Senior Manager, Network and Telecom Infrastructure, Rent-A-Center
We sat down with Shawn Dandridge, senior manager of network and telecom infrastructure at Rent-A-Center to talk about the company’s evolving strategy for success. “Over the last several years, Rent-A-Center has undergone major digital transformation to keep its industry-leading status in the lease-to-own market,” he says. “That includes everything from an e-commerce website to modern networking, mobile applications and much more.”
Rent-A-Center’s latest transformational pivot? A complete migration to cloud and cloud-hosted communications — and saying goodbye to being in the data center business with the help of Insight’s expertise.
Rent-A-Center isn’t just committed to cutting complexity and cost from its communication systems. The business also set a goal to decommission an entire data center and reduce its on-site footprint. It reflects Rent-A-Center’s vision for getting leaner and more strategic with its budget — by cutting costs for maintenance and hardware refreshes. But to decommission the data center, all previously hosted voice traffic would need to be re-routed to the cloud as seamlessly as possible.
Cloud communications are an agile, cost-effective way to unify enterprise voice connectivity. But designing and deploying these systems with minimal disruptions — during the thick of a global pandemic — is a tall ask.
For Insight solutions executive Kris Hall, his relationship with Rent-A-Center goes nine years deep; it’s given him first-hand knowledge of the company’s goals and a vested, genuine interest in Rent-A-Center’s long-term success. Hall reflects on the constraints during the 2020 project: “On-site support was impossible during the engagement. Zero-touch implementations had to be performed by store personnel at each of the 3,500 store locations involved.”
He adds, “To add to an already-complex scenario… what was initially proposed as a four- to six-month project needed to be expedited to 90 days to meet Rent-A-Center’s year-end timeline. Rent-A-Center was ready to face these challenges head on with Insight’s team.”
For Rent-A-Center, several considerations underpin a successful shift to unified cloud communications:
By conducting store visits during early engagement, Insight added critical context to the implementation process. Immediately after kickoff, several workshops were conducted with the Insight, Cisco and Rent-A-Center teams to outline project requirements and parameters. Insight and Cisco quickly began work on a rollout methodology that wouldn’t require on-site technicians, keeping installation costs low and maintaining compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.
According to Dandridge, “For this project, we had custom installation instructions. We had a step-by-step video enabling our store managers to easily implement the new technology. Insight was able to kit and ship complete implementation packages to every single location. It was an incredible feat with great collaboration between our teams.”
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As part of its cloud modernization initiatives, Rent-A-Center also recognizes the value of consumption-based models, another path to removing administrative burden and reducing telco spending. Enter the very first instance of Collaboration Services for Cisco Unified Communications Manager (UCM) Cloud, pioneered by Insight and Cisco. Ongoing management and maintenance consumed as a service means Rent-A-Center is reaping all the agility that cloud offers — more flexibly, predictably and “hands off” than ever.
With a successful deployment of Cisco UCM Cloud on an aggressive timeline, and no disruption to business operations, Rent-A-Center has realized its bold, new vision for unified communications with delivery, management and dedicated support for peace of mind.
“We now have one system for communications across all locations,” notes Dandridge. “Centrally managed maintenance and support mean we can keep growing our cloud environment gradually and sustainably. It’s an exciting time. And we’re doing it all while cutting costs and reducing burdens on internal resources at every level.”
Rent-A-Center has improved the end-user experience and streamlined operations, enjoying reliable, cost-effective voice communications. The company is refocusing internal resources on impactful business goals. It’s expanding its cloud footprint. And, with an ongoing strategic partnership with Insight, Rent-A-Center has operational peace of mind driven by continuous support.
Today, Rent-A-Center sets its sights on a bigger, bolder goal with Insight: a complete cloud migration with another data center to be vacated — and that means strategizing for success again. Our teams are leveraging SnapStart, Insight’s propriety discovery tool, to assess Rent-A-Center’s environment. Making data-driven workload placement decisions will be the key to a successful shift.
Working together, we’re up for the challenge: architecting a new cloud network, planning how to support all stores, securing connections, storing data and thoughtfully migrating all of Rent-A-Center’s applications. “Rent-A-Center’s commitment to a strategic cloud migration is inspiring,” concludes Hall. “Together, we’re using data to define which apps to migrate as is, which ones to sunset, which ones to move over to a SaaS platform and which apps will need to be engineered.”
Rent-A-Center continues to evolve as a digital-first business. With 2,000+ stores across 50 states, and 10,000+ employees serving more than one million customers, Rent-A-Center’s cloud journey proves that ambition — with the right plan and momentum — pays off.