Project Description

Matrix Solutions Environmental Engineering has been operating nationally with 16 locations for the past 20 years. Frustrated with their existing IT service, and facing a leadership change, Matrix leadership desired a change and needed help. Matrix approached partner company, JFive, a Calgary-based innovation agency for assistance in crafting a new redesigned IT service and set of strategies focusing on:

  • Employee experience
  • IT Department structure
  • IT Roadmap

As JFive focuses on employee experience and innovation consulting, they leveraged Sidekick for IT expertise and assistance while they focused on employee experience matters. Over the course of the engagement Sidekick entered into a term contract with Matrix to provide bridge-term CIO-as-a-Service to manage the team while their leadership search continued.

It is important to appreciate corporate culture. One of the main concerns regarding the IT department was the history of leadership, and downsizing of the group and impact that had on the remaining members. There was survivor mentality and while staff accepted a new vision, there was a high level of skepticism and ambivalence at the outset.

Every situation is unique, and Sidekick entered into a challenging environment knowing that people were hurting and needed help.

Employee Experience

While JFive addressed all employee sessions, Sidekick focused on the data. Matrix is a complex business with many solutions addressing each of their business lines. It is a highly professional company and requires sophisticated tools to supply their customers with the data they demand. Over this period many engagement and sessions took place to discover which solutions worked and which didn’t and caused frustration to the employee base.

Overall, there was common frustration with core enterprise applications. Many of these apps had been in place for a long period of time and yet had chronic issues that never fully got resolved. Bandaids were in place but the solutions never fully solved the employee challenge. Workarounds were rampant and organization al teams were reluctant to communicate to IT as their concerns were dismissed or not resolved.

The IT service was looking poorly in the face of their customer expectations.

Sidekick took this information to further outline and craft application synergies, reducing the application footprint of the business and to determine which solutions, if any, could be retired, replaced or redeveloped. Sidekick knew that a new, modern IT approach was needed: User-centric IT. This philosophy affected how IT service and support was delivered, internal ownership of applications, communication paths, change management, development practices and how enterprise agreements were negotiated.

All of this information helped shape the IT Roadmap and impacts on the redesign of the IT service.

IT Structure

In collaboration with Matrix, Sidekick began to peel back the layers of their current IT service delivery and realign roles and responsibilities into cohesive units. Following the user-centric IT philosophy, Sidekick provided and co-created the new IT departmental structure. This was then validated with team leaders as well as corporate leadership.

This new structure focused the department into two units, as one was focused on revenue generation activity while the other focused on enterprise efficiency and replatforming. Traditional tribal knowledge silo’s were realigned to better match corporate goals and roles of team members clarified to ease employee anxiety. While some member felt it was time to transition, other employees — previously feeling stifled in their roles — jumped at the chance to make real change and embrace a new way forward.

New departments were formed, namely the IT Customer Success department, as this placed the need of operational employees at the center of their mission. No longer were employees considered “users”, but now they were customers who had to be sold to. This was a water-shed moment for the support team and took a great deal of change management. Once they understood the new philosophy and approach, along with some new software to enable the experience their customers were demanding, the team coalesced and moved forward.

Providing leadership during this transition, Sidekick enabled and collaborated with many personalities on the team to ease workplace stress and remove barriers to enable the talent to do their jobs. Clear direction was provided to developers who needed decisions to be made.

IT Roadmap

Companies of over 600 with many locations tend to have complex systems and legacy applications all over the place. It’s a normal course of business and all too common. Distilling all of the 100’s of applications down into a 24-month roadmap became the challenge. As the enterprise IT team had historically been an excel development shop many of the modern ideas and capabilities hinged on removing deeply entrenched dependencies. These legacy application issues were hindering migration to Windows10 and other concerns while offering little new capability to operational teams. It was difficult to not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The roadmap resulted in various deliveries: a simple one-pager roadmap highlighting major initiatives with a 24-month timeframe, a lengthly highly detailed gantt chart showcasing all initiatives and their dependencies and RACI owners, as well as the creative delivery of an easy-to-digest visual roadmap to enable culture change management across the organization. Across the enterprise there would be a migration to O365, resolution of their CRM, ERP, accounting software updates, infrastructure re-platforming and strategic planning to help guide the organization.

While the timeframe was aggressive, it matched the desires and needs of operational teams and addressed the frustration that “IT never changed”. While Sidekick operated on its CIO-as-a-Service engagement, all projects within the program were on schedule and under budget.


Over the course of the engagement Sidekick lended expertise and streamlined operations.

As Sidekick entered the CIO-as-a-Service portion of the engagement, participation was perceived as a threat to the existing structure. There was great anxiety and trepidation of change by the IT team members that an outsider was coming to disrupt their lives. This team had languished in a leaderless and restrictive mode for a long period of time and many of the IT members were stifled and unable to grow and try new things. In other ways, development practices were so relaxed that so many new languages were being used in production that standards in development were not being followed. Sidekick provided leadership across the infrastructure, development and support areas and began to repair relationships, roles and rules. This was met first with skepticism, as the team had “seen this all before, but it’ll never happen”, but then as operations began to change the team began to see the possibilities of fixing the issues they had acknowledge for so long.

“Sidekick entered as an enemy, but left as a friend.” — David Colkett, IT Customer Success Manager

Over the course of the CIO engagement, Sidekick re-negotiated the Microsoft enterprise agreement, resulting in unheard-of capabilities while reducing overall annual cost. Sidekick helped enable the management practice of “Wildly Important Goal” practice to the IT team. Sidekick enabled a multi-hundred-thousand dollar savings in IT hardware expenditure, lead the migration into O365, and crafted both the overall cloud and mobile strategies for the business.

“Finally, I have my cloud strategy!” — Holly Elrick, COO

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