As a retail and finance company with a national footprint, JD Group found it increasingly challenging to meet with the efficiencies demanded by its ever-evolving environment. Microsoft Premier Support Services customised a solution that returned control of the group’s vast IT infrastructure to one specialised hub.
The JD Group (Pty) Limited is a retail group with over 1100 sites across 11 brands, with more than 8000 desktop and notebook computers used by staff to provide sales and financial services.
The JD Group’s requirement was to improve group-wide security via the roll-out of Active Directory, and to use Systems Management Server 2003 to manage assets and software deployment. The company envisaged that effective use of Active Directory with Group policy management, working in tandem with identity management services, would enable IT operations to manage the 8000 devices in a much more streamlined manner.
The initial design of Active Directory required the rollout of domain controllers to every store. This proved problematic as the solution was highly network intensive. In addition, during this phase of the project, Systems Management Server was also rolled out using Systems Mangement Server 2003 Service Pack 1. In order to realise the benefits the team at JD Group worked with Microsoft Premier Support Services to re-evaluate the initial design and implementation.
The JD Group chose Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 as its preferred solution to manage and maintain its software distribution and hardware inventory across its stores, which work on Windows Server 2003 R2 and Windows Vista Business desktops. “The manageability solution required a complex design as it needed to be interoperable with various third party applications within the JD Group environment,” says Kirtal Lalla, technical account manager from Microsoft Premier Support Services.
“The deployment of the solution was countrywide, and had to be quick in order to avoid any impact on trading at the stores. We had to replace legacy systems with new software and hardware within tight deadlines as described by the commitment that Microsoft had made when the JD Group chose our solution,” he says.
Once the initial deployment was complete, the Microsoft Premier Support Services team monitored it closely to track its growth as more and more transactions took place.
“We realised as the system grew, with more information being added daily, that the system we’d created was slowing down operations rather than making them more efficient,” says Kirtal.
“We acted quickly and brought in the support of Microsoft’s Premier Field Engineering Services, a specialised task force of engineers who reviewed the system in close consultation with The JD Group’s specialist Systems Management Server 2003 team. The team worked day and night, systematically analysing the manageability solution we’d installed, and its peripherals. They suggested changes to the environment, the hardware and the software, and once they were done, we’d achieved an agile, dynamic solution for our client, that surpassed his expectations.”
“We were immensely frustrated when the system initially seemed to disappoint our expectations,” says Gerrie van Niekerk, IT Group Services Executive. “But when the Premier Field Engineering Services team came on board, they resolved all the issues quickly, in cooperation with the Microsoft team that already had such an in-depth understanding of our environment.”
The entire JD Group IT infrastructure is now managed from the company’s head office, with less than 1.5% of the 8000 devices across the 42 domains running inactive.
“There are now five people working on the Systems Management Server, controlling all the devices across the more than 1100 sites,” says Gerrie. “We are able to rapidly deploy software updates and new software to machines across the country. We have full control of our hardware inventory – all from a single central console, giving our stores the capacity to offer excellent service that is hardly ever compromised by systems failures.”
Gerrie is adamant that the success of this project, and other Microsoft projects implemented by the Group is partly due to the outstanding service offered by Microsoft Premier Support Services. “Kirtal and his team are as much a part of our business as any of our staff members are,” says Gerrie.
“He has an office in my department, and is here at least once a week, if not more frequently. This constant presence in the heart of our IT infrastructure means that he understands every element of our rapidly changing and growing business, and is on hand to present short, medium and long-term solutions to the challenges of our industry. The retail business is a fast-moving one, and our company is constantly expanding – we need instant advice and solutions to adapt to changes that take place on a daily basis.
“Kirtal and his team are also actively involved in training our technical staff, who have found outsourced training programmes to be insufficient as they don’t consider organisations of the size of ours. With the Microsoft Premier Support Services team guiding them, my systems engineers are customising Microsoft solutions for our business without the help of outside consultants, saving the organisation considerable expenditure while adding to the depth of our talent pool. Microsoft’s unwavering support and commitment to the JD Group has made it logical for me to appoint them for further projects in our pipeline, including Longhorn 2008, Microsoft Exchange 2007 and a new configuration manager. A new Software Asset Management System is already being implemented.”
All 8000 computers, 175 central servers and 42 domains in the JDG Group are now controlled from one central department, staffed by 32 people, five of whom oversee the System Management Server.
“This particular project cost R3.2million to implement. Payback for the project is twofold. Firstly the implementation has yielded a return of more than R400 000 per annum in support costs and secondly but more importantly, it has set up the JD infrastructure to easily enable the roll out of new software in the future,” says Gerrie.
“Now that we have Kirtal and his team on site, we have also cut our expenditure on specialist support. The fact that the Microsoft Premier Support Services team is on site in the heart of our business not only means that they are on hand to effect any changes to existing systems, but it has also given them an in-depth understanding of our business challenges, enabling them to offer further solutions for us to maximise efficiencies across the Group. Microsoft is a key partner in the success of our business, and with the Microsoft Premier Support Services Team, it will continue to be so for many years to come.”
JDG Trading is a national retail network of consumer-focused stores, and includes brands such as Joshua Doore, Russells, Bradlows, Electrical Express, Price ‘n Pride, Morkels, Supreme, Blakes, Maravedi, HiFi Corporation and Incredible Connection. The company is also a recognised financial services provider, and has a gross annual turnover of R12.8billion across its approximately 1100 sites
Software and Services
· Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 (SMS 2003)
· Wndows Servier 2003 R2
· Windows Vista Business
As the consulting, technical support, and customer service arm of the world’s leading software company, Microsoft Services enables the successful adoption, deployment, and use of Microsoft solutions and technologies for all customers. For more information about Microsoft Services, go to: www.microsoft.com/services