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Partnership at its best – Our journey with Microsoft

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By Rebecca Walmsley

23 July 2020

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As we kick off a new Financial Year with Microsoft, I thought a review of our journey so far would be valuable.  I know there is a consensus with some that you shouldn’t look back and stay focussed on what’s to come, but in Partnership and Alliances, I think its key to have a retrospective view to what’s been achieved, especially when it’s been a pretty good ride!

We have touched on this before but a strategic decision 3 years ago by our CEO Matt Lovell to dedicate all our focus to Microsoft Azure as our public cloud offering, started this journey which in my opinion has led to the establishment of one of the most engaged and powerful partnerships we have.  In fact, it was the emphasis on Microsoft Azure which ignited the need for a Partnership dedicated role within Centiq and here I am, two years in!

In terms of headlines, there are many… we work side by side with some truly inspirational people at Microsoft.

Of course, we have’ earned our stripes’ and demonstrated to these wonderful people we can deliver the expertise, flexibility and a customer-centric approach which makes engagement with joint customers and also new prospects a genuinely proactive and pleasant experience for both Microsoft and Centiq, from start to finish. 

Our success with joint wins has also been demonstrated with our rapid growth in Azure Consumed Revenue over the past 12 months driven by the key engagements with large enterprise customers who have unique visions for their SAP landscapes in Azure.

Thames Water case study

Centiq and Thames Water achieve a world’s first for the utilities industry with SAP S/4HANA deployment

Thames Water selected us following a Microsoft recommendation due to our unique combination of HANA, Linux, SAP on Azure & DevOps expertise.
As the UK’s largest water & wastewater services company, it supplies 2.6 billion litres of drinking water & treats 4.4 billion litres of wastewater every day to 15 million customers.

Driving Azure value using API support

Thames Water championed an agile & data-led IT strategy and a focus to move to SAP S/4HANA alongside a shift to Microsoft Azure. The goal: to achieve automation & enable a modern operating model with an insourced Cloud Team, tasked with delivery in hours rather than weeks. What was achieved is a world first for the utilities industry, by the project delivering automation at an infrastructure layer alongside the HANA database & the NetWeaver platform. This provided support for API driven configuration & the funding mechanism to seed the Infrastructure as Code (IaC) development which drives Azure value. 

“Having a partner who is committed to working in an agile way, with SAP & Azure expertise was key. We wouldn’t have delivered the outcomes we have without these three things & Centiq have them all.” Paul Haigh, Head of Cloud, Thames Water

Code and design for SAP HANA Cluster on Azure delivered in just 4 months

Our blend of Microsoft & SAP technical skills allowed us to manipulate technology, provide expertise to complement the new inhouse team & fulfil Thames Water’s desire to use code at an infrastructure layer as well as further up the stack. Applying our Define, Design & Build Methodology enabled us to engage all key stakeholders in an agile working process, offering daily reviews & iteration demonstrations as standard.

As a result in just four months we delivered the code & design for a highly configured RedHat, SAP HANA Cluster on Azure. The code base has since been used to build a highly available BW4/HANA deployment, demonstrating quicker ROI by reusing it for different projects & future SAP deployments. Following the success of Phase 1 & 2 we were asked to deliver the design & build for S/4HANA & B/4HANA applications, championing automation & IaC principles.

2000 manual configuration steps reduced to 5

By delivering a reliable & recoverable S/4HANA & BW/4HANA landscape, we’ve provided Thames Water with consistent repeatable processes free from human error. Enabling automated startup & shutdown in the SAP application stack reduces unwanted consumption, replacing the need for human intervention & BASIS expertise with automated in-house standard scheduling. We’ve also developed a framework so the internal team can build clustered, DR capable BW/4HANA & S/4HANA workloads in under six hours. This leaves Thames Water with a methodology that requires no SAP skills, introducing a future-proof more cost-effective sustainable way of working.

“Previously every production environment was taking up to five weeks to build & deliver, with non-production environments up to three weeks. By introducing automation we have now reduced build time down to 4-5 hours, resulting in a tangible time & cost saving. The most recent SAP Data project with an estimated 6 month duration now has a 16 week expectancy. There is also the added benefit of data insights being delivered at pace, enhancing customer service levels & experience.” Paul Haigh, Head of Cloud, Thames Water

We’re close to completion of a disaster recovery build that will have an orchestrated process to the 2nd region, capable of being invoked by a single member of the Cloud Team.
Traditionally this can involve 50-100 page processes spanning multiple teams, potentially from multiple support vendors.

Our goal is to simplify with process automation when recovery time is critical & key staff may be unavailable.


Why Centiq for SAP on Azure?

Rarely are two technologies so closely combined within a business. Using our in-house SAP knowledge & our extensive Azure skill set we offer true thought leadership, using a unique approach that engages customers at the start of their cloud journey to enhance their technology & people capabilities.  Our customers choose us over the competition because of our direct relationship with Microsoft consisting of free-flowing communication, sharing the latest solutions & joint project work. We’re in complete alignment with Microsoft’s vision, focussed around the empowerment of every organisation with people at the heart. Our end to end communication keeps customers aware of each project step always ensuring complete transparency. This creates the outstanding experience they strive for and enables us to achieve a customer retention rate of 97% over the past four years.

Cross-industry repeatability leveraging S/4HANA in Azure

Our framework, methodology & technology is repeatable across many industries and has encouraged two way engagement with the majority of vertically aligned teams within Microsoft.  From Global accountancy firms where we’ve deployed S/4HANA in Azure giving them the ability to reduce cost by switching between VM sizes, to match demand & offer a flexible approach to reservations. To global high street retailers where we are providing the base framework for builds to fast track the build process has resulted in a fully configured, bespoke platform available in days. Read some of our case studies here.


Mutual investment with shared codified knowledge

A testament to our expertise in SAP on Azure, we share codified knowledge directly with Microsoft who in turn release this to the OpenSource community via GitHub. This mutual investment has enabled us to grow engagement in areas such as Azure monitoring whilst continuing to develop IP to stay ahead of the curve & pioneer new solutions.  These projects ignite a positive culture internally resulting in excellent employee retention and driving innovation.


To the future

As we start the new 20/21 Financial Year (and the embrace of the ‘new normal’), we look forward to taking our Microsoft relationship to the next level.  We are in touching distance of our SAP on Azure Advanced Specialism, have more projects launching and are building out plans alongside the Azure V-Team and also within the vertical-specific teams to drive our success further.

We can’t wait to see all those familiar faces, in person (and not via a Teams call), so we can celebrate the great year we’ve had together!

Here’s to a great 20/21!

Rebecca Walmsley

Head of Alliances

rebecca

By Rebecca Walmsley

23 July 2020

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