Managing a multi-vendor technology stack can easily consume precious time, effort and budget that should be dedicated to value-added work.
New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) recognised that having a multi-vendor managed platform was absorbing valuable resources and creating a number of unnecessary challenges for its IT team. So, it set out to find a Partner Managed Cloud solution for its SAP platform that would get DOC back on track to doing what it does best – conservation.
Department of Conservation’s SAP footprint
DOC is the government agency charged with conserving New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage. Its purpose is ‘Papatūānuku Thrives’ and all work is guided by the outcomes of Te ora o Papatūānuku (Healthy nature), Te hunga Atawhai (People who care) and Te ora o te Hapori (Thriving communities).
DOC is a long-term SAP and Zag customer. In fact, Zag has been DOC’s primary SAP partner for about two decades. Of DOC’s 3000-3500 staff, almost 1900 are SAP users.
SAP is deployed across two major areas of DOC’s operations: Finance (for the entire department) and Asset Management including work scheduling (for visitor asset maintenance and biodiversity work). The underlying SAP systems include Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Business Warehouse (BW) and Business Objects for analytics along with SAP partner solutions Neptune Software and BlueWorx for mobile asset management.
A quick platform history – getting to AWS
In 2015, DOC selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider and started to make the move in 2016. “As the market leader, AWS was our preferred hyperscaler, not just for DOC’s SAP landscape, but for all business applications,” says Mike Edginton, CIO. Prior to that DOC was operating its own physical infrastructure.
“The transition to AWS was smooth. The production cutover was seamless, it took place over the weekend and most users returned to work on Monday with no idea it had taken place,” says Mike Hopkins, ERP Team Lead. “It was a complete win. There was no negative impact or business disruption and we saw some significant performance improvements such as our BW process chains becoming 50% faster.”
With AWS, DOC is taking advantage of a competitive pricing model, better system performance and superior agility for emerging business requirements including its adoption of S/4HANA.
A complex, multi-vendor managed stack
After the success of migrating to cloud infrastructure, DOC’s number one pain point was having to manage a multi-vendor platform. DOC was liaising between four vendors engaged at different levels of its technology stack which created unnecessary complexity and cost. Roles and responsibilities were not clearly defined.
“Some of our vendor contracts had expired so we were working on a month-to-month basis and not getting much out of the relationships,” says Mark Ingram, Enterprise Systems and Services Manager.
With ill-defined lines of support accountability, “It was difficult to determine which vendor was accountable for solving these complex problems. There was often finger-pointing situations so it was hard to find the root cause of an issue,” says Hopkins. “This led to long delays to get issues resolved – small tasks became big ones.”
The Enterprise Support Manager was frustrated with the lack of clarity around cost and outcomes. “It was a challenge for us to articulate the value of our platform investment, where the money was going and what DOC was getting out of it,” says Ingram. “With multiple vendors, it was difficult to get the visibility of their costs and effort.”
Bring on Partner Managed Cloud
DOC consulted with SAP (NZ) and Zag to understand the options for simplifying the support of its SAP environment. “Zag and SAP provided a range of licencing and management models, and presented several solutions that would work, in both cost and support,” explains Ingram. “But, they came to the table with a unique proposal that made the most sense, a good commercial and deliverable proposition that resolved the biggest issue of platform support.”
The solution was to move the DOC environment to the Zag Partner Managed Cloud environment, enabling Zag to provide AWS platform services and SAP Basis services with full Service Delivery Management. In this arrangement, Zag exclusively manages DOC’s SAP on AWS environment through the AWS Managed Services Provider program and becomes the sole point of contact for all of DOC’s platform needs. DOC has kept responsibility for its data, frontend and application functions while Zag now manages the rest of the platform responsibilities including storage, billing, networking and security to name only a few.
In the Partner Managed Cloud model, Zag leverages the technical advantages of running SAP on AWS to deliver a unique service and support structure which maximizes the role of service automation to increase system stability, deliver project environments faster and lower operating costs.
“We were confident Zag could deliver the solution because they have consistently delivered to a high standard over our long-standing partnership and we knew the Partner Managed Cloud platform they were proposing would work well. When you combine known technology and a proven ability to deliver, you know it’s a sensible decision,” states Ingram
The Zag strategy is focused on transforming existing SAP environments to a model which provides a lower cost of ownership and guaranteed outcomes while also enabling innovation and a service quality uplift for customers.
Getting to the new platform
DOC’s transition to the Partner Managed Cloud platform was performed in a swift one-month project. It involved a small amount of design work and migration to the platform. “The move was well planned, managed and communicated,” says Ingram.
“We had a seamless experience of getting to Zag’s Partner Managed Cloud environment. There were very few issues and it required limited involvement from DOC,” says Hopkins.
“Zag was able to meet my strict, almost unreasonable deadline for getting us onto the platform,” adds Ingram. “This was driven by our need to be in the new environment so that we could start the outstanding work and reduce the costs [of the complex vendor environment].”
Life on the new platform
For DOC, being on the new platform has eliminated the time and complexity of dealing with multiple vendors on a reactive basis, “It’s given us one hand to shake,” states Ingram.
“Life’s really easy for me now,” says Hopkins. “If there’s anything that needs to be done in our systems – upgrades, patching, all of it is now handled through one partner, Zag. We have one Service Delivery Manager (SDM) that I deal with for all of our support needs, so I no longer manage multi-vendor engagements for simple things like OS patching.”
In the Partner Managed Cloud model, preventative maintenance activities and upgrades are proactively executed which stops any need for firefighting down the track and allows DOC to focus on its core competencies and value-added work.
With a sole partner that has AWS Managed Services Provider expertise, DOC was able to go through a right-sizing exercise to control and optimise its cloud costs. Zag turned off idle AWS instances and right-sized the instances in use to match DOC’s SAP workloads. The result is a reduced SAP platform size with standardised architecture that requires fewer people to manage and maintain the infrastructure.
“I can now see the monthly and annual investment and, most importantly, the value in what is invested,” says Ingram. “Being on a Managed Cloud platform, there’s a clear cost profile around what it takes to keep a stable, maintained and supported environment alive.”
“It’s now a much more straightforward discussion with the SDM, with costs, time and deliverables; ‘this is the result you will see from paying this amount’,” says Ingram.
The realisation of business value
“One of the best outcomes we’ve seen is an increased velocity in the speed of change. We’re able to get more maintenance work done and business change through, while maintaining the integrity and enterprise nature of our systems, by having one go-to partner and being on Zag’s platform,” says Ingram. “Both of which are important, interrelated success factors, having one without the other wouldn’t have been enough.”
“It has given DOC the certainty that this is our enterprise foundation for the future. By taking away all the internal debate and discussion, we are contributing to that velocity of change and delivering improvements and solutions to the business in a timelier manner,” says Ingram, “And therefore, we are doing more conservation.”
“Zag’s experience, both in service delivery and service delivery management, including the management of the account that comes with it, has made a key difference to the quality and success of all of this,” concludes Ingram. “DOC didn’t want a technology provider; we wanted a partner. Being in the Partner Managed Cloud environment has truly allowed Zag to partner with us at the next level – which is what we were looking for.”