“Potentially inaccurate data processing resulted in extended times to close the books. We experienced delays in delivering information to the CFO, CEO, head of sales and head of product to show what our customers were buying, what was working, and what was profitable.
“We knew that to meet our goal of doubling our revenues in five years, we would need to eliminate the costs and long timescales of manual working.”
Embarking on a real business transformation
Akamai started on the journey to transform its business systems and quickly realized that engaging an experienced partner was essential to success. As a company offering always-on, reliable internet delivery services, Akamai wanted to change its systems ‘in-flight,’ with very limited operational impact.
Kate Prouty continues, “We debated whether we would simply go for a technical upgrade or re-architect the whole system. Once we knew that only a complete redesign would give us what we wanted, we knew we needed people who had done this before.”
Kate Prouty explains the long-term strategy behind the choices: “We wanted to make sure we built a system that not only met the needs of the business now, but also supported our vision for the next ten years. We understood that we needed a partner that would challenge us on how we did things, and advise us on best practices and on better ways to operate.”
“At the time, Akamai was very much a do-it-yourself company. One of the biggest hills to climb was explaining why it was important to engage with external advisors, and that we would achieve a positive ROI.
“With a lot of support from our Chief Information Officer, Kumud Kalia, we invested time in building a business case, and formed a relationship with IBM Global Business Services. The Chief Financial Officer, Jim Benson, became the project’s executive sponsor with executive support from our Chief HR Officer, Jim Gemmell, and our EVP of Platform Engineering, Robert Blumofe.”
Kate Prouty continues, “We selected IBM Global Business Services, because the team demonstrated an impressive track record of many successful Oracle implementations in companies of very similar geographic scale and size. In addition, we felt that IBM would be able to bring fresh new thinking to Akamai.”
Akamai chose to migrate to the latest Oracle applications, including the Oracle Financials suite that incorporates general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, purchasing and procurement.
Project Pillar, as it became known, spanned a global implementation of 15 months, with a single go-live for 31 countries – including appropriate legal localizations for France, India, Israel, Japan and Poland. The IBM Global Business Services team looked at every aspect of Akamai’s corporate operations, recommending ways to maximize the benefits of the Oracle solutions.
In particular, IBM worked on creating the new and more detailed Chart of Accounts that would enable Akamai to match its transactional data to the way the company now operates. IBM and Akamai created a joint Executive Steering Committee, involving senior executives and project sponsors, to help standardize processes and systems at all levels of the organization.
Kate Prouty picks up the story, “The IBM team came with a very high level of credibility based on their experience of many Oracle implementations, and they really did push us, backed up by support from our governance and steering committee. The IBM folk were exceptionally knowledgeable and had enormous experience of this type of project.
“While there were certainly some challenges, debates and some fiery conversations along the way, IBM Global Business Services guided us through a vision of how something should work, and how we could benefit from Oracle solutions.”
To manage the global workforce, Akamai additionally implemented Oracle Human Resources, including employee self-service, analytics, and Oracle Fusion Compensation.
Kate Prouty comments, “The Oracle self-service applications will remove layers of paperwork, by enabling a portal where employees can manage their personal information. Additionally, managers will be able to process work-force transactions, including pay raises and transfers to other departments, without engaging HR business partners at every turn. Self-service gives employees greater control and ownership of their personal data, and eliminates a great deal of paperwork for the HR teams, while managers are able to execute key tasks without waiting for HR department response. In a growing company, HR efficiency forms an essential part of streamlining management and employee satisfaction.”
With further assistance from IBM Global Business Services, Akamai is also rolling out Oracle Taleo talent management solutions.
“Recruitment and talent acquisition is critical for a growing company. The Taleo solutions will be tightly integrated with Oracle E-Business Suite and our Hyperion solution, giving us an enterprise-wide view of recruitment, and our budgeting and planning for talent.
“IBM Global Business Services has stepped up and provided a unique approach in partnering with Akamai to help us meet the needs of our booming business.”
Laying foundations for future excellence
So what’s changed, now that the Oracle solutions are in place? How will Akamai benefit, and what improvements will its customers see?
“Our goal is to continue to grow, and the digital transformation that has the biggest impact was modifying our Chart of Accounts, to collect transactional and financial data to enable automated business reporting,” adds Kate Prouty. “We improved processes around accounts payable, accounts receivable, invoicing process, and much more.
“The essential change is capturing more significant and relevant information. This greater detail has created the foundation that will enable spreadsheet-based reporting and analysis processes to be replaced by automated reporting. The reports include the key metrics and dimensions – such as revenues, customers, locations, products and more – that will enable deeper insight into exactly how the business is running. As Akamai continues to grow, this enriched data capability will provide the basis for future improvements to critical processes such as invoicing, time tracking, fixed asset tracking, software capitalization, and talent management.
“We are much more efficient; we are able to close the books and analyze the data to help the CFO and the CEO prepare earnings calls, based on a planned process. In turn, we are able to serve our customers more effectively, with detailed information on service usage and fees charged, and handle their enquiries more efficiently with information always available.”
Looking back at the project, Kate Prouty identifies her key concerns and how IBM Global Business Services was able to help Akamai succeed: “Many people told us that working with external consultants is a nightmare leading to ‘change request hell’ that costs 20 percent more than budgeted. With IBM Global Business Services, we had the exact opposite experience: we built a great relationship, and IBM did outstanding creative work to keep within budget – always willing to go above and beyond.
“The project was jointly managed and an enormous success. IBM was truly committed to getting things done and generating the best possible result for Akamai.”
The partnership with IBM extended globally, matching Akamai’s own presence, with services supplied from India, Japan, and Poland. Based on mutual transparency, honesty and commitment, Akamai and IBM built a long-term relationship.
Senior executives at Akamai were fully enrolled, which was very much seen as a business program rather than an IT project, with a shared governance structure that included vice presidents of finance and HR.
Kate Prouty concludes, “We established the global nature of the project, and IBM was able to put in place the necessary structure with dedicated resources. IBM insisted that we do the right thing from the very beginning of the project, which helped Akamai build out a framework for success to ensure that the Oracle solutions will support the next phase in our growth.”