Single, Secure Network Improves Global Operation

Managing a sprawling network that connects 78,000 employees in 100 countries poses special challenges, as Omnicom Group can attest. After years of acquisitions worldwide, the global marketing communications company found itself coping with multiple networking technologies, disparate architectures and differing approaches to security. The goal of consolidating and standardizing prompted Omnicom to turn to outside networking experts for a solution.

“We wanted to focus our energy on technology strategies that differentiate us in our industry and with our clients,” says Craig Cuyar, global CIO for the New York-based firm. “We’re marketing communications experts, not networking specialists.”

Omnicom’s network was anything but simple. The agencies it acquired were organized into five lines of business, each with the autonomy to run its IT operations independently. That resulted in a variety of technologies and business relationships. “They were all doing a great job, but there was no consistency and a lot of duplication, and we couldn’t leverage scale or vendor relationships,” Cuyar says.

There was also a desire for greater agility. “The business model has changed in recent years,” he explains. “Clients demand integrated virtual teams to service their needs. We want to be able to build a virtual team across our enterprise, anywhere in the world — say, with a CRM team in one agency working with a media group in another country.”

About a year ago, Omnicom began its search for a technology partner who could bring simplicity and agility to its network infrastructure, while standardizing security. One of its existing vendors, AT&T, stood out for its global networking leadership, and the company entered into a consulting engagement.

By consolidating into a single network, AT&T will help Omnicom agencies stay better connected, with the added benefit of cost savings. The strategy includes AT&T FlexWare, Threat Manager and NetBond for Cloud.

FlexWare, a software-centric platform, has three tiers of network architecture to address the varying demands of different-sized businesses. As the first step, Cuyar and his team spent time with Omnicom’s internal networking experts to take a baseline inventory of circuit configurations and the requirements of its many locations. “Through this exercise, we identified three layers or tiers, based on the number of users at each location and the data and bandwidth requirements of each business,” he says.

FlexWare will help Omnicom easily deploy and manage virtualized network functions like routers and firewalls via an online portal. “We can turn features on and off and scale on demand,” Cuyar says. “We don’t have to add circuits or change hardware if the needs in a particular location change.”

ThreatManager, a security incident and event management platform, provides “a single pane of glass” for viewing network activity company-wide, simplifying and enhancing security efforts, he explains. AT&T monitors all network traffic and audits logs. It also provides ongoing training programs.

NetBond for Cloud provides a secure connection between Omnicom’s private virtual network and cloud service providers. Cuyar says the company hasn’t done much with this yet, but he envisions using it for service management, among other things.

With the consulting and transition phases complete, Omnicom will be entering the transformational phase this fall and begin installing systems. It’s too early to have hard numbers on improvements, but the business benefits are already clear, according to Cuyar.

“We’ll have a common backbone, technologies and standards,” he says. “Security will be standardized and enhanced, and we’ll have the agility to respond to changing needs remotely, in real time. We also expect significant savings. Finally, we’ll have the speed and scalability to keep up as our business continues to grow.”

Eileen McCooey, a New York-based consultant and Baseline contributor, has extensive experience covering a wide range of business and consumer topics, including digital technologies and consumer electronics of all kinds.