Inside Ballance Agri-Nutrients' shift to the AWS cloud

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Inside Ballance Agri-Nutrients' shift to the AWS cloud
The MyBallance app.

Over a single weekend in March this year, the first phase of farmers' coop Ballance Agri-Nutrients migration of its SAP cloud solutions was done, having been achieved in just five months.

The aim was to avoid running into the peak farming season, and to prevent delays to its customer-facing geospatial iniativies.

Ballance is a SAP shop since 2009, and wanted to use the technology more effectively by leveraging the Amazon Web Services cloud as part of the coop's digital transformation strategy.

"The way I put it, is we had a Rolls-Royce in the garage, but we were not servicing and maintaining it," Ballance chief digital officer David Healy explained to CRN NZ.

"Everything was just in time, and we were always lagging on updates and as a result other work and deliverables," he added.

"The service and maintenance alone have been a huge improvement, especially for security, stability and time for us, the stats speak for themselves – 10 per cent reduction in full-time employees managing their core SAP environment, 20 per cent reduction in SAP support and maintenance, 70 per cent reduction in workload managing hardware and resource upgrades and 99.9 per cent availability of SAP production environment”. said Healy.

First phase planning

"Dedicated leadership, not just dedicated programme focus, by seconding a key IS senior leader into a role role, with a primary focus on deilvery of this project, removing distractions from operations and other workloads," was the start of the move Healy said.

Ballance also created an environment ready for change.

This included change management and transparency, with Ballance key business areas all on-board to deliver the outcomes, and speedy resolution of any potential roadblocks, Healy said.

Aligning the Ballance internal and SAP teams through clearly defined scope, prioritisation and a common understanding that schedule was a critical success factor also formed part of making the environment ready for change, Healy said.

Knowing the schedule was critical to success, and clear goals, allowed the teams to self-manage solutions to achieve the outcomes, he added.

"Bringing in experts from the RISE with SAP team, with previous migration experience, coupled with their in-depth knowledge of the SAP system was critical," Healy said.

What did Ballance learn?

Preparing for the first phase of the migration, Healy pointed to the importance of considering legacy connections and integrations.

"Don’t underestimate the integrations and data flows to other systems and take the opportunity to re-factor where possible," Healy said.

Some old legacy integrations had not been moved onto the SAP CPI integration suite prior to the migration.

"Doing this work before the migration would have simplified the migration further," he added.

With a large geographical shift, Healy emphasised the need to ensure that a thorough analysis of the data flows is conducted, to determine systems that need to be co-located, or re-designed due to increased latency.

For delivery and system cut-over, plenty of time should be factored in for transferring data between environments, Healy said.

Robust network redundancy should be built into the project as early as possible, to reduce risks to the delivery time line.

A post go-live plan that sets out clear responsibilities for admin and maintenance tasks should be ensured, when migrating to a managed environment.

Second phase underway

Ballance has now moved to phase two of the plan, which started in June this year.

Healy said the second phase is currently on track to deliver the enhanced personal geospatial journeys, where Ballance has focused more heavily on dependencies and integrations based on its finding from the initial phase.

Enhancing Ballance's existing SAP Customer Experience Solutions that power its MyBallance platforrm is under way.

As part of the second phase, Ballance's customer-facing platform will be moved to the SAP Commmerce Cloud.

This will enable Ballance to deliver more personalised geospatial experiences, products and services to farmers.

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© CRN New Zealand

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