At 9:15 am PDT, on September 19, 2017, with a click of button, Higashihara-san, President and CEO of Hitachi Ltd unveiled the name of a new Hitachi Company; Hitachi Vantara at the Hitachi Next 2017 event in Las Vegas. We all know by now that this is a new company, combining the human resources and broad portfolio of innovation, development and experience from across Hitachi Data Systems, Hitachi Insight and Pentaho. This new company was formed to target the IoT market and deliver data-driven solutions for commercial and industrial enterprises.
By 10 am when we went for a break that morning I was given my new Vantara business card, and was able to log into my new email domain as hu.yoshida@hitachiVantara.com. I took a picture of my business card and posted it on my first Hitachi Vantara blog: I'm Working for a New Company! The experience was seamless. Operations in this new company has gone on without any disruption which is remarkable given all the challenges required in branding a new legal entity in a matter of hours. This affects all our online devices and outside facing websites. Our sales were especially grateful for this non-disruptive changeover since September is the close of our FY 3Q. Everyone has been excited and celebrating our new company.
In the midst of this euphoria, I happened to wonder how this was all accomplished from an IT perspective. The old saw is that you never think about IT until there is a problem and there wasn’t any so I suspect that few of us even thought about IT.
I called up “T” (Theodore) Lamour, director of Infrastructure Support who led the migration effort for IT, and Ben Fanning, who is the manager responsible for the global Service Desk of Vantara (Denver-Hyderabad-and soon Krakow), first to thank them for the smooth transition of my email and desk top and then to ask them how this was done from their perspective.
While everyone in the three companies were prepped to expect a short outage of their emails, no one expected to see this done so smoothly. From the moment that Higashihara-san pressed the button, IT was able to switch over 10,751 users in a total of 30 hours where no single user was down for more than a few hours! Where users needed to use email, they were referred to their web client, so in fact no one was really out of email contact.
The switch-over was done on a follow the sun basis. First were the attendees at the Las Vegas event, and then Asia Pacific, followed by EMEA, then the Americas. Each region was done in two batches, to ensure that if the migration process took longer than intended, the region’s location would still be able to operate before the next batch kicked in. The Americas actually was done in three batches due to the size of the region. The target was for this to be done in 36 hours, and the goal was to do most of it overnight in each region. Since we are on Office 365, being in the cloud was helpful but it also meant that the transfer was dependent on cloud performance. This wasn’t just about emails. This meant changing our network certificates, rebranding external websites, working with Akamai on our content changes, installing new desktop branding on all clients, and changing the email signitures. Even with all this, IT was able to beat their internal target by 6 hours!
While from my experience the transition was seamless, the team told me that there was an increase in service calls which the service desk had prepared for. No matter how much you communicate, there is always someone who didn’t read the prep email and was surprised when their email wasn’t working. Those calls would be answered by explaining what was being done and the work around which was to use webmail. With all the mobile devices out in the field and many BYOD users there was bound to be some problems so the transition team set up a virtual war room. Instead of a physical war room they used a Skype for Business chat room and connected support personnel around the world with instant messaging and collaboration tools. They also credited the teamwork of our users who helped each other without the need to call support.
Integrating three companies in flight into one legal entity is a once in a lifetime experience, and is a task that would normally take a year or more to accomplish. Mary Ann Gallo, the Chief Communications Officer for Vantara formed an Agile team across all functions in the three companies and our parent company Hitachi, which began 6 months ago. Mary Ann had this to say about the experience:
“Our migration was a true testament to the incredible teamwork we demonstrated at Hitachi Vantara. It goes without saying that our IT department played a huge role here. It takes most companies over a year to go through the process that we did in 180 days! A nimble approach, a clear direction with strategic milestones and small sprints led by a small-but-mighty team made this all come together so quickly and smoothly. The migration was a great example of a cross-functional company-wide effort where everyone worked extremely hard to ensure alignment across the board, communicated thoroughly and effectively, and focused on problem solving and achieving our common goals. The display of participation and teamwork is truly inspiring and emphasizes Hitachi’s commitment to innovation and to our customers.”
IT was represented by “T” in this cross functional team so that they were aware of all the other activities involved in marketing, sales, supply chain, HR, legal, DevOp, etc. The plans for the integration and the new name of the company was highly confidential so IT had only 20 days to plan and test the changover. I would say that this was the riskiest part of the migration since our operations and revenue depended on a smooth IT transition. “T” and Ben, said that they worked as an Agile team involving all the levels of IT from service desk to architecture and design. Each day was an agile sprint. This is where the digital transformation that has been going on in IT really showed its worth. I could tell from their excitement in our conversation that this was a challenge that they thoroughly enjoyed.
I asked what they took away from this experience. First and foremost was the digital transformation in IT that laid the foundation for this successful effort. Over a year ago IT began to adopt the Agile methodology, which broke down the operational silos across IT and the rest of the business. Everyone is now working as a team focused on a common goal. IT has also been modernizing their core in their digital transformation effort. During the past year alone, they integrated a new CRM system into the business, migrated the data center from Indianapolis to a hosted facility in Colorado where we are hosting services for other Hitachi Companies, redesigned our website for mobile devices, and moved our email to Office 365 in the cloud. Having made Mobileiron mandatory for email on mobile devices also hleped make the change seamless on mobile devices. They felt that every new accomplishment in their transformation journey helped them execute better on the next challenge and they could see the contributions that they were making to business outcomes.
For those of you in the new Hitachi Vantara company, please take some time to thank our colleagues in IT for the smooth transition they made possible in this transformation. I know that there were many of you around the world who worked with IT to make this possible, so I thank you as well.
For those of you outside of our company, think of your IT staff and appreciate what they are doing, even when nothing goes wrong.