IT Migration Makes Company More Competitive

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

With hundreds of offices in 71 countries and 98 percent of the Fortune 500 as its clients, Diversified Agency Services began an 18-month migration of business-critical data to three state-of-the-art data centers.

By Samuel Greengard

Managing information technology is an enormous challenge for any geographically dispersed organization. There are enterprise systems to oversee, collaboration tools to manage and myriad technologies to integrate.

However, few organizations face the challenges of Diversified Agency Services (DAS), a New York City-based holding company that operates more than 100 advertising, marketing and specialty communications firms across 700 offices in 71 countries. In March, the company, a division of Omnicom Group, began an 18-month migration of business-critical data to three state-of-the-art data centers in Atlanta, Phoenix and London.

"There was a need to create a consistent IT architecture so the company could improve performance and reduce costs," says Jason Cohen, global CIO. "We had to get out in front of the technology in order to deliver services to our clients based on the new digital world that has taken root."

It's no small task, particularly for a firm that claims more than 95 percent of the Fortune 500 as its clients. In the past, Cohen notes, offices often operated entirely different systems and used their own software. Some had data rooms, some had data closets and some simply tossed servers wherever they would fit.

This created a chaotic and complex IT environment with varying levels of efficiency and effectiveness. "It was extremely challenging to manage all the processes and create standards that matched the organization's goals," he explains.

Cohen and his colleagues engaged in a full-scale review of the offices and the equipment each facility was using. They found some companies that were using sophisticated on-premises systems, while others were relying on a shared professional services model. Cloaked beneath the practical challenges was an inability to connect and collaborate across offices and IT systems.

The team examined more than 150 items, including bandwidth, latency, capacity requirements, user requirements and database systems. "We looked at what we had and what we would need in the future," he says.

The result was a three-year plan that revolved around the use of the three data centers. In addition to the focus on technology—and on improving service and support response times—DAS committed to building a green IT environment. In the end, the firm turned to Hewlett-Packard to manage its servers, storage and networking requirements. Altogether, 38 engineers, 11 consultants and 12 project managers collaborated to design the new IT platform.

Among other things, the result is a consolidation of 2,797 applications and an ability to provide improved IT services and support. DAS is using server virtualization and plans to incorporate desktop virtualization in the coming months. It also hopes to provide a cloud-based service delivery model in the near future.

Finally, DAS has unleashed a formidable mobility program and embraced the burgeoning bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement. As DAS gets the data centers and systems online, it rolls them out to its offices.

"Migrating and consolidating systems and data are huge challenges, but it will make DAS a more streamlined, efficient and competitive organization,” Cohen concludes. “The technology will allow us to use 21st century technology to promote entrepreneurial behavior and improved interactions with clients."  

This article was originally published on 2012-06-21
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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