allas-based Granite Properties has grown rapidly through acquisitions over the past decade. The company has office properties in Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Denver. It recently sold its industrial portfolio. In its growth process, the real estate investment and management company collected a mixed bag of IT equipment, vendors and licensing agreements.
"Granite has always been lean in terms of staffing," says Clint Osteen, Granite’s director of information technology. "Our operations group wins awards around efficiency, but we were getting maxed out in what we could take on. We took the approach that we were going to focus our internal resources on business applications and support, and take the network and infrastructure out of our competencies and outsource it."
Granite chose to make major changes with its IT infrastructure, and contracted with Paranet Solutions, also based in Dallas, to sort out its IT situation, improve its network security and standardize its hardware, software and licenses. Paranet also now oversees Granite’s help desk.
The first step was a thorough assessment of Granite’s IT operation.
"We are doing managed services on IT infrastructure," says Doug Tassan, Paranet’s vice president of client services. "This includes manage-on-desktop as well as the network at Granite’s corporate site in Plano and other sites."
Paranet partners with Dell, Microsoft and Cisco to develop individual IT systems for its clients.
"We take the best of those platforms and we build a set of standards we like to operate with, and we use those as building blocks to piece together solutions for our clients," Tassan says. "We have methodologies to build around. Regardless of the client, we can customize the methodology and tools and we are off and running very quickly. Being partners with the larger technology firms makes it easier. They provide solutions, but we provide the in-house solutions.
"Over a three- to six-month period, we started migrating control of Granite’s infrastructure to our environment," Tassan says. "We do management which includes care and feeding of servers, server updates and virus control security, and pretty much care for the entire infrastructure," Tassan says.
Paranet brought Granite’s engineering systems onto the network, including security and building access and HVAC. Paranet provides a central access point so engineers can get into buildings at night or on weekends.
"We are also putting redundancy and recoverability into their network, where an outage in one location doesn’t affect the rest," Tassan says. "We also recently improved their e-mail system."
Deep Bench Suits ‘Hands-On’ Culture
Paranet also adjusted its procedures to accommodate Granite’s corporate culture.
"This was the first property management company we have worked with, and there are certain challenges and differences from a technology company," says Tassan. "They are very hands-on, so moving them from having someone on site to talking with someone on the phone has been a challenge. So we have adjusted our services to do a lot more on-site dispatch. Granite is a very social-oriented company, so this was a culture change, and we adjusted to match that."
Paranet is also in the process of improving Granite’s voice connectivity and will be installing wireless access points.
Osteen says Paranet has significantly improved Granite’s infrastructure.
"They have given us access to a deeper bench of technology resources. Instead of having one person for our desktop support, we have access to a group of folks. There are challenges, but overall it has been pretty successful.
"They have really taken on everything that we had envisioned them taking on," Osteen says. "Paranet has learned a ton about how commercial office properties operate. We provide as a building amenity a conference center and phone and Internet connectivity. That’s something they are now managing with us. We are very pleased with how things have gone so far."