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Australian marketing company Salmat plans to become a cloud-only operation within five years, after a project to replace highly customised on-premise systems with cloud software proved a huge success.
In 2014, the marketing giant, which has 4,000 staff across four countries, was struggling with its Oracle JD Edwards enterprise resource planning (ERP) legacy system, which required an expensive upgrade.
Instead, it moved to a cloud-based suite of software from Workday. By doing so, the company’s chief technology officer (CTO) says it rid itself of expensive and time-consuming upgrades and gained a list of benefits that is “too long” to explain. It also spurred the company to set a timeframe in which to become cloud-only.
Salmat CTO David Glover tells Computer Weekly that its decision to try cloud computing was driven by its legacy system requiring an expensive upgrade and the company’s need for a dedicated HR system, having been using the limited HR function in its payroll system.
The company was faced with the choice of either upgrading or replacing. At the same time the IT department was “stretched to its limit”.
“Our analysis showed us that an upgrade would require similar effort and cost as a replacement, but it would not deliver the changes we needed,” says Glover.
He says the company decided software as a service (SaaS) would be ideal going forward to free it from the expensive upgrade cycles associated with on-premise systems.
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But it also wanted to focus more on supporting the business on the front line. “More than anything we wanted to shift away from managing our internal systems to focusing even more on external initiatives that would help our clients,” adds Glover.
A long list of cloud benefits
Workday, which took only six months to implement, was the first major initiative in the company’s cloud journey.
All of Salmat’s operations now use the same system, delivering efficiency improvements across the operation, which had grown in siloes through acquisition.
Glover cites some of the benefits as: no more complex upgrades; a continuous stream of new features; a flexible chart of accounts that enables rapid and comprehensive reporting; functions available from anywhere on any device; a single source of truth for all staff details; and reduced admin resources. But he added that the full range of benefits was “too long” to list.
One area normally cited as a reason to be cautious about the cloud is security. But security has improved at Salmat since migrating to the cloud.
“We place a huge emphasis on data security, but measures like multifactor authentication and single sign-on were difficult to implement in legacy environments. Our move to the cloud made implementing these measures easy, with solutions like Workday,” says Glover.
But perhaps the biggest benefit has been an indirect one, said Glover. “We proved to ourselves that SaaS and configure-only solutions work without the need to compromise,” he adds.
Cloud helps business evolve
And Salmat hasn’t looked back. “I personally see the cloud as the secret weapon to disrupting our business. Evolving from on-premise to the cloud isn’t just a technology migration; it’s a true revolution in the way we work,” he says. “Our investment in the cloud will be a constant evolution, and we have the goal of becoming a cloud-only company within three to five years.”
For example, the company is now using Google for productivity and collaboration. “Two weeks after Workday went live, in July 2015, we started our Google project. In October 2015, we implemented Google for 1,200 Salmat information workers across every location,” says Glover.
It is also a wide user of Salesforce.com and Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure as a service (IaaS). “We have grown our IaaS footprint at AWS and are currently deploying the Interactive Intelligence PureCloud solution as our contact centre technology coupled with Salesforce.com,” says Glover.
This year, the company will complete the implementation of PureCloud as its contact platform.
Now that everything is in the datacentre, the company is transforming its network. “The need for an expensive WAN [wide area network] diminishes when all it is doing is routing traffic to an internet exit point so that staff can access cloud-based services.” He says the IT team is trialling SD-WAN technologies that will enable it to eliminate the WAN with redundant, secure and inexpensive breakout points at each location.
A true cloud convert
Glover is a cloud convert. Although he admits the nature of Salmat’s business might have made public cloud initiatives relatively easy, Glover expects more companies to do the same rather than build private clouds internally.
“In my opinion, the dream has crystallised into a persuasive reality, and if you are an IT guy and you are not moving, you need to ask yourself why,” he says.
“The best way to learn is to try the real thing [public cloud]. We took the plunge and we haven’t looked back. The reality is make sure you find strong partners and providers that can help pave the way for your full-scale transition to the cloud, to ensure you’re deploying fantastic solutions like Workday quickly and to their full potential.”