How do you build a new IT infrastructure and culture for an established global business...
When you've only got 9 months to ensure success?
Rapidly transforming IT operations at scale for a leading marketing data and analytics business
As told by Dave Stevens, CIO of Technology Services, Kantar
In partnership with Tom Matheussen, Managing Partner, Kyndryl
Kantar provides data insights and consulting services to a range of diverse customers, working with 65 of the Fortune 100, along with thousands of other companies worldwide. Their data scientists generate insights to help clients improve brand awareness, attract more consumers, increase brand penetration, and increase financial success.
Kantar was part of WPP until being acquired by a private equity company, at which point they had just 9 months to separate all technology infrastructure from their previous parent company.
For CIO Dave Stevens, the enormity of that challenge also presented a great opportunity. He and his team knew that Kantar’s success with customers would continue to depend on the generation and presentation of actionable insights from the petabytes of customer data that their business collects. Previously, operating within its parent company’s IT systems, programs, and processes, the Kantar team was only able to react to IT issues as they came up. This interfered with the ability to evolve technology services to better advance Kantar’s business outcomes.
In designing Kantar’s new IT environment, Dave was determined to completely reimagine the way the business was able to engage with the Technology Services organization. He envisioned a "new shop window on IT" through which colleagues would receive excellent service when requesting resources needed to deliver great outcomes for Kantar customers.
Dave knew that meeting this challenge within 9 months meant bringing in external expertise, but that a traditional outsourcing approach would not result in the enduring culture transformation needed for his organization to operate as an independent company in the way he wanted.
I was looking for a true partnership. A big part of [the new approach] was changing the mindset from a service support partnership to an engineering-led partnership.
Above all, Dave needed a true partner one who would deliver with his own organization as part of "one team." This approach would provide the transparency the team needed to quickly shift from a transactional unit dedicated simply to separating Kantar's systems and services from WPP, to functioning as an agile partner for Kantar’s business.
In Kyndryl, Dave and his team found a mirror of their own aspirations. In fact, Kyndryl was successfully navigating its own technology transformation, having separated a year earlier from its own parent company and establishing its own business identity and internal culture. Both companies were defining best practices unencumbered from a culture they were exiting. In addition to proven expertise in leading technology transformations, the Kyndryl team would bring their own lessons-learned to the partnership to help Kantar achieve its separation goals.
Together, Dave and Kyndryl’s Managing Partner, Tom Matheussen, created a one-page charter to guide work on the separation and beyond. The two leaders also created an organizational chart that Dave calls “two in a box.” For each role, from IT engineering through implementation and and business-as-usual (BAU) operations, a Kantar and Kyndryl team member were assigned to work as counterparts.
As Dave says, the value of writing it down was “ensuring that everyone was bought into that engineering mindset and that everything we do now is done with that in mind.”
Results of the partnership would be evaluated by how well the team enacted the engineering-centric culture change and proactively evolved on-premises and public cloud technology so that resources available to colleagues across the business are kept evergreen.
The “one team” approach means that 400+ Kyndryls are embedded across all layers of Kantar’s Technology Services, wearing Kantar badges and working with the same passion and commitment towards Kantar’s business goals. In townhall meetings, Dave often refers to the partnership charter, offering joint recognition to the Kantar and Kyndryl team members for results achieved together.
Our transformation wasn’t just about delivering technical outcomes, it was about delivering great business and commercial outcomes as well.
Dave’s top priority in standing up Kantar as an independent business was to create a highly functional IT environment, enabling Kantar’s 26,000 colleagues to do their best work possible on available, resilient, and secure systems.
Together, the team developed a cloud-first strategy, understanding that some workloads still needed to reside in strategically placed private datacenters around the world. Many of Kantar’s legacy applications in their private datacenters are not yet cloud-friendly. Those applications will be transformed over time so that a greater share is hosted in the cloud. For the initial IT separation, the ratio of applications based on premises and in cloud is about 50/50. Dave foresees an eventual split of 30/70.
For the infrastructure deployments, the team focused attention on over 10,000 Servers spread globally in multiple on-premises datacenters and multiple cloud providers. The team designed and implemented public cloud deployments primarily in Microsoft Azure, with some landing zones also in AWS. Nutanix provided Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) in strategically located datacenters for workloads with special performance requirements. As part of migrating and provisioning servers, using a range of automation technologies, the team retired nearly 5,000 servers from WPP’s data centers during the separation.
We support the infrastructure that’s at the heart of the business. We are not building something and then leaving it when a service is live. We start immediately thinking about what the next version of that service needs to look like.
Before separating from its parent company, Kantar team members shared a helpdesk system with more than 100,000 other employees. That system lacked the intelligence to prioritize requests based on Kantar’s business urgency.
Long term, Dave wants to integrate the activities of provisioning and managing corporate devices into a self-service system that automates the handling of all support requests company wide. But for separation, Dave’s team relied on Kyndryl’s experience to the setup an interim solution with service desk and chat entry points for making helpdesk requests.
The helpdesk was setup to provide support in 17 languages for all 26,000 Kantar employees. New tooling operates with guidelines for expediting resolution based on estimated business impact indicated in a request.
26,000 colleagues were migrated to the new service desk flawlessly.
Since completing the IT separation, the team has set-up self-service catalogues to help Kantar colleagues request new technology resources. ServiceNow and Red Hat Ansible make automation possible, providing a foundation for how Dave's service management team will work across the new IT platform moving forward.
Dave sees it as a triumph of doing the separation right, and especially with automation, that his team can now deliver IT resources to the business much faster. The BAU team can now automatically and consistently build a server with “the right tooling on it and all of our security and monitoring guardrails.” It’s a major step forward in Dave’s commitment to make Technology Services as agile as possible in meeting needs of the business.
Today, automation is saving thousands of hours in manual work on routine operations as it also eliminates trouble-shooting related to human error.
Within Kantar’s new digital workplace services, the team is using Digital Experience Management to automatically and proactively resolve user issues. Key device performance metrics already show 15% increased productivity across the company.
Time to deliver solutions to the business has fundamentally changed. The business-as-usual team can now automatically and consistently build a server with the right tooling on it and all of our security and monitoring guardrails.
Increased visibility into IT resources is the key to helping Kantar’s business and technology leaders make informed choices about how IT finances are spent. Kyndryl Bridge will provide that visibility in a single, integrated view of on-premises and cloud infrastructure and other resources across Kantar's large IT estate.
Soon, Kyndryl Bridge will provide Kantar leaders with a granular view of IT expenditures as they work together to prioritize a backlog of projects. It’s a new way of working that will support the Kantar and Kyndryl team in enabling a cycle of continuous innovation for the business.
Kantar is a world-leading marketing data and analytics business and an indispensable brand partner to the world’s top companies. Kantar combines the most meaningful attitudinal and behavioural data with deep expertise and advanced analytics to uncover how people think and act. Kantar helps clients understand what has happened and why and how to shape the marketing strategies that shape their future.