Dirk Altgassen, Group CIO, Etex Information Technology
The Starting point
In 2015, Etex was a dispersed Group of around 100 legal entities in 42 countries around the world that supported global IT services through an IT entity in Belgium, while every company had its local IT department.
"With the support of Microsoft, we are running still a big Citrix server farm serving approximately 4000 concurrent users now in Microsoft Azure"
The new CEO Paul van Oyen started in 2015 and I started in a newly created role, Group CIO, in September 2015 to help him to transform Etex from a financial holding to an industrial Group and now, to one company (OneEtex).
The Challenge in IT
In the area of Information Technology, we needed to form a world class IT organisation with the right technologies. So, we had an organisational stream to transform the IT organisation to a global Etex Information Technology (Etex IT) organisation, while moving away from outdated and old conservative and obsolete technology like SAP systems on IBM AS/400 and Lotus Notes in an own “old” data centre.
Of course, knowing that the existing IT organisation will need to stretch hard to skip some stages in the transformation— for instance, the old way of outsourcing with managed services—we started in 2016 to create our vision and ambition to move “everything” into the cloud. This implies that besides doing the technical migration, we also needed to transform the IT people to this new way of working as well our users.
We clustered our cloud migration (Etex Smart Cloud) into three parts. First part was to move away 9000 users from Lotus Notes etc. and move all services into Microsoft Office 365 with full adoption of the cloud. Second part was to move our SAP landscape with around 6000 users and circa 100 systems into a private cloud offering from Fujitsu. Third part was to move “the rest” into a public cloud offering and here chose Microsoft Azure to run the rest of the needed IT services for Etex. As a result, we reached a point of not owning data centre anymore by fully function in the cloud by end of 2018.
The migration or better transformation to MS Office 365 was a big challenge for Etex IT, especially with respect to our users, to migrate everything perfectly for them and train them adequately to use the new tools. Considering the high number of users and geographies, this proved further challenging. One lesson we learned was that maybe a full migration of the Lotus Notes mail database including the archives was challenging especially to migrate all the data through our network into the cloud. However, today we would probably suggest a more pragmatic way to provide the user an empty mailbox.
We are still having an ongoing task to increase the adoption rate of the different Office 365 tools of our users and leverage the value for Etex of the powerful Office 365 suite. After rolling out Outlook, Skype for Business and OneDrive, we are now increasing the usage of MS Teams since over a year, which is quite good picked up by the users to use more and more within Etex. In parallel, we migrated our old self-developed Intranet to MS SharePoint and brought it live last year to receive good adoption of the users. The next upcoming challenge in the area of MS Office 365 will be the migration from Skype for Business to full MS Teams usage.
For our migration of the SAP landscape (SAP & Friends), which is quite a broad one with SAP ECC consisting of a 10 TB DB2 Database, CRM, APO, BW, GRC, XI, it took us 12 months and we finally made it on time to move all SAP systems and add-on systems (friends). The main challenges were to do it in the right order, to change the underlying technology (from AS/400 and DB/2 to Linux and HANA) and take the daily interfaces between the different systems into account. Finally, we upgraded the systems and, are now technically ready to move to SAP S/4 HANA.
For the migration of the “rest” (over 250 servers and 50TB of data) we have to admit, it is one of the most complicated one, due to the diversity of the left landscape and systems, which includes network (firewall exchange, move to SDWAN and more) as well security (Active Directory changes, involvement of Azure AD, change of email security gateway). In addition, the biggest challenge compared to the other two streams was that we could not really always test itand had no test system (or test data centre) to test the move. We just had to do it, without 100 percent accuracy, but in some areas, we had to tackle some issues quickly to minimize the impact to our users. With the support of Microsoft, we are running still a big Citrix server farm serving approximately 4000 concurrent users now in Microsoft Azure. We already started a project (“Etex Smart Workplace”) to move away from Citrix and manage the end user clients properly with Microsoft Intune and Autopilot, which we try to finish by end of 2020 for the whole Etex organisation.