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Alex Rammal is business relationship manager and director of IT at Jaguar Land Rover

Alex Rammal is business relationship manager and director of IT at Jaguar Land Rover

Students entering the IT industry need to understand vendor management better; procurement and business processes need to be tailored for cloud; service providers need to do more work on compliance. These are just a few of the lessons learned Jaguar-Land Rover (JLR) business relationship manager and director of IT Alex Rammal shared about the company’s journey to the cloud.

Rammal was speaking at the Cloud World Forum in London on Wednesday.

JLR’s shift to cloud services resulted in large part from the perfect storm of forces that emerged in the latter part of the last decade. Having undergone a number of mergers and acquisitions the company ended up with a very heterogeneous IT estate. And when Jaguar – along with Land Rover – was acquired by Tata in 2008, the financial crisis gripping markets worldwide deeply impacted the company’s willingness to invest in tying those IT systems together.

“What did that mean for IT? We had a very fragmented landscape, lots of legacy hardware and a lot of broken systems, they were not fit for growth. It wasn’t agile enough, and it was costly – we had well over 100 projects running at any one time and had to rely mostly on onshore, onsite contracted resources.”

He said that as the company grew internationally it increasingly saw the need to rely on systems and platforms that could be accessed online, and on mobile platforms. It was also swayed by the economics of cloud, and the time to market benefits associated with the platforms it deployed.

“With hosting we had significant overcapacity from legacy buying for the peaks and troughs. We had a huge SAN estate that we weren’t using effectively. Moving to cloud also gave us that fast, repeatable access to information,” he explained.

When it comes to cloud JLR has gone “all in.”

The company uses AWS around QA, development and for sandboxing environments. It host parts of its CRM systems in the cloud, and uses IBM and Flexnet for private cloud. It also uses Steelwedge for operational and sales planning, and has rolled out Google Apps globally.

Rammal also told Business Cloud News that the company recently built its revamped online sales platform on SAP’s in-memory cloud platform, HANA.

“We wanted something that gave premium performance, and that could also link up with our established SAP ERP estate on the back end,” he said.

But the company’s long and sometimes challenging journey to the cloud has brought with it some big lessons, which could readily be applied within the context of any large company looking to quickly move to the cloud.

“It frustrates me that we still need to go through the same old legal and compliance loopholes on our end, when really vendors and cloud service providers can be doing much more work on compliance at the outset,” he said. “We also needed to become more versatile with our business processes. Part of the benefit should be the standard processes we can implement with the systems, but sometimes the amount spent on customising a system to your own business processes can make moving it not worth doing.”

“The financial and procurement process also needs to be geared towards this up front,” he added.

Rammal said that he’s noticed a lack of new skills required by IT, like vendor management, among junior level staff recruits.

“To me these are some of the skills that are more important than some of the computer-science focused ones,” he said.

He also shared some advice for cloud service providers: “My biggest issue is that many service providers haven’t seemingly made the move away from a consumer-facing business to an enterprise-focused business”

“Normally enough for me to stop a relationship with a service provider is when they say they can do something without involving the IT department. We have an enormous legacy estate so integration is always key and involving IT in this discussion and process is essential,” he said.

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