Solution Provider Kevin Hynes And CIO Michael Israel: The Power Of A 20-Year Partnership

Acadia Technology Group President Kevin Hynes knows the secret of any good partnership is trust.

Developing that trust with one of the most demanding CIOs in the business, The Kraft Group CIO Michael Israel, has been the secret to Acadia—a Cisco Premier partner—taking the lead on architecting and implementing a multimillion-dollar IT transformation that has put Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, into the ranks of the most technologically advanced stadiums in the world.

“We are about full disclosure and honesty,” said Hynes, who has worked with Israel for the last 20 years on breakthrough IT projects. “No one is perfect. So when we make a mistake, we claim it early. We own it early. That builds trust. It’s an engineer’s trait to want to be perfect. It’s good to have that as an aspiration. But at the end of the day no one is perfect. And if you own your mistakes, you build trust.”

Israel, for his part, said that “trust factor” is at the heart of his two-decade strategic partnership with Hynes. “If something is going on, no one is going to cover anything up,” he said. “Kevin is going to tell me directly what we need to deal with. … It has been a very, very good working relationship.”

When problems do arise, Israel said the Acadia team and his IT staff deal with it head on. “We know what to do,” he said. “We manage to it, and we move on.”ADVERTISEMENT

The strong bond between the two IT leaders has made Acadia Technology Group, headquartered in Montclair, N.J., a true “extension” of The Kraft Group’s IT team, said Israel.

“Kevin knows he has to bring us solutions that are cost-effective,” said Israel. “They need to be able to architect, design it, implement it, and then they will transition and train my staff. They will get us to a point where we can operate on our own. Generally they are there on the front end with the architecture and implementation, and then they are there on the installation side. And we are sitting in the middle.”

Starting Out As A Reseller

Israel spent the first 20-plus years of his career as a reseller, including working alongside his dad, who owned what was considered one of the pioneering and premier solution providers, AMC Computer Corporation of New York.

“In those days it was Wang, Banyan, Cisco and Novell,” said Israel. “When Kevin comes to me with a registration program or whatever, I say my dad invented it 25 to 30 years ago. I generally understand the pressures that the partners are under, but good, bad or indifferent I know the other side of it.”

Israel said the relationship with Acadia and Hynes is a “collaborative” process when it comes to making technology decisions. “I’m not sitting here pontificating that I know better than anyone else,” he said. “It is open eyes and ears and seeing what other stadiums are doing.”

The long-standing relationship with Israel has given Hynes a sixth sense on how to drive forward with IT projects and lean in when he needs to get Israel involved.

“We have our status meetings,” said Israel. “Kevin knows when to raise his hand and say ‘Michael you need to get involved.’ That is where trust gets to the point where he is an extension of me.”

Hynes and his Acadia team, in fact, were working on all aspects of the Cisco network transformation and other Cisco solutions like Webex, even as Israel was dealing with thorny issues of construction during the massive IT transformation.

Relying On Acadia For Cisco IP Fabric For Media Innovation

As for Acadia’s role in implementing the breakthrough Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) 2110 standard for the Cisco IP Fabric for Media that was at the heart of the Gillette stadium makeover, Israel said. “We don’t know the first thing about a 2110 environment. They are bringing it in. Then if something happens that goes outside of our abilities, we reach back out. It is not a fun day for Kevin if I‘m calling him on a Sunday morning.”

Hynes, a 40-year IT veteran, has worked with Cisco for decades, helping customers push the networking envelope. Acadia’s experience in the financial industry working with the PTP (Precision Time Protocol) on high speed, low latency trading systems, in fact, was critical to the rollout at Gillette of the SMPTE 2110 standard for the Cisco IP Fabric For Media network. “That same protocol is in use here to line up audio and video,” he said. “Our cross-industry relationship has been very helpful on this project.”

Hynes has spent his career helping customers gain competitive advantages by capturing the big technology shifts such as VoIP, Internet of Things and video. “Because this video technology is so time-critical and the tolerances so narrow, we need to be aligned with a partner like Cisco that has very high-end hardware and protocols,” he said.

Hynes and his company have thrived by bringing a team of elite technology specialists to deliver what it calls “some of the most cutting-edge network and security solutions within the stadium-arena, theme park, finance and legal markets.”

Hynes said the company’s secret sauce is its ability to bring the “right expertise” to solve the toughest of technology problems.

Israel says Acadia—which has a relatively small team—has stepped up time and time again on cutting-edge IT projects for him. That includes outfitting The Kraft Group with next-generation Cisco firewalls.

“It is not about the size of the partner,” Israel said. “It is about the work that they do, the quality of the work and the documentation. It is not about providing part numbers and shipping a product. You saw the size of this project. We can’t deploy that on our own. Kevin knows that when I walk in a room, if I don’t see the label up there and the documentation with it, then it’s an issue. That is the type of best practices that I bring from my reseller and consulting days of designing data centers to my team. I mentor the folks who work for me, showing them this is the way you do it.”

A Demand For Standardization And Documentation

That demand for standardization, documentation and strict change management policies is a hallmark of Israel’s leadership since he joined The Kraft Group five years ago.

As to whether it’s more pressure running the IT operations today than it was five years ago given the increasing demands on IT in an era of increased threats, security issues and even AI, Israel said, “In my mind, the pressure was greater then because nothing was being monitored the way it should have been.”

Hynes, for his part, said the focus on standardization is one of Israel’s great “gifts” to the organization. “Everything is standardized,” he said of The Kraft Group’s IT operations. “As we like to say in engineering, that means it is deterministic and predictable. Michael enforces standards. You can see the cabling and the lettering, which is a physical representation of what he expects from software, documentation and operations.”

Lauren Wlodarczyk, a Cisco account manager who worked on the Gillette Stadium project, credits Hynes and his Acadia team with leading the charge on the Cisco IP network transformation.

“I don’t think we could do any of this without Acadia,” she said. “They have been the backbone. Kevin has been instrumental from the moment we met Michael and team. They have just been crucial. … I can’t say enough about Kevin’s knowledge of the industry and the personal touch that they add. They have the relationships. They truly care about their customers.”

Hynes does not take the relationship with Israel for granted. In fact, he said, it all comes down to meeting Israel’s high standards.

“What’s different about Acadia is we’re not coming in trying to sell what we know, we are coming in and solving business problems,” he said. “We are looking at needs and requirements. We are not coming in and pitching a slide deck of something we have on the shelf.”

As for the future working with Israel, Hynes said he and his team are continuing to work on improving the customer experience at the stadium. “We have suites to renovate and a lot of information like real-time stats to bring into the suites to make the game more engaging,” he said. “We see tremendous growth in the stadium industry.”

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