Suntory consolidates global IT infrastructure to drive digital transformation
8 MINS READ
The challenge: Streamlining IT
The Suntory Group’s corporate philosophy is to create harmony with people and nature.
True to its philosophy, the group strives to enrich people’s lives by offering customers the highest quality products and services, while ensuring it contributes to the realization of a sustainable world that values coexistence with diverse communities and natural environments.
For over 120 years, the company has actively sought uncharted territory by innovating and endeavoring to realize a vibrant society full of life. This stems from the group's bold spirit of ‘Yatte Minahare’ (dream big, take challenges, and never give up), a guiding ethos passed down since its foundation.
The Suntory Group has accelerated the expansion of its global business through strategic mergers and acquisitions, such as the 2014 acquisition of Beam Inc, a leading distilled beverages manufacturer in the US.
At present, the group has some 300 related companies in five regions around the globe, ie, Asia, Oceania, the US, Europe, and Japan. With the growth of its geographic footprint, the group felt the need to capitalize on synergies at global level by consolidating and managing the IT infrastructure across all its enterprises. Prior to this, the group’s IT infrastructure was largely developed and managed independently by each region, operating on divergent platforms that limited the potential for intra-group synergy and hindered business agility. Further, operating systems were also deployed and administered individually by the respective companies.
“Following more than a decade of global expansion driven largely through merger and acquisition, the need to address standardization and optimization of IT infrastructure was a pressing issue in order to drive synergistic effect across the business,” says Takumi Jogo, senior general manager of the IT Strategy Department, Digital Transformation Division, at Suntory Holdings Limited. “To tackle this issue, starting in 2016, we held multiple discussions with CIOs from each group company. As a result, we decided to start endeavors with consolidation of our data centers, as it was the easiest place to start from a business perspective. In October 2017, we held a conference in Tokyo, pulling together our CIOs from each group company to discuss and determine overall direction of the group's transformation to a next-generation IT infrastructure at the global level.”
Thus, Suntory embarked on consolidation of its global IT infrastructure. The ‘Suntory Island 2 (SI2)’ project kicked off in April 2018, with the aim of achieving a globally standardized, next-generation IT core.
The solution: Next-Gen IT infrastructure
As the project progressed, significant changes arose in Suntory Group’s business environment, calling for an acceleration in its digital transformation (DX) initiatives across various fields.
To consolidate and optimize operations, it became essential to standardize its core platform and move to an integrated operations model, thus making the SI2 project all the more important for business agility.
“We initially started the SI2 project on a defensive mode, but in order to meet the ever-increasing IT demands, we switched to a more aggressive mindset, creating an agile and flexible IT infrastructure capable of supporting the Suntory Group’s future DX initiatives,” says Mr Jogo. “In order to achieve this, we, of course, had to adopt a cloud-based solution. Moreover, we adopted a hybrid-cloud solution comprising scalable public cloud and flexible private-cloud, which was key to fulfilling our needs.”
In addition, “We were determined to consolidate and standardize operations at a global level, rather than at a regional level, by establishing a center of excellence where our trusted partners can manage global operation of the SI2 platform on a 24x7 basis,” says Mr Jogo.
To achieve success in the project, greatest priority was given to reaching consensus among group companies. Suntory Group holds a biannual CIO conference, where issues and ideas are discussed thoroughly until consensus is reached. The respective group CIOs banded together under a “One Suntory” mantra to get things done. Expectations from executive management for the SI2 project were high, too, and the team were expected to report regularly on the progress.
Yoshihiko Kato was in charge of the SI2 project in Japan, considered to be the largest portion of the project. Mr Kato is a director and the senior general manager of the IT Infrastructure Service Department at Suntory System Technology Limited, a company responsible for the Suntory Group’s IT functions. He says, “Naturally, we had to meet the goals agreed to with the group companies without compromise. At the same time, we had to minimize downtime during migration, and ensure stability to critical business applications post migration, such as ordering, manufacturing, and shipping applications. We racked our brains to come up with the best approach to migration for reducing downtime, and the best architecture to enable stable operations post migration.”
Tomoki Koyama, General Manager, IT Infrastructure Service Department, Suntory System Technology Limited, who played a key frontline role in the project in Japan, said: “During the course of the project, we faced challenges and collectively overcame them with focus on business agility, and ensuring mistakes were not repeated. Further, given the sheer volume of the migration, great care was taken to ensure members were not needlessly overloaded.”
Ideal state for high-level global operations
Suntory Holdings Limited adopted painstakingly careful measures in selecting a partner.
After multiple discussions with several vendors, the company decided to entrust this vital task to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). In addition to its proven track record in providing global support for the IT infrastructure of Beam Suntory Inc, TCS’ global capabilities were also recognized in its selection as strategic partner for the SI2 project.
“At first, we felt some gaps in Suntory Japan’s way of operation and the model proposed by TCS using its global experience,” says Mr Kato. “It took quite some time for the reconciliation, but TCS’ efforts in presenting the global way of operation and its merits definitely benefited the project subsequently.”
Reflecting on the project, Mr Koyama said: “Through the countless face-to-face discussions with TCS’ members, it became clear to us that each and every one of them were dedicated to getting the project delivered on schedule. We deeply appreciate this attitude, demonstrated by TCS’ management and each of its members associated with the project.”
This was a very large project for Suntory, involving more than 200 members from the group in Japan, and more than 100 from its overseas group companies. TCS and Tata Consultancy Services Japan (TCS Japan) supported the project as a strategic partner by leveraging our global know-how and expertise.
The benefits: Foundation for evolving IT infrastructure to meet business needs
Suntory Holdings Limited, along with TCS, conducted assessment at each subsidiary as part of the execution planning phase, to finalize the onboarding of subsidiaries to the SI2 platform.
TCS built the foundation for the SI2 platform, adopting a hybrid multi-cloud solution powered by TCS’ Enterprise Cloud. This made it possible to meet the customer’s growing business needs, achieved the aim of IT infrastructure standardization, and enabled global operation by a single partner (TCS).
In August 2020, the first phase of migration in Japan was completed, and the global operation of SI2 platform started. Further, in January 2021, TCS successfully completed the migration of Beam Suntory Inc, leveraging the knowhow it acquired through the project in Japan. Despite COVID-19, the migration went forward smoothly.
The SI2 project helped Suntory realize its vision of 'One Suntory'. The group will continue its migration in the remaining regions, and it plans to finish the project by 2022.
“In future, we are looking to capitalize on modern application development, which is garnering much attention these days, to adopt microservices and build an architecture where the data is collaborated on more smoothly,” says Mr Koyama as he shares their goals. “We are committed to further enhancements so that we can confidently say that the foundation is ready for future DX initiatives of the Suntory Group.”
Speaking about future ambitions, Mr Kato says, “We would like to take this global SI2 platform to a level beyond anyone’s imagination. With the help of TCS, we will explore new technologies and methods of operation, and deepen our understanding of their digital solutions and expertise in order to achieve the global DX aspirations of the Suntory Group.
“Currently, aside from the field of IT infrastructure, the Suntory Group has seen an increasing number of projects in the field of systems and applications that run on infrastructures. For example, the organization of operations on a global basis, and the rolling out of multinational projects,” says Mr Jogo. “In fact, the purpose of our project this time was to help achieve these more smoothly. Leveraging the foundation that the SI2 platform provides, we will achieve new business needs that simply didn’t exist before. I have consistently told our management that this project is going to be the foundation of the Suntory Group’s ever-evolving IT infrastructure needs, so we look forward to the continued support of TCS as our trusted strategic partner.”
This SI2 project was selected as one of the top 10 in the Suntory Group’s internal awards in 2020, out of hundreds of projects nominated. According to the Suntory Group, products that are successful in the market are chosen in most cases for this award, and it is extremely rare for this kind of project to be recognized. This shows the group's high expectations toward the project. TCS and TCS Japan will continue to support this important project, leveraging our global expertise and technological strengths.
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