A new CEO at Salmat realizes that the company is distracting itself from its key strengths, trying to fulfill endless customer and employee software customization requests.
Move to the cloud
The Salmat team outlines a cloud strategy, building and delivering services on top of standard, reusable, repeatable platforms that benefit from economies of scale.
After spending four months trying unsuccessfully to integrate Workday with AD, Salmat calls in Okta. By the end of the meeting, Okta is talking to Salmat’s Workday sandbox.
Google all the way
Salmat taps Okta as their identity and authentication partner for a comprehensive Google Apps roll-out intended to transform the way everyone works at Salmat.
Okta takes care of authentication for all of Salmat’s new cloud applications, moving Salmat closer to a day when the company can stop using AD altogether.
Salmat continues to add Okta features, such as provisioning and MFA, moving away from costly on-prem solutions and making it easier to seize opportunities in the cloud.
We’re moving from Microsoft on-premise to Google in the cloud, and we want to minimize our reliance on legacy solutions as much as we can. Okta is helping us do that.Dave Glover, Head of Technology for Salmat
Too much customization
Salmat marketers and call center professionals engage deeply with their customers every day, executing letterbox campaigns, providing a broad range of contact services, building digital solutions, and supporting local marketing efforts. Over almost four decades, the people at Salmat have done whatever it takes to maximize value for customers.
While the company’s customer-first focus and tailored marketing solutions were fundamental to the business, in 2014, recently installed CEO Craig Dower found that these same attributes threatened to get the better of Salmat. As marketing became more technologically complex, one-off customer demands grew. The habit of saying “yes” to every customization request was simply no longer sustainable.
“We realized that we needed to get to a stage where we were building and delivering our services on top of standard, reusable, repeatable platforms that benefited from economies of scale,” says Dave Glover, Head of Technology for Salmat.
For Glover and Salmat leadership, that meant a move to the cloud, to simplify the company’s underlying infrastructure. They wanted to keep the focus steadfastly on customer service, while ending the endless tinkering with the technology behind it all.
The team’s first significant step into the cloud was with Workday and the project was their first opportunity to put their new IT strategy to the test. That experience, says Glover, taught them volumes about how to “hold the line around configuration and customization and focus on our customers, and not on the mechanics of how it’s done.”
AD as integration obstacle
When the company first implemented Workday, it was using Microsoft Active Directory for access and identity management. The team spent four months trying to integrate Workday to the on-premise AD environment using Active Directory Federation Services. On the day before the solution was to launch, they were forced to go-live without single sign-on because they couldn’t get the integration to work.
“That was just incredibly frustrating,” says Glover. “We had built 34 other integrations from Workday—to our payroll system, to our billing system—and this one we couldn’t get working.”
Glover knew there had to be a better way. Both Google and Microsoft representatives had mentioned Okta, so the team brought in sales representative, Sean Race, to give them the lowdown.
“Sean turned up and ... by the end of the meeting, he stood up a test instance for us and we had Workday integrated with AD through Okta with single sign-on,” says Glover. “We looked at each other and just couldn’t believe it because literally, we had spent four months trying to get the equivalent working.”
Next Step: Working smarter with Google
In parallel to the Workday deployment, the team also had a transition from Microsoft Office to Google Apps in their sights. With Okta already in place, AD integration delays were a non-factor as they easily provisioned and deployed Google Apps to 1300 information workers.
About two-thirds of the Salmat organization is call center employees, with the other third in the information worker category. The objective in the switch to Google Apps wasn’t just to move everyone from Microsoft Exchange to Gmail—it was to actually change the way Salmat creatives, strategists, and production people work together. The company also plans to deploy Chromebooks, so the vision is fundamentally a move from desktop to cloud, away from saving files on local desktops and sending them back and forth, and toward collaborating exclusively in the cloud.
“We were deliberately disruptive with the move to Google ,” says Glover of the Salmat employees undergoing the Google transition. “They were supported with training and forced to think about how they were going to work differently. We were very keen to have that disruption.”
As you can imagine, training and change management have been important pieces of the puzzle. Okta smooths the way so that managers can focus on the larger initiatives, rather than on logging into their new apps and getting them to work. “We have seen a significant reduction in the number of calls to our helpdesk,” says Glover. “It’s making life easy for us on that front.”
Stepping away from AD
Part of Okta’s longer term value for Salmat centers around reducing the company’s dependency on legacy on-premise technologies, Like AD, and the ongoing licensing costs associated with those technologies. Today, Okta bridges cloud applications to AD, eliminating the need for one off integrations. By 2017, Glover plans to rely on Workday and Okta to master employee data and handle employee onboarding, replacing AD’s role in that process. “At some point in time, we will stop creating AD accounts for people because they are no longer required,” says Glover.
The goal is to simplify the company’s infrastructure and eliminate unnecessary costs. “We’re moving to a world where you have no need for an Active Directory presence,” he says. “I want to reduce the cost of running this place,” he says. “That means I’ve got to actively reduce the reliance on the solutions I have replaced. It is easy to add to the technology portfolio, however it requires discipline to retire the solutions that have been superseded.
Glover hopes to have everybody, including call center employees, using Google by mid-2016, so the company can decommission its Exchange infrastructure. “We’re going to free up a bunch of storage, which we won’t have to pay for anymore. We will retire our Exchange which we won’t have to support anymore. That’s where the upside is,” he says.
Portal to the next cloud
Beyond leaving expensive, on-prem infrastructure behind, Glover loves the fact that he can deploy new cloud services so easily through the Okta portal.
“We deployed zscaler at the end of 2015,” he says. “It instantly connected to our Okta instance, and away we go. It’s great to be an Okta customer. I know when I go to buy the next cloud service, I’ll ask them whether they work with Okta. Almost without exception, they’ll say yes, which means that the [identity] problem has gone away.”
Ultimately, the goal is to make Salmat employees more efficient and more secure, as well as to reduce the cost of the infrastructure that supports their work. Eventually, they’ll sit down at their desks, open up their Chromebooks, and authenticate into Okta at the same time as they log into their machines. Glover also has plans to implement multi-factor authentication with Okta Verify, adding another level of security for Salmat apps and data.
Next up: Automation
When you think about the huge leap forward that Salmat is taking—so quickly and with such full-on commitment from top leadership on down—it’s hard not to be impressed. Clearly, the vision goes beyond cost-cutting to a deep realization of the way cloud solutions can transform the company.
One remaining challenge Salmat faces is to implement end to end automation across the applications. Based on Salmat’s rules, employee information will move easily from Workday to Okta to Google Apps, which will enable group sync, complete identity lifecycle management and much more. One specific benefit Glover looks forward to will be around sorting employees into groups so that, for example, the CEO can send out an email and be sure that everyone he intends to get it, gets it. “Just imagine—all of a sudden, all of our Google Groups, fingers crossed, will be based on the organizational hierarchy,” Glover muses.
For Glover, that prospect may still seem vaguely out of reach. Here at Okta, we’re pretty sure those kinds of issues will quickly become a thing of the past at Salmat. After all—getting profiles sorted out and people talking to each other—that’s pretty basic to the path they’re on.
Salmat is a full-service marketing and communications company with a single aim since 1979—getting clients closer to their customers. The team of nearly 4,000 people across four countries works to enable ROI-driven marketing services across letterbox media, contact services, digital, and local area marketing. Every year, they manage billions of customer interactions for some of Australia and New Zealand’s most trusted brands.