Orica swaps Excel spreadsheets for a cloud IT management system

Orica's IT division has installed a full suite of cloud applications from Apptio to help it manage its financial costs.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Working out codes to calculate and rebalance budgets in Excel spreadsheets is now a thing of the past for Orica, a blasting and chemical supplier, following the implementation of Apptio's technology business management software in January.

Orica is Apptio's first Australian customer to fully install the suite of cloud applications that will give the company the facts they need to make faster decisions, improve efficiency, and communicate business value.

Historically, Orica was a federated and individually managed company across 50 countries, but that all changed in 2012 when the company was rolled up to from a single corporate entity. This saw individual divisions, including the IT department, form one global team and their responsibilities were expanded globally.

Orica IT finance director Pete Fish said the re-organisation made the IT division realise it needed a management system for its technology business so the division could consolidate its costs.

"One of the things we needed was something to help us better manage the IT business and to talk to the people who really know the business and tell them what they need to know from IT," he said.

As a result, the following year Orica issued an RFP to find a provider that would develop a system and tool to help the company manage its IT financial costs and other aspects. In turn, Apptio was selected as part this process.

"We are Apptio's first customer in the country. We went live with service costing in January and we will go live with budgeting and forecasting in about a week. We will do our FY15 budget in Apptio," Fish said.

Fish admits while he was a bit of an "Excel king", Apptio is a straight-out-of-the-box solution that would see him give up most of the work he does in Excel.

"There will be very limited work on Excel. One of the things we've done with budgeting, is no changes were made to code. Instead, we've been able to do top down and bottom up budgeting, based on the code straight out of the box. This means we have the flexibility to take into account any change we need when the business asks for," he said.

According to Fish, Orica is now able to make data driven decisions using the datasets available through the solution.

"One of things we can take is for example utilisation data and that can tell us from a financial perspective what is the cost of this server from a utilisation perspective, but also what did the non-utilisation part cost; what that enables us to is to optimise investments," he said.

The business management solutions has also given Orica the ability to create IT benchmarks, which Fish describes as an "ability to help understand what IT services costs".

"First and foremost as an accountant I'd like to know our financial controls. As part of the model we've implemented certain points that just benchmarks and we can compare each cost to every benchmark," he said.

The other motivation for the implementation of the business management software is to create a dialogue between IT and the "people who control the purse strings" because "IT are hopeless at communicating".

"We can explain to the business what we give them, how much it costs, what we can do to influence those costs, and what we would do to add value to them," Fish explained.

The feedback from Orica's IT staff has been positive. Fish said the solution is giving the company's IT division "real information" they've never had access to before.

But the demand for an IT specific technology business management solution by Australian businesses is not uncommon. In fact it has been so strong that Apptio has had to push-forward plans by a year to open an Australian office to service demands locally, as well as the Asia Pacific.

Apptio general manager Richard Outten said Australia is a launch pad for the Asia Pacific region as more customers are looking to move from perpetual licensed type structures to subscription cloud based solutions at a rapid rate.

Aside from Australia, Apptio plans take its business to Hong Kong, Singapore, South East Asia, and India. The company will also service its New Zealand customers from Sydney until there is sufficient business to make it worthwhile for the company to open up a New Zealand office.

Apptio founder and managing director Sunny Gupta said the solution will add value to role of the CIO, which he believes is not dead rather they have become service providers to businesses, in spite of some past speculations the role of the CIO has been slowly diminishing as a result of the cloud.

"We think the future of IT is not going to be completely on the cloud or outsourced; it's going to be a hybrid environment. Some services are going to be consumed directly from the cloud, some are going to be built by the CIO, and the modern CIO is not only going to manage the technology, which they're providing to the business, but also the technology the business is consuming," he said.

"The new supply chain of IT is a lot more complex, which is why managing that technology from a business perspective becomes pretty important, and that's the reason why Apptio came to existence.

"We saw this trend nearly six years ago but it's become a lot truer that the CIO is delivering infrastructure services, application services, and end-user services, while they figure out how to work out the cost for them, how to benchmark them, and how to plan for them."

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