Silicon Mechanics Enhances Client Collaboration via Lucidchart and Google Apps
Silicon Mechanics is a server manufacturer that was looking for a simple, lightweight replacement for Microsoft Office. With the help of Lucidchart and Google Apps, the team can now collaborate and communicate more efficiently.
CHALLENGE: Silicon Mechanics is a server integrator and services provider in the whitebox server space. The company needed an affordable, easy-to-use productivity suite.
SOLUTION: Silicon Mechanics used Lucidchart in conjunction with Google Apps to replace the entire Microsoft Office Suite and streamline their processes.
BENEFITS: Leaders at Silicon Mechanics realized that collaboration was simpler in the cloud. By integrating with both Lucidchart and Google Apps, the team could easily onboard colleagues, communicate with each other, and eliminate document latency. This agile solution succeeded in cutting costs and improving efficiency.
As a leading manufacturer of rackmount servers, Silicon Mechanics provides the muscle behind many high-powered computing environments. The Washington-based company has only 60 employees, but it's growing steadily. To keep up with demanding client workloads, Silicon Mechanics began searching for technology that was advanced, yet simple to use.
Assistant product manager Britton Nesheim said, “We started looking for an Office replacement when we attempted to host our own email. Lo and behold, we had a number of catastrophic failures, and we thought, ‘We want a better solution.’” At the same time, the company was struggling with document latency issues and the high cost of software licensing, particularly for Microsoft Visio. Product manager Elizabeth Marshall said, “We were literally asking our help desk guy to take Visio off of someone’s machine and put it onto another machine, so that person could get a major project done. And he’d have to come take it away later. That is the opposite of scalable.”
Because of the nature of their industry, leaders at Silicon Mechanics didn’t want to completely dispose of Visio until they found a comparable solution. Ms. Marshall explained, “When we rack up servers for customers, they want to know which servers will be where, before they get the rack—and they want to have input in that decision.” Customers also wanted to know the exact location of cables, switches, and ports, and they needed that information in a visual, accessible format.
Solution & Results
The Silicon Mechanics team reviewed the productivity suites on the market and realized that Google Apps offered Gmail as a professional email client, along with other useful applications. Sue Lewis, director of product development, said,
The first benefit to Google Apps was cost—it’s pretty darn cheap compared to installing a client on everyone’s desktop. And second, the collaboration ability far outpaced that of Microsoft Office. We could have installed Office and SharePoint and all that, but the cost would have been through the roof and it would have been a pain to support. The apps themselves—Gmail, Google Spreadsheets, Google Docs—have the functionality that 99.9% of our users need, and yet they’re lightweight enough that they’re easy to use.
Instead of sending several versions of an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document from person to person, the Silicon Mechanics team uses Google Apps to maintain a single, definitive version of every file. In addition, the sharing permissions feature allows managers to track and control documents depending on a collaborator’s needs.
Lucidchart + Google Apps
Not long after integrating Google Apps with their domain, Silicon Mechanics heard about Lucidchart and tasked Mr. Nesheim with learning the intricacies of the program. Lucidchart had to solve two pressing issues: create shareable flowcharts and process flows internally, and function effortlessly as a Visio replacement for external communications.
Britton responded with glowing reports about Lucidchart’s ease of use, seamless integration with Google Drive, and innovative design elements. He said, “We didn’t find Lucidchart until a while after we implemented Google Apps. As the integration rolled out across our domain, the convenience of the Google Apps integration became obvious. You pop open Drive and everything is right there, like Spreadsheets and other applications. Since everyone is used to Drive, it's helped our people ease into Lucidchart and get the content they need right away.”
Mr. Nesheim also stated, “All the basic functions are so easy to use, and there’s a whole lot of stuff Lucidchart has that Visio doesn’t. Especially from a graphics and design standpoint, I prefer opening up Lucidchart any day of the week. I really like the UI mockups, but I’m referring to the flow of everything. It’s comfortable, it’s quick, and with the Drive integration and sharing capabilities, it just keeps everything moving at a very rapid pace.”
After experimenting with internal flowcharts, the team discovered the Visio file import option and decided that Lucidchart was the obvious choice. Ms. Marshall said, “We basically took it to the CFO and said, ‘Hey, instead of paying for a lot of Visio licenses, would you like to pay this much smaller sum?’ And he said, ‘Yes, yes I would.’”
With Lucidchart, the Silicon Mechanics team was able to import Visio files from their server chassis suppliers. Product managers could visually rearrange components to their liking, then seek final approval from the client. The entire process was expedited, and the end result is a digital reference document that can be viewed or edited at any time. Ms. Marshall said, “A lot of our customers aren’t actually going to be in front of their servers when an emergency happens. If they’re in another city, having those documents available on the web can really help them picture where various servers are and how they’re cabled up.”
Silicon Mechanics used the smooth interoperability between Google Apps and Lucidchart to communicate with customers and among themselves. The integrated solution helped them generate crucial diagrams and reference sheets that are always accessible and customizable.
Mr. Nesheim said, “Not only did the integration with Lucidchart eliminate our licensing issues, but the Drive integration connected it with our other daily routines. The documents that we’re creating now are things that we would have never had before—not even close. We practically have a new department that we’re able to utilize because of Lucidchart and Drive.” By using Google Apps, Silicon Mechanics was able to avoid the purchase of at least a dozen Office licenses over the last two years. This integration has also made possible the consolidation of an internal document repository, leading to increased productivity for the entire team.
Our software is simple to learn and easy to manage. Collaborators will love the ease of team projects with Lucidchart, and you’ll appreciate the workweek hours returned to you—no need to troubleshoot when you’d rather be leading, working, and growing.
See for yourself why Silicon Mechanics and other top companies are making the switch to Lucidchart on Google Apps.