Upgrading Harrods’ SQL servers for compliance


‘Data is the new oil.’ So says Clive Humby, Chief Data Scientist at Starcount. But the central nervous system of Harrods’ data, Microsoft SQL servers, were a compliance risk.

I partnered with their service delivery team to kick start an upgrade and decommission project across their 30 unsupported servers. That’s a mix of business analysis, project and change management, to make every bit of Harrods compliant. When the unsupported servers were upgraded to a supported version, or decommissioned:

  • unused licenses were cleaned up
  • much needed storage space was handed back  
  • Harrods avoided a costly Microsoft extended support contract
  • total cost of ownership was reduced

We’ve got to invest in a better environment, a better experience and keep elevating it.

Michael Ward – Managing Director for Harrods

If you don’t plan, you’ll suffer. Planning a Data Centre Exit


‘We are a group packed full of highly creative, ingenious and dedicated people.’ So says Sir Martin Sorrell, Chairman of WPP. But back in 2017, WPPs enterprise was vulnerable to hackers, and it presented a huge risk to its business.  What do you do to secure your business and do so in a way that’s not disruptive to operations and clients?

We worked with their Strategy, Architecture and Governance team to close a live Data Centre Facility in London with 800 servers. That’s a mix of migrations, decommissions, and refreshed technology, to make sure every bit of WPP was as secure as possible.

‘The pressures that we’re seeing accelerate the need to simplify what we’ve got.’

Martin Sorell – Founder of WPP

Cloud saves you money: and we’ve got the proof


We teamed up with WPP to migrate AX Dynamics, an enterprise planning product, from a Colt Data Centre to Cloud. We wanted to see if we can save money purely by hosting it in a different location. And we were right.

We got our hands on the available documentation, application maintenance team and technical people. They’d already tested options yet nothing had been nailed in the form of a detailed design, migration approach, and plan. We did a 4-week discovery and a subsequent 10-week delivery phase to move AX to Cloud.

This is what we found:

Cloud computing reduced operational expenses.
Web Hosting across 3 data centres in Singapore isn’t cheap. Cloud computing offered a more flexible way of storing information, which meant that overall application running costs could be substantially reduced.

Good organisational structure makes an inordinate difference.
As with any project, there are many stakeholders and this one was no different. Having good governance and clear lines of reporting between the project team, other suppliers, users and the business were essential to making decisions and hitting milestones.

Early communication with the users is essential.
It’s easy for users to trip you up, ‘audit is coming’. They say. Involve them early.

People need to know what they are doing.
Planning is key. There were critical times when even an hour by hour plan wasn’t enough.

Timing is everything.
As part of testing, the users needed to perform tasks on the migrated application. The problem was, it was a month-end close so no one had bags of energy.

Lines of communication between the application and infrastructure teams should be seamless.
Since the application has gone live there is continual maintenance and monitoring required. Process is the key to success when things go awry.

Making sense of a global application portfolio


In 2017, Kantar Media, a WPP company set us a challenge: help them to understand their global application portfolio. So we carried out an intense planning activity to suss out where the opportunities were and defined a global roadmap for change.

Like many global research companies, Kantar Media had a gigantic application portfolio that was getting out of control. Some of the technology was beginning to creak, data wasn’t being gathered, held, and processed in a single location, and they had applications which had similar or complementary capabilities used in different geographic locations. It was time for Kantar to figure this out. We helped them do this based on an applications’ business value, strategic fit, and technical health. The outputs of the project were:

  • Clarified priorities across the business
  • Identified opportunities to rationalise applications
  • Singled out applications ripe for retirement
  • Mapped out the approach to change

Changing the way people progress through government in their careers


Two years ago, GDS set a challenge: help create a framework for digital, data and technology roles that sets out defined levels and capabilities to give people a clear long-term career in government. So they’ve had the full monty: in-depth research and data collection; interviews with employees across 37 job roles; even workshops in the six broad categories of data, IT Operations, product delivery, quality assurance and testing. The result is a technology career path framework, a living asset which encourages mobility and promotes consistent standards.

And like most government departments, GDS was struggling to compete with salaries offered by the private sector for digital specialists. So this was a great opportunity to straighten out their recruitment practices and attract talent from outside the civil service. To bring the framework together, out went the government speak, and in went descriptions and a taxonomy that the market understands.

‘The job families will use the same taxonomy that’s seen in the outside world… The success [of  UK eGovernment] is built on our digital by default strategy.’

Kevin Cunnington – Director General for GDS