Paper Plus Group originally started in 1983, and is now New Zealand's largest book and stationery retailer with over 115 stores nationwide.

The Company operates three retail brands - Paper Plus, Paper Plus Select, Take Note and a sub brand known as Paper Plus Office.

In 2016, the Paper Plus Group went to market with a Request for Proposal to refresh its hardware and upgrade its network. Paper Plus Group chief information officer Mandy Kennedy says the business, which has 113 stores nationwide, was facing problems with its aged technical infrastructure. Servers were coming to the end of life and their Spark network was being retired.

"The biggest pain point for a lot of store owners was the speed of the network, we were told it was impacting their business," she explains. After being shortlisted alongside the incumbent provider, Spark, Auckland-based Intellium Technology was selected to complete the work in early 2017.

Intellium designed, procured, built and continues to support a private Wide Area Network for the Paper Plus Group. Simultaneously, Intellium delivered a hardware refresh project, migrating the Paper Plus Group on to new servers, which are located offsite at Intellium’s data centre. By the end of March 2018, the WAN will connect 113 stores from Kerikeri to Invercargill, providing significantly increased connectivity speeds and reliability, as well as the opportunity for remote working. The Group’s support office has been moved off Gmail and on to Exchange as its email system and users have a far better work from home experience.

Intellium’s director of business development Mark Taylor says that the Paper Plus Group was looking to get added value out of their investment. By giving the option to replace the existing phone systems with Voice over IP, store owners can choose to no longer pay for land lines by running their phones over the Internet. “Paper Plus wanted to be able to offer these types of services and the performance of the Internet was really poor, so they needed a better experience,” he explains.

Mandy says: "The speed of the network is vastly improved for all of the stores. The ability to work remotely has improved and our email platform is a lot richer in functionality. "This all improves efficiency, which is both saving time in stores and reducing levels of frustration." The upgraded Internet connections are critical for the Paper Plus stores’ as they are used for connecting their core distributed retail management system, their Eftpos machines and VoIP telephones. To improve resilience, Intellium provides failover using cellular connectivity at each store. Paper Plus is also trialling in store WiFi at some sites, thanks to the improved connectivity.

Mark says that being responsible for both the hardware and the Internet connection for the Paper Plus Group makes it simpler and more reliable for the customer, which only has one point of call if they need anything. "In technology, nothing operates in isolation. Everything is inter-related, so it’s best to have one organisation responsible for making it all work," he says.

Mandy agrees: "It reduces the risk of issues by having one organisation with ownership and accountability," she says. Intellium being an owner-operated business was also attractive to the Paper Plus Group, which is a collective owned by the store owners themselves. "The directors of Intellium collectively have more than 100 years of experience in this field. We work in the business, so customers know that we are going to be there to deliver on our promises," Mark says.

Mandy says Intellium had the best combined score across all of the company’s criteria in its RFP, which included; what the solution would deliver; pricing; capability and capacity to deliver; and being a good fit with the values of Paper Plus. "When Intellium came in and presented we were very impressed. We felt the values of the company aligned and we believed we could work with them," she says.

Wanaka Paper Plus was one of the first stores to be connected to the new WAN in May 2017. Store manager Chris Lumsden says the upgrade has meant significant time savings for him and his staff and therefore increased productivity. "Before, everything was really slowed down so much that we weren’t functioning very well and now that’s gone. Now everything happens at the push of a button!" he says.

"It’s enabled me to work from home so that’s a lot more productive. I had a car crash and broke my back, but I was able to do my job from my bed, it was just like being there in the shop." Lumsden describes Intellium as "excellent" to deal with. "The help desk staff were amazing," he adds.