Fortescue Metals mines benefits of cloud

Over 60 percent of Fortescue Metals' key business processes are now being delivered by some form of cloud service or capability.

Iron ore company Fortescue Metals' CIO, Vito Forte, has driven a number of the company's cloud adoption projects from HR and procurement to critical business management software such as ERP. 

One of the first projects was the adoption of a new managed operating environment which encompassed the migration of the company's intranet to the cloud via SharePoint Online and the rollout of Office 365 for email, storage, and collaboration. 

Fortescue Metals CIO, Vito Forte

Forte and his information services team delivered the project in under six months, an impressive feat for a multi-billion dollar company with over 4,000 employees.

Forte explains Fortescue was growing rapidly, and its on-premise infrastructure simply couldn't keep up.

"The Office 365 service offered numerous, timely advantages that on-premise did not, being: scale at business velocity; elimination of low value on-premise activities like server and backup operations; immediate BYOD and mobility capability; transparency in cost; environment with a guaranteed SLA; and feature and capability currency," Forte added.

Fortescue's email operations have gone from 1GB mailboxes to 50GB with an unlimited archive.  Security was bolstered in the process with out-of-the-box support for message encryption and rights management. Similarly, each employee now has access to 1TB of cloud storage for storing company-related data, something Forte says was achieved at no additional cost. The device-agnostic nature of the company's Office 365 hosted intranet also gave Fortescue freedom to use the service as its main document repository. 

Fortescue was an early mover in the cloud space, with its first migration project dating back to July 2011. Forte said that while playing the role of early adopter meant they encountered a number of issues, it allowed the company to drive features and capabilities from the vendor that it would not have been able to do as a follower.

"We accepted that would be the case and decided to use it as an exercise in understanding and learning. If we didn't do it, then how would we understand and learn? We also used these learnings to drive better outcomes from vendors, which they in turn have incorporated into their future services."

Forte encouraged other companies considering cloud adoption to challenge vendors and not shy away from difficult conversations.

"Don't rely solely on analysts or vendors. Understand what it is you are trying to achieve, then discuss this with whomever is offering a capability.  If they just talk about 'tin', move on.  You are the customer, it's your money, so you should get what you need to deliver the outcomes you need delivered, at the velocity you want it."

Forte also was quick to point out the challenges faced internally, particularly for large organisations that are typically entrenched in legacy systems. 

"There is a lot of legacy inertia that keeps people rooted to 'on-prem'. As a leader you need to push forward, as in the end you will be held responsible for the lack of delivery or capability. Remember it's only legacy, because we choose it be."

According to Forte, another area which seems to create fear is the fear of supposed instability from continuously improving cloud capabilities.

"Continuous improvement and iteration is a feature of true cloud services, and one that needs embracing," he said.

"As capability becomes further abstracted from hardware, and this capability is consumerised, taking advantage of the iterative value becomes another area of differentiation from on-premise capabilities.  You become the ultimate consumer, rather than the operator, and your focus becomes adoption and utilisation, rather than operations. In this world of instant gratification, anywhere, 'anywhen' demands, isn't this where we need to be?"