Published on July 29th, 20101
Best practice success puts Muller Dairy IT in the driving seat
Muller Dairy is one of the food industry’s great success stories. The number one yogurt brand in the UK, this innovative dairy business, which started life in a small Bavarian village in 1896, has never stopped growing since. This success seems to have come naturally over the years, as a result of the company’s strong values and incredible flair for innovation. Not just manifested in a product range which has revolutionised the world of yogurts as we knew it, but also in its skilful marketing strategy.
A high standard for Müller Dairy’s IT department to live up to, some may think, but at Müller Dairy, it’s actually IT that drives change these days. It wasn’t always the way. Head of IT Stephen Kane joined the company three and a half years ago, with a remit to introduce ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library).
By 2009, Stephen had turned around the IT function, from a department whose reputation showed room for improvement, into a first class internal service provider, exceeding each one of its KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and inspiring the rest of the business with its drive for continuous improvement. This transformation came about as the result of a change in culture and the introduction of proactive processes, underpinned by the adoption of Sunrise’s IT service management software Sostenuto.
IT as a service
At the origin of this transformation was the recognition by Müller’s Executive board that a shift was needed in the role that IT played within the business. From an era where the company’s main focus was cost saving, and IT a reactive, necessary evil, to a time where performance was to take centre stage, with IT its main enabler.
Steps were taken to create ‘IT as a service’, in Stephen’s words. Eighteen business partners were designated from within the IT department to interface with eighteen functional areas within the business. Thanks to formal meetings held on a monthly basis between the business partners and the departments, as well as regular surveys, IT now has the information it needs to put together constructive action plans, rather than simply responding to the usual complaints IT is faced with, such as ‘the network is slow’. Now the service desk, service support and project development are working to common KPIs and objectives, set within the framework of these action plans.
By 2009, IT was exceeding its KPIs. “And underpinning this success was Sostenuto,” says Stephen. “Without it, we wouldn’t have had the year we have had, and as an instigator of change, I wouldn’t have had the success and recognition that has come my way as a result.”
The Sostenuto alternative
“During the selection process,” remembers Stephen, we looked at a number of vendors and rated them on various criteria. I started by looking at the enterprise solutions offered by large vendors such as SAP, CA and BMC, until the reality of the budget hit. Then we found Sostenuto on a Google search, and to be honest, I hadn’t come across it before. However by the time we’d carried out a thorough comparative evaluation, it became clear that Sostenuto offered a similar level of flexibility, but within a lighter, more manageable structure, and at a much, much lower cost.”
“A few years on,” continues Stephen, “I can say that if anyone wants to understand ITIL, out of the box, at a great price, then Sostenuto is your solution, absolutely fit for purpose. The framework is there, very visual and easy to understand. Also, with Sostenuto, you know what you’re getting, there’s no four hundred page manual involved, which was a great selling point as far as the team was concerned.”
“The wider adoption of Sostenuto within Müller speaks volumes for the acceptance which the software has had here,” says Stephen. Indeed, the software is also soon to be deployed within the company’s sites in Germany.
“When you embark on a project like this, you need to know that you’re going to get the backup you need,” he adds. “The Sunrise team has been professional, tenacious and dedicated. The individuals are amenable and approachable. If an unknown appears, you always know someone will go away and come back with a solution.”
ITIL big bang
Although Müller had been following some of the ITIL processes before the project started, there were discrepancies between different areas of IT, and more structure was needed in its approach in order to improve overall performance. The concept of a service desk was useful in creating this momentum, bridging different areas of IT, as the first port of call for incidents, service requests, problems, changes and releases.
Stephen adopted a ‘Big Bang’ approach to ITIL, driving for the adoption of all of the disciplines right from the start. “Looking back, it would have been easier to take a phased approach, as the amount of change involved was huge, but Sunrise bent over backwards to support us in our endeavours. Everyone has stepped up to the plate and now ITIL is here to stay.”
ITIL’s acceptance is no surprise, considering the measurable benefits that have resulted from its implementation, with the IT Service Desk’s KPI performance now exceeding 99 per cent on an average week. Not only this, but it scores a phenomenal 4.5 out of 5 for user satisfaction over the average month.
Change in perception
There has been a 180 degree change in the way IT is perceived within Müller, marked by a recent acknowledgement by its Executive board that 2009 has been the best year ever for the department, both in terms of performance and reputation. Of course, this has a lot to do with the day to day running of IT, but also the way it now presents information to the business.
“New reports generated from Sostenuto have allowed us to demonstrate in a very tangible way how we perform in relation to our KPIs,” says Stephen. “One area that has been particularly positive has been our impact on employee engagement, which measures motivation, satisfaction and loyalty throughout the company.”
After years of hiding in the corner, IT is now seen as the most important function in the organisation, not only driving change, but also acting as a benchmark for other departments, where the opportunity to use ITIL principles is becoming increasingly attractive.
In the wake of Müller Dairy’s success, a wider rollout of Sostenuto to the company’s German sites, as well as in its distribution centres in Italy, is underway. Consistent with the company’s philosophy of continuous improvement, Stephen is planning to roll out Sostenuto’s self service portal Chameleon, as part of a new intranet which will act as a one stop shop for employees. Longer term plans to draw up a roadmap for ITIL Version 3 mean that IT and the business will be even more closely bound together in future.