Ongoing Insights with Cloud Analytics: Zespri Case Study

Posted 31 October 2017 by David Spratt

In 2013, Zespri, one of the world’s leading horticultural companies, and the recognised category leader in kiwifruit, was facing many significant challenges. The Psa virus which attacked their main gold kiwifruit crop, had the potential to devastate the company and its grower shareholders. In addition, they were facing significant capital outlays associated with their existing ICT systems and the need to upgrade their computer hardware.

Zespri had to ask questions like, “Could the new variety of crop, Sun Gold, be more robust and become another bestseller?”, or, “Would our outputs dramatically reduce?” At the same time, Zespri’s Board were concerned about identifying and mitigating the risks of a natural disaster like the tsunami in Japan or the earthquakes in Christchurch. Their data centres were located in Mount Maunganui and backup services in Tauranga. They wanted to understand the impact these types of events could have on their onsite server and storage infrastructure.

Measured Baseline Informs Strategy

Undertaking the initial analysis of Zespri’s current position, we established a baseline ICT cost. This baseline was used as a benchmark to inform financial decision-making and monitor ongoing expenditure.

With assistance from the team at Total Utilities, Zespri evaluated its ICT data centres and infrastructure services and platforms. The objective was to determine whether they could manage the range of potential outcomes that they faced. These systems would have to be flexible enough to adapt to both the best case and the worst-case scenarios.

Zespri sought Total Utilities’ independent advice to identify and assess out how they could best respond to these risks and opportunities. They ultimately saw the need to inform vital decisions around how they consumed computer services with a scalable and cost-effective model that was aligned with their overall financial and business strategy.

Undertaking the initial analysis of Zespri’s current position, we established a baseline ICT cost. This baseline was used as a benchmark to inform financial decision-making and monitor ongoing expenditure. Using this measure, we demonstrated to the CIO and CFO and subsequently their executive and board, significant savings could be made by moving to a monthly subscription model based on public cloud services.

In the future increases above the baseline, increased spending in ICT, would be indicative of Zespri’s growth. The baseline is a very useful comparative tool, both for supporting financial decisions and controlling monthly spend.

After conducting a thorough analysis of the needs and opportunities available to Zespri, we provided the quantitative data that underpinned the business case presented to their board. Total Utilities subsequently supported Zespri through our independent Request for Proposal process to choose a candidate for the migration to, supply and support of a comprehensive cloud-based infrastructure running over the Microsoft Azure Platform.

Moving ICT operations to Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform has many advantages including access to data from anywhere and at any time, an IT environment that is quick and easy to replicate as new offices open and new services become available, and it can effectively respond to the increased competitiveness that occurs when other global players enter the market.

In addition, moving to Azure mitigated the risk of natural disasters crippling the closely located physical data centres.

Ongoing Insights and Cloud Analytics

Our commitment to providing Zespri with a dynamic and meaningful experience meant that our relationship continued past the selection phase. With our expertise in financial analytics we continue to provide them with forever evolving insights. Steve Wichman, Zespri’s Procurement and Commercial Manager, outlines how Zespri is moving into an ICT maturity phase. With this the board is always looking for ways to optimise their systems. The regular technical and financial input from Total Utilities is very useful in this regard, Steve describes us as a sounding board and an independent voice.

Zespri utilise the Total Utilities cloud management service based on our analytics, reporting capability and the Cloudyn tool. Providing these reports and monthly insights we can help ensure that expenditure is aligned, appropriate, and adaptable to Zespri’s financial strategy. We also help them manage and mitigate the risks associated with an OPEX approach, bill shock, by providing them with real-time alerts of consumption. Steve states that these reports provide insights on how Zespri can best optimise their systems, analyse exceptions, and determine how they can improve their current and future operating state while reducing overall expenditure.

Customer-Centric and Flexible Reporting

The board is always looking for ways to optimise their systems. The regular technical and financial input from Total Utilities is very useful in this regard.

The dynamic nature of our service to Zespri means that, as well as providing clear and understandable reports, our analytics extend to creating what-if scenarios. For example, we can analyse what might happen if Zespri consolidated or expanded some of its ICT services. This approach means we can project future cost savings or increases accurately.

Total Utilities insights, financial analysis and recommendations have become more meaningful as more data is gathered and more avenues explored. We can now calculate ICT costs on a “per service” basis. This allows Zespri to identify the true cost of financial, operations, marketing or any other system that requires ICT resources. Our benchmarking and cash projection approach extends to three-yearly reviews of the business case. These reviews are vital to ensure that the case remains relevant to Zespri’s situation and consistent with the parameters set by the board. Regular reviews, along with ongoing monthly, quarterly and annual reporting, are at the heart of Zespri’s ongoing drive to extract the maximum, identified and projected value available from the Microsoft Azure platform of services.

Understanding Key Business Drivers to Leverage Competitiveness

Other ICT consulting companies might focus on the technology or hardware, we take a financial analytics approach that sees ICT as a consumable and adjustable utility. This means consumption and costs are transparent, flexible and optimised. We believe ICT should be financially appropriate for a company, aligned with their goals, and be able to adapt to real-world factors. We do all this by establishing a baseline of costs, creating a detailed business value analysis in support of a business case and then deliver regular monitoring. This approach informs understanding of the company’s consumption, costs and benefit realisation from their Azure based ICT systems. This is the multi-faceted and valuable service that we continue to provide to Zespri.

Finally, would Steve at Zespri recommend us to other companies? A resounding yes. Our strong and dependable relationship, the way we deliver on a job both in quality and in timeliness, and our independent and trusted advice, is hard to find elsewhere.

 

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