Case Study: Kopin

When Rich Schneider came to work with Kopin, a technology manufacturing firm, he realized pretty quickly just how many problems were wrapped around their IT systems. But, as a firm that was exploding with growth, he couldn’t address the situation until, essentially, his IT systems had become a series of patches and quick fixes. He and the company realized that IT had become a drain of resources, of time, and of money.

Fixing the problems they faced in-house wasn’t an option. For a company the size of Kopin, it simply didn’t make sense to try and train the current staff up to enable the learning and strategic vision essential to making the IT systems work for the company’s long term development. Hiring a full time CIO was cost prohibitive, and would not have solved the staffing issues they faced.

That’s when Rich turned to Aileron.

Yes, he looked around, and talked to a number of IT service providers. But Aileron was different. First, he knew immediately that the people he was talking to would give it to him straight. They gave him a long, comprehensive assessment that wasn’t afraid to reveal the reality and scope of changes that had to be made. And they didn’t come off as ‘contractors’. He felt like they would be partners, part of his team, interested in his company’s short and long-term needs and development.

In his words, “I’ve sat in so many dog and pony shows – the deal is, who can I work with? Who do I want to work with?”

Immediate Impact

“Once we went outsource”, Rich says, “we immediately saw the problems we had, both with the technology and within the company in dealing with our IT team”. Like most companies, Kopin’s IT department had become reactive rather than proactive. The IT team had been monopolized by key people or situations that kept other valuable work from taking place. There was no accountability for time or money.

The introduction of Aileron changed that almost immediately. Joe Ritson, the CEO of Aileron and strategist brought in to act as CIO and his team introduced a ticket process that ensured work would get signed off on, would be accounted for in logs, would be completed in a timely fashion. A simple move, which had a huge impact on the efficiency of the company as a whole. It enabled a new financial accountability, as they could allocate fees to department and promote effective use of IT services with managers. It ensured a fair and solid prioritization of work, and helped to put a lid on some of the bleeding so that Aileron could address some larger issues with the IT infrastructure.

Making the right changes—unpopular or not

No manager likes to be told that they can’t have what they need the minute they need it. And after having a long-standing tradition of that at Kopin, Aileron’s presence was jolting.

“Now there’s a cost associated with changes, with needs, with resources. That’s tough to swallow.” Rich says. But after 4 years, and systemic changes that have made Kopin’s technology and IT systems work more efficiently, more dependably and more consistently, it seems everyone is happier.

Aileron introduced disciplines that made the entire IT system and subsequently the company, more process oriented. Rich says that because there were big changes to be made, there was big money that had to be spent. That’s never easy. But he says with Aileron, he knows they look at the situation like he would, as in “How can I get more value out of my spend?”

Listen–Respond–Assess. Repeat.

As Acting CIO, Joe listens to employees at every level to get a broader understanding of what it takes to do their jobs well. Then he and his team engineer structural and elemental changes, which will best serve the company and its individual employees. Sometimes they do this in coordination with in-house IT departments, sometimes they plug in as the IT department a company needs. In the case of Kopin it was a hybrid. Aileron worked with a single Kopin IT employee who helped introduce and implement any IT changes throughout the company. Joe manages this employee.

End results? More value for money, and systems that work. Better.

“Aileron's presence has shown us weaknesses in our organization as a whole and we’ve been able to address them. Truth is, people who weren’t getting things done, and blaming IT now had nowhere to hide.” Rich goes on to say that the company has an ability to react to market changes more flexibly, that all the key players in the organization are happy because they can log on, anywhere in the world, at any of their facilities, without an issue.

He says that people now consult with Joe and the team at Aileron to see if their system solutions are right, and the best value, for the situation. Why? Because, Rich believes, they research the solutions, they’re aware of the most current and relevant technology, and they are above all, honest.

“Once these guys saved me about $400,000 when they kept somebody from buying a system that wouldn’t have been necessary here.” Rich says. “$400,000!”.

“Five years ago, I heard about the IT department, the problems, non-stop. Now? I never hear about it. That means they’re doing a great job.”

In terms of the money it costs Kopin to outsource, Rich sees it as essential. “A company the size of Kopin can’t afford to keep its technology anything but current. Aileron keeps us there.”

“Sure there’s a price tag associated with that – and with addressing the problems we had. That’s a given. So at the beginning, our costs were up.” Then he adds: “But, I’m telling you, the value proposition is so much better.”