Cloud key to Sensis embracing change

Competition pushed company to ditch mainframes and data centres for cloud

Sensis is pretty much as venerable as you can get for an Australian business. But that didn’t stop the company from embracing cloud throughout its organisation as part of ambitious program of change that, in some cases, upended decades of tradition.

The marketing services company proudly traces its operations back to before Federation: The first Australian telephone exchange began operating in 1880, and the first telephone directory was launched that year, according to Sensis. In 1906, the Adelaide White Pages was the first Australian directory to include a trades listing section, a Sensis-produced timeline says

In the space of three years, Sensis has managed to move from relying on on-prem infrastructure to cloud services, said Sensis’ general manager, product, technology and operations, Andrew Crozier.

“We went through every application, every system,” Crozier told the Salesforce World Tour conference in Sydney. Those that could be migrated to the cloud were shifted – and those that weren’t were retired and alternatives found (Sensis has moved to Office 365, for example, he said). All of the company’s data centres were shut down.

Sensis “didn’t really do very much change for a long, long time” but is now in constant process of change, he said. Change management was a challenge, particularly given the company had frontline staff that in some cases had been doing things in a particular way for up to three decades.

“We effectively switched our business off one day and switched it back on again.”

Two to three decades ago, Sensis had “pretty much a monopoly” when it came to small business advertising, he told the conference. Today, that’s not the case and it needed have the “scalable, flexible and agile” technology that will enable it to be competitiveness as the needs of its customers shift.

“Our technology was incredibly robust, it didn’t break down very often, but one thing that you couldn’t describe it as was flexible or agile,” Crozier said. For example, the technology that the White Pages  business was based on was originally implemented in 1983.

“It just didn’t give us any of the capability to change, to deliver new things, to test ideas, to bring new propositions to market in a way that was commercially sensible.”

“We effectively moved somewhat like a glacier in a world where things were moving incredibly fast,” he added. The three-year program saw the company shift away from relying on mainframe-based platforms and its own data centres to cloud services including Salesforce, CloudSense, Zuora, and most recently, moving the rest of the business into AWS, he said.

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