloud for ThinkSmart

The Client

Listed on the AIM London Stock Exchange, ThinkSmart is one of the UK’s leaders in B2B and B2C digital, paperless and retail point of sale finance.  

They have proprietary and proven technologies optimised for digital channels and e-signatures, providing paperless transactions for both in- and out-of-store customer journeys and online basket integration.  

The Challenge

ThinkSmart experienced many challenges when deploying new software packages, affecting customer experience in some scenarios.

They wanted to migrate to a fully managed Private Cloud platform, however faced challenges moving to the production stage due to servers having segmented configuration and needing manual input ahead of software releases. This resulted in increased efforts and costs, as well as delays in releases and business value – something ThinkSmart were keen to fix.

In need of an expert partner, they reached out to ECS Digital to help ease the next stages in the process.

 

“ECS Digital brought in a configuration piece through a tool called Puppet to help take hold of the inconsistent server configuration and streamline our software moving forward. They successfully configured our servers to exactly the same spec which made it noticeably easier to release software. It also meant we had a handle on the configuration of our environment, and reduced costs to the business”
– Matthew Bates, IT Director at ThinkSmart

As well as the above, the key objectives of this project were:

  • Setting up the foundations that would enable a fully automated, safe, and predictable migration across to ThinkSmart’s chosen managed Private Cloud platform
  • Ensuring that the foundations could cope with ThinkSmart moving to the Public Cloud at a later date
  • Enabling internal teams to scale and run without external support, in order to omit future outages and enable swift disaster recovery

The Solution

As a certified consultancy with a number of vendors, we have a successful track record in implementing agile techniques and delivering software, and software-related services, faster and at a lower cost for our clients.

 

“ECS Digital were the most professional, commercially effective and technically capable that we found in our tender process. Our choice to work with them was totally justified through the engagement. Their team were nothing but really pleasant people to work with and were all technically capable to help deliver an end-to-end automation solution. They were the stand out vendor when we got into discussions and moved heaven and earth to get us onboard, which is always flattering when moving in this space”
– Matthew Bates

First Steps

To better scope the business landscape and understand the project objectives, we ran a workshop between our consultants and ThinkSmart’s stakeholders.

Once the objectives were agreed, we worked directly with ThinkSmart’s Head of IT and Senior IT Engineer to map out a six-week plan. The project was managed using Kanban workflows, and test automation to drastically reduce manual testing efforts and improve the feedback loop.

 

“Javier and the rest of the engineering team were either based in the office or remotely which meant our relationship was frictionless. I was most impressed by the diligence they took up front to scope out the project. They spent a week at the beginning of the project ironing out minute details which made a key difference to how this project played out”
– Matthew Bates

Technologies

‘Puppet’ was the automation and configuration management software chosen to model ThinkSmart’s workload. We used it to set up the foundations, ensuring a safe migration to their new Cloud platform. ThinkSmart is now able to deploy and manage workloads in whichever environment best meets their requirements – and do so in a safe, automated and predictable manner. This means they can use any Cloud platform moving forward.

HashiCorp’s Terraform was also implemented so that virtual machines could be managed on vSphere, enabling ThinkSmart to use code to manage their VMs. The tool also keeps track of their infrastructure so they no longer need to rely on a web interface, giving better visibility of changes through version control and frequent peer reviews during pull requests.

The Future

Our input was instrumental in project delivery success, laying down the foundations so ThinkSmart could migrate seamlessly to the Cloud and prepare for their next steps. Working alongside the ThinkSmart team created a secure strategic partnership, with the internal teams upskilled to scale and run without out day-to-day support.

Post-project, we remain an important consultant for ThinkSmart, offering an open dialogue between the teams and continued support. In the words of Matthew Bates, ECS Digital remain ‘first choice’ for future platform requirements.

 

“ECS Digital’s input has added an extra level of intelligence which has enabled us to build on the capacity under their guidance. We have grown in our capabilities over these past 12 months and developed the skillsets of our internal team through additional training. If we have any DevOps or automation or platform requirements in the future, we won’t bother going to tender, we will go straight to ECS Digital.

It’s been almost a year since the project and the platform is running great. We’ve reduced overhead of the platform by 40% which means my engineering team can focus on more business-value tasks rather than feeding the configuration of our servers. Not only were ECS Digital a pleasure to work with, we’ve established personal friendships with the team which speaks volumes”
– Matthew Bates

Shara JamaniFacilitating the move to Cloud for ThinkSmart