Paul Holmen – Revolution Lighting Technologies
For Paul Holmen, director of Information Technology with Revolution Lighting Technologies, learning about technology was a lifetime process that started while watching his father work in IT.
“Learning about that space at a very young age helped me gain a phenomenal amount of enterprise infrastructure experience” he says.
Now director of IT for Revolution Lighting Technologies—which designs, manufactures, markets and sells LED lighting for industrial, commercial and government customers globally—he’s been successfully consolidating disparate technology at six consolidating companies, putting them all on one tech platform within a year.
In the next year, with an emphasis on being flexible, Holmen expects to integrate aspects of machine learning and AI to the enterprise. Both, he says, are essential given the structure of the business.
“We really operate as a holding company of companies with their own cultures, applications and way of doing things,” Holmen says. “That presents its own challenges but at the end of the day we’re not here to be an iron gavel … the biggest challenge has been understanding the culture at the different divisions and really moving all our infrastructures into a more streamlined system.”
The lights come on
Revolution is an amalgam of six acquired companies that design, manufacture, market and sell LED lighting solutions in North America and internationally, including high-quality interior and exterior LED lamps and fixtures, signage and control systems.
When Holmen joined the business, it was more like several different companies operating on their own, so he’s been busy the past 18 months consolidating technology within the six divisions to achieve enterprise-wide cost savings.
Such streamlining is the domain of almost every business, particularly in fast-moving IT. But Holmen sees his role as not just an IT guy, and his company as not just a lighting company.
“Lighting is not just lighting,” he says. “It’s a component of clients’ business decisions, it’s a cost center that can also play a key role within the productivity of a business, its employees and customers.”
Keeping it clean
Holmen is on track to make all the company’s internal IT fall under Revolution Lighting within the year, while still allowing the company to go to market under individual brands (Revolution Lighting, Value Lighting, Tri-State LED, Energy Source, All Builders Source). That means centralizing in-house support where previously all companies either outsourced or had in-house support.
It has also involved testing and purchasing software that “alleviates things that might have been missed before because of all the manual work.”
Revolution Lighting has also leveraged an app that allows in-house team members, notably within its Energy Source division, to audit fixtures and lamps within an existing facility, entering data electronically on a tablet versus manually. This application expedites the company’s ability to properly assess, design and develop lighting package proposal for their customers.
“Manual methods of completing spreadsheets as part of a lighting audit process, with a marker and clipboard are giving way to digital platforms or apps to increase productivity, increase quote generation, reduce errors and improve time spent on each project. At the end of the day, it is important that we are faster and more efficient, without sacrificing quality and accuracy,” he says.
Holmen also helped achieve cost savings by centralizing with the help of two outside vendors.
“Many people say time is money, and with as many sites we have spread across the United States, offloading specific maintenance and support responsibilities to our various vendors was crucial to our IT department’s support strategy and our annualized cost reduction of almost $300,000,” Holmen says.
Of his most significant vendor choices, the first was going with Canon Solutions of America.
“They were pivotal in getting our printing costs managed,” he says. “Leasing our printers ensures we aren’t overextending our business’ cash flow needs with a single large capital outlay.”
The second was Axion Communications for VOIP service.
“When I first started, they were in use at one of the divisions,” Holmen recalls. “After seeing the accountability and engagement from Axion’s team, as we grew as a company, moving the remaining divisions to them was an easy decision, both financially and from an infrastructure prospective.”
Smart lighting not just as a path to financial savings through energy efficiency, but also helps businesses address other factors including, greater employee productivity, improving health and wellness, and integration with other technologies to create business opportunity.
“There are examples today how retailers are beginning leverage lighting to help improve how product is displayed, emphasize brand and enhance customer experience,” Holmen says.
“However, lighting is going beyond, to act as a technological node, integrating features such as Wi-Fi, capable of capturing and sending data to customers. This trend will allow retailers to better understand consumer buying patterns and interest to make more informed decisions. Simultaneously, retailers can utilize this data to further improve experience, while tapping into additional marketing and advertising opportunities, including real time targeted push notifications sent out to customers based on their current location in a store.”
In all, Holmen says his approach is about “balancing solutions, because if you’re not innovating, you’re not helping move the company forward. Lighting clearly play a central role for many companies to achieve their goals.”
Which is what his father might tell him about the tech industry.
Holmen’s father had his own tech company, and the boy was “surrounded by computers” growing up.
Watching his father work as an enterprise manager with several high-level companies helped him gain a phenomenal amount of enterprise experience in hardware and networking at a young age.
In addition to “witnessing very early on how important automation was,” Holmen said his father taught him to “Seek more information, hone my analytical skills, and always make learning part of my job.”
“I’m fortunate my dad taught me early on, ‘If you are close-minded and argue your point just because you want to win the argument, you’re not helping find the best solution. But if you listen, reanalyze, and change your mind because you have gained a deeper understanding, you will help create a better outcome and create proportionate successes,” Holmen says.
“With his guidance I learned very early on with the rate that technology evolves you need to innovate your processes and solutions. You need to be able to balance seeing problems through a window into the future, and not only current trends and solutions.”
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