Automated Client Management: From Zookeeper to Smooth Operator

This customer case-study focuses on Vodafone and how they worked toward improved PC client management and automation of client management. I interviewed two executives from their IT organization: Michael Janssen, the manager of deployment automation with vodafone; and Michael Schroeder, also manager of deployment automation, both based at Vodafone group in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Listen to the podcast (13:21 minutes).

Here are some excerpts:

Michael Janssen: Vodafone had independent countries operating their [IT] environments by themselves. So we had 30 countries worldwide with all the solutions in place. That meant 30 times software deployment, 30 times application packaging, 30 times Active Directory, and so on.

Vodafone decided in 2006 to go for a global IT project and centralization in terms of PC client automation. It came down to us to evaluate the current solutions in place in all these countries and then come up with a solution which would be the best solution for the new global environment. That was our main problem.

If you’re starting a centralization process, then it’s all about standardization and reducing cost. That meant reducing cost by reducing effort of the solutions and make as much as possible automated and self-service. That was the main reason we started this exercise.

Michael Schroeder: The most important thing was that administration should be very easy. It shouldn’t be too complex in the end and it should fit every need in every country. At that time, we had a whole zoo of hardware and software products. We had about 8,000 different software applications in place at that time. We tried to reduce that as much as we could.

The overall number of clients in Vodafone is 65,000, and at the moment, we’ve finished the transition for 52,000 clients. Nearly 80 percent is done after four years. Of course, there is a long wait with the smaller countries, and we need to migrate 15 other countries that are still in the loop.

In the past, in each of these 30 countries, we had one to four people working within the client automation environments. Today, we have five people left doing that globally. You can imagine 30 times a minimum of two persons. That was 60 people working for client deployment, and that’s now reduced to five for the global solution.

There are always pros and cons with standardization and with centralization. The consensus takes a little bit longer, because there are no strict processes to bring new applications. But the main advantage is that much of the applications are already there for any country. We test it once and can deploy to many, instead of doing this 30 times, like we did that in the past, and we avoid any double spend of money.

Then, of course, with the global environment, the main advantage is that now we are all connected, which was not possible in the past, because all the networks were independent and all the applications were independent. There was no unified messaging or anything like that. This is the major benefit of the global environment.

Security is one big thing we’re now dealing with. For example, if we are talking about client automation, we’re talking about patch management as well. We’re able to bring out patches — for example, security patches from Microsoft — within two days, if it’s a real hot-fix, or even within 24 hours, if it’s a major issue.

Janssen: First, there was the evolution phase, where we studied all the countries. What were the products that they used in the past? Then we decided what was the best way forward. For us, that was a major split between countries that already used the HP Client Automation solution and the other countries that used other deployment suites.

That was also one of the major criteria for the final decision. Countries that used HP Client Automation had much higher success rate, 90 percent or higher, in deploying application and patches, than the others, where they were on average at 70 percent. So, this was the first big decision point.

The second was countries using HP Client Automation had less operational staff than the others. It was mainly one to two full-time employees fewer than in countries that operated with other tools.

Schroeder: If we’re talking about the Client Automation Suite from HP, we’re talking about policy-based or a desired state technology. That is one of the criteria. Everything is done every day. For example, if you’re trying to deploy applications to clients, this is done every day. It’s controlled every day, managed every day, and without any admin or user interaction. That’s a great point for us.

Janssen: What I can recommend is that there are two main issues that you need to overcome. First, you only can deploy what you receive from the business. We already were experienced in the Vodafone-Germany organization, where we did the same exercise five years ago. You need to have a strict software standardization process in place. There is one main rule for that.

Also, in the global environment, that means that if there is a business application, then the business needs to have an application owner for that. Otherwise, the application does not exist in the whole company.

The application owner is responsible for the whole application lifecycle, including describing the application installation documents, doing the final testing and approval after packaging, his responsibility is to look after security issues of the application, look after upgrades or version or release changes, and so on.

It’s not not the packaging team, the client team, or the central IT team that is responsible for all the applications and their functionality. We gave that function or that responsibility back to the business, and now they’re all responsible and they finally approve before application goes live.

Schroeder: We have in place self-service, which is a Web application. You can go to a store and choose different applications to install on your machine, depending on your needs. You can choose an application, just click a box, and the application request goes to your line manager who has to approve the license costs, if there are any. Then, the policy will go back to your machine and the installation of this specific application goes straight to your machine. The user experience with it is very good.

Janssen: The self-service Web shop is not only for software. We use that also for other user needs, like access rights, permissions on some projects, mobile device management and so on. This is a global Web shop solution, but very effective. It avoids any help desk calls for new applications, paperwork to approve licenses, and so on. It’s very efficient and, of course, one of our main parts of this new global solution.

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: HP sponsored this podcast.

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