Full Court Press
- From The Confident SMB, January 2010 Issue (Download This Entire Issue in PDF)
Businesses often begin in the most unusual ways. Take Golden Temple of Oregon, LLC for example. It started in austere surroundings—a bakery in a garage—and extraordinary circumstances—a group of Sikh believers living in an ashram in Eugene, Oregon—in 1972. Then, in the following year, when some friends of the Golden Temple founders decided they no longer wanted to continue their granola business, the company bought it for $50. That product is now the top-selling granola in the country, with over two dozen flavors that command more than 60 percent of the bulk granola market.
Careers also often begin in unusual ways. Jeffery Smith was a highly sought-after collegiate basketball prospect coming out of high school in the early 1990s. He initially planned to attend an out-of-state college but elected to remain in Oregon instead. When a friend introduced him to the head basketball coach at Western Oregon University, he found the college at which he wanted to play and study. When a chance for some part-time IT work at a local healthcare facility arose, he jumped at the opportunity, as administration of a healthcare facility had been a long-time interest. And with those seemingly inconsequential decisions, his career in IT was launched.
Both Golden Temple and Smith have done very well following their respective company and career launches. And since their two paths joined three years ago, the pace has become a “full court press.”
Right CIO mixture and blend
Following a reorganization in the late 1980s, Golden Temple has experienced rapid business growth, expanding from 50 employees to more than 440 employees today—with locations in North America and Europe. This growth was fueled by mature, profitable product lines, including top-selling bulk granola (Golden Granola), the number four brand in the highly competitive natural foods cereal category (Peace Cereal), and the number one ranked natural tea in the U.S. and Europe (Yogi Tea).
IT systems did not mature with the expansion in business, however. As a result, in 2006, the executive management team embarked on a search to recruit a CIO who could help transform IT from a cost-service center to a business enabler. Having spent six years overseeing IT for Kettle Foods, Inc., in addition to managing the transition of data center operations for the State of Oregon, Smith had the right mix of experience to take on the challenge. Specifically, at Kettle Foods, he had implemented a next-generation ERP system and standardized IT systems to enable rapid business growth. He had also overseen the deployment of two ERP solutions and other business applications at Salem Hospital.
Smith discovered there was much to do upon his arrival. “We had very small systems that ‘didn’t play well together’ and a lot of ad hoc reporting,” he remembers. “IT was seen as simply a service group, and there was little integration between IT and the business.” A member of the executive management team, Smith was given the mandate to architect and build a next-generation IT program. “We sought business process improvements through the use of technology,” he says, “initiatives that would not only aid the business in its revenue growth path but help it gain greater operational efficiencies.”
As a starting point, Smith instituted service level agreements (SLAs) with the business owners—finance, manufacturing, sales, and marketing—based on the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) standards. Concurrently, after assessing the existing infrastructure and applications, Smith identified two strategic initiatives that would align IT with the business.
The first involved selecting and implementing an ERP system—not just for finance functions but for manufacturing and distribution as well. Smith and his team issued an RFP and looked at several different solutions, eventually selecting Oracle E-Business Suite. Wanting to remain focused on IT strategy and building synergies with the business, Smith also decided to outsource the hosting and management of the ERP environment to Oracle Partner OneNeck IT Services Corporation.
The second core initiative looked at standardizing toolsets across the IT infrastructure—encompassing everything from clients, to data center servers and storage systems, to applications, to security, to backup-and-recovery processes. “Our methodological approach around standardization was really twofold,” Smith says. “The starting point was to look at the requirements of the business, where it is headed, what are the pain points, and the value sources to the business. The second is total cost of ownership and ways to reduce complexity.”
Virtualized data protection
As part of the standardization approach in the data center, Smith and his team elected to move to a virtualized server environment using VMware ESXi. “We had around 20 servers scattered across four different racks,” Smith remembers. “We needed to reduce our data center footprint and energy consumption while freeing up IT resources managing those ‘extra’ systems.” With the new virtualized data center architecture, Smith was able to consolidate the server footprint down to just one domain while going from four racks to two racks.
Symantec Backup Exec was initially deployed at Golden Temple in 2004. Regular updates being the rule, Golden Temple currently uses the latest version of Backup Exec. However, with the migration to a virtualized environment, the team initially tried VMware’s Virtual Consolidated Backup, and a full backup took nearly 24 hours to finish, a task the team could complete only once a week. Wanting to cut their backup windows while conducting a full daily backup, Smith and his team added the Backup Exec Agent for VMware Virtual Infrastructure, slashing backup windows to 12 hours. And since Backup Exec allows incremental backups, they can maintain full backups on a daily basis.
While the data store at Golden Temple has grown over 200 percent to more than three terabytes since Smith arrived, Backup Exec has scaled to support this increase in volume. Remaining physical servers are backed up every Friday night, with incremental backups every day, to a Dell TL2000 tape library. Virtual servers are backed up nightly to the same tape library. The Golden Temple team leverages a number of different agents and options in Backup Exec to protect data across the network—from Microsoft Active Directory, to Microsoft SQL Server, to Microsoft SharePoint Server. They’ve also found the granular restore feature in Backup Exec particularly useful. “We’re able to restore files in 15 minutes, compared to two hours before,” he notes.
Extending endpoint security
Golden Temple has relied on Symantec for endpoint security for a number of years and upgraded to Symantec Endpoint Protection last year in order to leverage its expanded functionality. Smith and his team currently have the antivirus, antispyware, firewall, device control, and intrusion prevention functions deployed and are looking at adding application control and extending device control across a broader segment of the organization in the future.
With Endpoint Protection, the team has a consolidated endpoint security solution across clients and data center servers—both physical and virtual. “Having everything involving endpoint security wrapped into one console is a big plus,” Smith says. “We’re able to leverage a breadth of functionality without investing time and budget in training on different toolsets. Its support for VMware [ESX] was also important, as we were able to move to a virtualized environment without worrying about the underlying endpoint security engine.”
Notes, Exchange, and Enterprise Vault
Before Smith’s arrival, Golden Temple relied on Lotus Notes for file sharing, email, and other ad hoc business functions. However, it wasn’t meeting business requirements, and Smith decided to migrate those applications over to other best-of-breed solutions. For email, he and his team standardized on Microsoft Exchange. In the process of outsourcing the hosting and management of Oracle E-Business Suite and seeing the potential benefits of simultaneously outsourcing another business application to OneNeck, Smith simply added Exchange to the contract.
Once the migration from Notes to Exchange was complete, Smith found that the data store on the Exchange server was growing at a pace that would require additional servers and storage arrays. To offset this growth, the Golden Temple team was presented with a couple of options. The first was to upgrade from Microsoft Exchange Standard Server to the Enterprise version. The hard costs exceeded $6,000, however, and this didn’t even account for the potential of system downtime and resulting lost employee productivity.
At the same time, the need to retain emails and produce them for litigation prompted Smith to look at a second option, one that would enable intelligent archiving and e-discovery. While Smith and his team looked at several different solutions as part of an RFP process, they ultimately settled on Symantec Enterprise Vault. There were several reasons for this:
Mobile employees who needed to access archived email when offline
Retention and ingestion of Personal Folders (PST) into the email archive
Deduplication of the email data store using single-instance archiving and data compression
“It was a seamless migration that was transparent to end users,” Smith recalls. “Using Enterprise Vault PST Migrator, we were able to take remaining personal folders in Notes and move them over to the Exchange environment.” The team also avoided additional server costs by deploying Enterprise Vault onto their virtualized server environment.
With an Exchange data store at 75 gigabytes, single-instance archiving and data compression technologies in Enterprise Vault slashed it by 40 percent to 30 gigabytes. And the deduplication benefits will continue as email data grows at a clip of 43 percent annually.
New areas of focus
For 2010, Smith cites three areas of focus. The first pertains to Golden Temple’s operations in Europe. “Integration of our global operations is important,” Smith explains. “Making sure the standards we’ve established in the U.S. are extended to Europe will continue to be a priority.” This includes working to ensure that the full value of Oracle E-Business Suite is realized across all of the company’s operations.
The second focus is driven by the current economic environment. “We want to find ways to leverage our existing assets without incurring additional costs,” he says. “And making sure we are using all of the tools we have in place to their fullest potential is important.” Outsourcing additional IT functions or even moving some of them into the cloud are possible options for Smith. “Both of these are attractive for several reasons—from lower TCO, to greater agility and flexibility, to broader geographical reach,” he says.
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The final focus is at the very heart of the transformation Smith began three years ago. “Bridging the gaps between IT and the business remains the lens through which we view all of our activities,” he says. “My approach has always been to listen to the challenges and requirements of the business and not simply offer up a set of IT projects. This gives me greater insight into the business and the particular business segment with which I am engaged with at that moment. IT is really no longer simply IT, but what I call information business systems.”
A good offense beats all
Small and midsize businesses have unique IT challenges according to Smith. “You simply don’t have the leeway for decisions that are misguided and IT projects that go awry,” he relates. “Decisions and errors are magnified. As a result, it is extremely important to make sure IT priorities are aligned with the business.”
Smith uses a basketball analogy to describe his approach. “A really strong offense almost always beats a good defense,” he relates. “Likewise, successful IT strategies are forwardthinking and do not wait for the business to come to them. This includes identifying emerging technologies that drive significant business value.”
The initial founders of Golden Temple established a corporate motto—“feel good, be good, do good”—that has been a guiding principle for the company over the years. It is much more than words; it is truly an embodiment of what the company does.
Until recently, IT has largely not played a pivotal role in helping the company to enact this vision. However,with the full court press Smith and his team is executing, IT has become a key enabler of this vision, a role that most assuredly will expand further in the future.
Patrick E. Spencer (Ph.D.) is the editor in chief for the The Confident SMB and CIO Digest and the author of a book and various articles and reviews published by Continuum Books and Sage Publications, among others.