Unilever is one of the world's leading suppliers of fast-moving consumer goods. Its brands include Flora, Bertolli, Dove, Lux, Pond’s, Persil, and Domestos—brands that are locally popular and globally recognized. The company generated annual sales of €40 billion in 2006, with 12 of its brands producing more than €1 billion in sales. The company employs 179,000 people around the globe.
The 18-member Global Solutions team within the Unilever IT department manages e-mail, Active Directory, and other services delivered globally to the entire Unilever workforce. In 2003, the team was using aging and unreliable client applications along with a legacy e-mail system and central directory based in Windows NT®. To remedy the situation, the Unilever IT department decided to migrate the company to an updated Microsoft® platform. This change involved deploying the Windows® XP operating system on all desktops and implementing the Active Directory® directory service, Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003, Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 messaging and collaboration software, and more.
“The older technology was missing key capabilities, and users were losing a lot of productive time because of unanticipated outages. In some areas, our legacy mail servers were going down three or four hours a month,” explains Eduardo Vega, Odyssey Programme Coordinator for the Unilever Global Solutions team.
New to Microsoft software and technology, the Unilever team wanted deployment to go smoothly. It wanted to minimize user disruption while making sure the Microsoft technology was deployed to its full advantage. “We were going to an environment that we didn’t really know, and we knew we needed expertise to implement and operate the Microsoft stack properly,” says Vega.
Unilever engaged with Microsoft Premier Support to take advantage of the Microsoft team’s experience and knowledge. The planning began in 2004, and by 2006, 87,000 users at Unilever had migrated to Exchange Server 2003 and desktops running Windows XP. The Global Solutions team also implemented:
Active Directory to help manage the identities and relationships that make up the Unilever network environment.
Microsoft Operations Manager 2005 to proactively monitor the IT environment.
Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003 to provide a comprehensive solution for change and configuration management for the new Microsoft platform.
Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003 to create a unified communications platform that delivers instant messaging and presence.
Technical Account Managers
As a Microsoft Premier Support customer, Unilever engaged several full-time Microsoft Technical Account Managers (TAM) and a dedicated Global TAM. The multiple TAMs acted as advocates for Unilever, working closely with the company’s management and technical staff to proactively plan the support of these Microsoft technologies. As issues arose, the TAMs recruited subject matter experts from Microsoft to help address Unilever’s top concerns.
Dedicated Support Engineers
Because of the implementation size, Unilever used two Microsoft Dedicated Support Engineers—one specializing in Active Directory, the other in Exchange Server. These Microsoft employees worked side-by-side with the Unilever operations team, distilling their knowledge and experience to deliver on-site advice and guidance, share Microsoft best practices, and assist Unilever with the operational management of product deployments.
Explains Vega, “The Global Technical Account Manager actually brought us to Microsoft and showed us how Microsoft used Active Directory and Exchange Server 2003. He walked us through any potential issues to help my team implement these solutions for best effect.”
With the new infrastructure in place, Unilever continues to enjoy a close relationship with Microsoft. When a technical issue arises with a Microsoft technology, the company’s Microsoft TAMs ensure that Unilever receives swift problem-resolution services. The TAMs escalate the issue to the appropriate team of Microsoft experts, who promptly solve the issue.
“We deployed an entirely new technology infrastructure together, using Microsoft Premier Support,” says Vega. “Microsoft was co-responsible with us in making this project a success.”
The new Microsoft platform has dramatically reduced downtime and increased user productivity. For example, the new messaging and collaboration system built around Exchange Server 2003 features an uptime that approaches 100 percent. Together, with support from Microsoft Services, Unilever has achieved an efficient work environment that enables business users to stay focused on their jobs.
Establishes a Predictable Environment
By engaging Microsoft Services early, Unilever avoided issues that would have cost time, money, and system outages or slowdowns, resulting in a stable, predictable infrastructure. And thanks to the guidance of the Microsoft Dedicated Support Engineers, Unilever has only needed to contact Microsoft once for help with Active Directory.
“In most cases in a Premier Support engagement, we go in and reduce the number of issues a customer has. In this case, we helped them avoid issues altogether,” says Mark Bebbington, Global Microsoft TAM for Unilever.
With Microsoft Premier Support to help identify and address potential problems before they occurred, Unilever reduced the risk of system downtime and interruption to business users. The improvement in e-mail and system availability enables employees to remain productive.
“Instead of three or four hours of outages each month, the messaging environment has been remarkably stable,” explains Vega. “Using Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, we’ve reached almost 100 percent reliability. I don’t think we would have been able to achieve the success Unilever currently enjoys without Exchange Server 2003.”
Increases IT Team Skill Level
Microsoft Premier Support provided Unilever with extensive knowledge transfer, helping the company’s IT team find the resources and develop the skills to better manage and monitor the new IT infrastructure. “Working hand-in-hand with a Microsoft TAM and Dedicated Support Engineers helped my team feel more confident working with Microsoft technology. Morale has definitely improved, as has our overall knowledge,” states Vega.