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City & Guilds preps SAP S/4 Hana system migration to Microsoft Azure

Vocational training provider City & Guilds claims moving multiple business applications to a managed Microsoft Azure environment will save more than £1m a year

City & Guilds Group is on the cusp of completing a nine-month migration of several core business application systems, including a sizeable SAP deployment, to the Microsoft public cloud.

Working with IT services provider, Ensono, the vocational charity is in the throes of migrating a handful of mission-critical applications, including its entire SAP S/4 Hana estate, to a managed Microsoft Azure environment.

The project is on course for completion in May 2018, with the organisation anticipating annualised savings in excess of £1m, as a result of the moving these systems.

It is also geared towards making it easier for City & Guilds to add new services and courses to its portfolio of learning resources for school leavers, apprentices, employers and further education providers.

Along with the SAP S/4HANA deployment, the firm’s Sitecore web content management system, its web-based examination and assessment service E-volve, and its tutor-focused online learning portal are also being migrated to Azure in the move.

The SAP S/4HANA deployment alone is responsible for handling eight million customer transactions a year, City & Guilds CIO, Alan Crawford told Computer Weekly, and collectively all of the systems earmarked for migration are sizeable revenue-generators for the group.

“This particular project we’re doing with Ensono is focused on our business critical enterprise IT systems. We have moved some [other] digital products [to the cloud], but in some respects, they are lighter weight and easier to transition,” he said. “Whereas, with SAP, we are using that to process tens of thousands of customer transactions everyday.”

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The group has spent the past few years pursuing a buy and build growth strategy, which has seen it acquire a number of organisations within the e-learning, executive coaching and vocational training fields.

“That strategy of acquisition will continue. I don’t know how many or how quickly – it all depends on what’s available, but that is not changing,” said Crawford.

“The desire to have more of our revenue from overseas is still our business strategy, and we’re up to 30-40% now, up from about 5% 10 years ago. It’s a gradual shift, but an important one for us to diversify our portfolio and revenue streams,” he added.

Not only has this served to increase to increase the size of its customer base, but also the organisation’s geographical reach, which is why ramping up its use of public cloud is a top priority for Crawford.

“When you look at supporting global operations, actually going from on-premise to hyper-scale public cloud gives you a real advantage,” he said. “Putting stuff in public cloud for international businesses makes a lot of sense.”

While this project centres on the migration of on-premise resources to the Microsoft Azure cloud, Crawford said the organisation remains focused on pursuing a multi-cloud strategy across the group.

“Our thoughts on hyperscale clouds, is that [using] both Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure – is probably the right way to go for this organisation,” he said.

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