Dyson is one of the most esteemed names in British design and manufacturing. Founded in 1991 by the charismatic inventor Sir James Dyson, the company now employs over 12,000 people around the world, with the bulk of its engineers based in the UK and Singapore. The innovative global brand had a bumper year in 2018, reaching £1.1 billion in profits with turnover at £4.4 billion.
- Visibility of hardware and software estates
- Wasteful software procurement
- Migration to Windows 10
- Standardization of software
Before the implementation of the Snow Platform in 2017, Software Asset Management was performed with spreadsheets and emails – an untenable situation for a global company whose business model is based on the uniqueness (and therefore confidentiality) of its engineering solutions. Given that there had been no robust SAM process in place, it came as no surprise that the visibility gained from Snow led to significant cost avoidance. However, the seven-figure sum in cost avoidance exceeded all expectations. Snow is also safeguarding compliance and policing group policies around usage, which freed up some 1,000 licenses for re-assignment last year alone. Dyson is migrating to Windows 10 and using Snow to identify the machines that cannot run Windows 10 to standardize its software estate.
BUSINESS BENEFITS AND ROI
- Seven-figure sum in cost avoidance on Microsoft applications
- Effective license optimization
- Key support for Window 10 migration
David Mackenzie, Global IT Asset Manager, says: “Visibility and promotion of technology to the end user, I think that's the key thing for me. If you have good data, you can strategize, and that is what we lacked before we got Snow: fast, accurate and comprehensive numbers.”
BEFORE AND AFTER SNOW
Before 2016, when the Snow Platform was rolled out, Dyson did not have a third-party Software Asset Management solution. As Dyson’s Global IT Asset Manager puts it: “Snow replaced what wasn’t there.” David Mackenzie was brought in to leverage its functionalities. Pre-Snow, audit reports had been pieced together from Excel spreadsheets and emails – this took forever but there were no disasters. License optimization was another matter. Using license and software usage data from Snow, Mackenzie was able to secure the huge win of a seven-figure sum in cost avoidance on just four Microsoft applications. “A handsome number,” Mackenzie calls it, with considerable understatement.
This process of license optimization is ongoing. Dyson has recently created a group policy around non-usage: after Snow has flagged up three months of inactivity on an application, it is removed without warning. “What was important was the transparency, having a written policy that spells out what will happen if you don’t use an application.” As a result, there has been no push-back from the 1,000 or so users who have been affected since the policy was enforced group-wide. There will be cost avoidance (the license is re-assigned, or Dyson avoids exposure to the risk of additional true-up costs) as well as straight savings on the annual maintenance fee. “And that all adds up.”
Dyson uses ServiceNow for software requests. “In retrospect, Snow’s Automation Platform would have been much better but Dyson brought in ServiceNow at the same time as Snow.” Where Snow does bring efficiencies is in finding out if there is a license available to approve the request.
Mackenzie sees software rationalization and standardization as the next big target. “The potential is huge,” he says. “PDF readers … we've probably got about 30 different versions out there including Acrobat. We run WinZip of course, along with probably around 16 other zip applications. So wasteful.”
But before the SAM team can see the results of that, there is the all-consuming priority of migrating Dyson to Windows 10.
THE JOURNEY TO WINDOWS 10
Extended support for Windows 7 comes to an end in January 2020, leaving users vulnerable to cyberattacks. The disastrous WannaCry ransomware attack targeted an unsupported operating system (Windows XP) so any business still on Windows 7 after 2020 is a hostage to fortune. Dyson’s business model is based on its proprietary technology so data security is vital. The company is therefore making timely preparations to migrate, with buy-in from the CEO, which means the process is being properly resourced.
Snow is playing a key role mapping the hardware estate which is out of sync with the latest computational technology, as Mackenzie explains. “What really made C-level sit up and take notice was the Intel architecture change. Our Intel 6th generation processors are the limit for Windows 7 to actually run stably; anything after that you need to have Windows 10.” But Intel is currently at the 8th generation release, which means Dyson lags two generations on technology. This has led to a curious situation which Mackenzie believes affects a lot of organizations transitioning from Windows 7 to Windows 10. “We’ve had to keep buying machines from Dell customized with an Intel 6 Gen processor. So we actually have to pay extra for an older generation processor, just so that we can keep supporting Windows 7.” Mackenzie estimates this bumps up the costs by a third compared with a more powerful machine.
A team of 12 is working on the Windows 10 migration. The first step is an application mapping exercise. “What we do is we try to understand what applications we’ve got out there that we could possibly push through to Windows 10 quicker,” says Mackenzie. This would have been (virtually) impossible without Snow because the Dyson estate has some 8,500 applications at the moment. “A lot of the applications are stuck with Windows 7,” Mackenzie continues, “so this is why we’re doing a lot of trial and testing, to work out what will work with Windows 10 and what won't.”
One of the benefits of a migration project is that it gives you a chance to do some housekeeping and “get rid of old legacy stuff”, and potentially mitigate any licensing risks. Mackenzie hopes to get out at the other end of his migration with “just” 4,000 applications, less than half the Windows 7 total. “Snow is weeding out old versions, duplicate versions, software that’s been gathering dust – so we will be much leaner on Windows 10.”
On the hardware side, Snow is identifying how much of the hardware estate needs to be refreshed for Windows 10. “We get that information from Snow, which recognizes the model number and this tells us how old the device is. I think half of our estate needs to be changed over basically, so that’s quite a task. And it’s global.”
In his spare time, Mackenzie likes to practice extreme sports. While it would be a stretch to call Software Asset Management an extreme sport, the stakes are high. Dyson’s global success stems from the originality of its designs and technology, neither of which can be compromised by inconsistent and leaky IT. In this regard, Snow is invaluable to the company.
What is the biggest strength of Snow? “I think it would be looking at the data critically,” Mackenzie says. “You get access to the information quickly, that for me is always something that's good. With Snow, it's there. It's clean, it's fresh, it's sexy, it’s easy to export and the information is updated every 24 hours; you can measure your risk by the day.”
“Visibility and promotion of technology to the end user, I think that's the key thing for me. If you have good data, you can strategize, and that is what we lacked before we got Snow: fast, accurate and comprehensive numbers."