ASX-listed marketing services provider Salmat is moving closer to an all-cloud environment, rolling out Chromebooks to a range of its staff — part of a move led by chief technology officer Dave Glover to largely ditch on-premise software in favour of as-a-service solutions.
The company initially rolled out several dozen Chromebooks to staff in Melbourne as part of an office relocation program.
“We want them to be agile,” Glover said. “They’re in an office that’s predominantly wireless, they use mostly browser-based stuff — and in the very rare event that they need to access something that isn’t browser-based, we’ll give them access to it through Citrix.”
“The reality is, I’ve managed for six months with nothing other than a Chromebook, and it works really well,” the CTO said.
“I’ve had take-up in our HR team who’ve been very keen to adopt them, and they’re using them for everything they do. There are a few odd wrinkles that we’ve been working through, but we’re getting there.”
Glover said there are only a handful of people in the organisation who require Microsoft’s Office suite — “the reality is we're talking 95 if not 99 per cent of people who do not need any of the Microsoft Office products”.
The deployment of Chromebooks is part of a broader transition to the cloud at the marketing services company — a journey that began in earnest in 2014 following the appointment of Craig Dower as CEO and, later on that year, Rebecca Lowde as CFO.
The first stage was the roll out of a new platform — Workday — to replace Salmat’s aging Oracle JD Edwards ERP system.
“We spent probably three weeks to a month looking at three options,” Glover said. “Workday was very much the outlier. We had ambitions to move to the cloud, but really hadn’t done much about it, and we thought we’d look at a software-as-a-service solution.”
“We very quickly came to the conclusion that, actually, Workday was the right solution for us,” the CTO said.
“The project fired off in January , after the Christmas break, and we went live with finance and HR on the first of July. It was an unbelievable introduction for us into the world of software-as-a-service and cloud-based solutions. It was a big lesson for us.”
“It taught us a lot about selling products as ‘configure only’, holding a hard line about what you will and won’t do with your products — we learned a lot from Workday,” Glover said.
Rolling out the new system brought with it the joy of 30 or so integrations with other systems, including internal billing systems, HR, and payroll systems. But the big pain point for the CTO was Active Directory and identity management.
“We wanted to go single sign-on, and we thought we would use ADFS [Active Directory Federation Services], which would enable us to do that in the Microsoft world,” he explained.
After months of trying to get ADFS working with the new ERP, Salmat shelved the project and went live without SSO.
“A couple weeks later things had settled down and all processes were working, and I decided I’d take a look at the alternatives and what single sign-on cloud services might be out there,” Glover said.
That process led to Salmat rolling out Okta, with the SaaS identity management platform now occupying a key role in the company’s cloud transition.
An Okta salesperson was able to get single sign-on working with Salmat’s Workday test tenant in half an hour, Glover said.
Salmat rolled out the platform for Workday and Google’s G Suite. “By the time we got ourselves totally lined up, it was a couple months later that we turned on single sign-on for Workday and for Google. I guess we haven't looked back since then,” the CTO said.
Workday went live in July 2015; the shift to G Suite followed quickly afterwards. Okta was rolled out less than a handful of months after the new ERP system went live.
Shortly afterwards Salmat sought to replace its on-premise web proxies, seeking a cloud-based solution in order to deliver unified management across multiple physical locations. The company chose Zscaler and again plugged in Okta for identity management.
“It just worked,” the CTO said. “It enhanced our belief that software as a service was a viable solution for us.”
Late last year Salmat began implementing ‘Workday as a master’ with Okta to manage the employee lifecycle.
“When the right event takes place in Workday, which is our source of truth for all people in the organisation, an account will be created in Active Directory and then Google and so on and so forth,” Glover said.
“When somebody leaves the organisation, their Workday profile is updated to indicate they no longer work for us — they're an ex-employee — and immediately Okta picks up that event and removes their accounts. It’s watertight.”
On the contact centre side of things, Salmat is also going all-in with cloud. The marketing services company uses a combination of Interactive Intelligence’s Pure Cloud (Interactive Intelligence has since been acquired by Genesys), which is hosted on Amazon Web Services, Salesforce.com, Verint for workflow management, and Qlik for analytics.
Although devices running Google’s Chrome OS might seem to be a natural fit for contact centres, Salmat is held back for now by the requirement to use Internet Explorer for one of its applications, Glover said.
However, that hasn’t stopped the rollout for the company’s office-based employees, and Salmat is planning to eventually deploy Chromeboxes as the end-user device for contact centres.
“We’re big Google advocates and really we're super impressed by how quickly the organisation flipped to Google,” Glover said.
“It was something that we were a little bit anxious about. We thought there would be a lot of pushback, and it was incredible. People really love it, and they really love the collaboration piece. They really love multiple working on the same document. You see that happening a lot. People are using Hangouts all the time. You know, we are split primarily between Sydney and Melbourne, but we have offices all over the place, and... every meeting is run on a Hangout, almost without exception.”