How BMC Software slimmed down its global IT

Tech chief, Scott Crowder, discusses how he brought the veteran software company’s internal tech into the 21st century

“It was like the cobbler’s son had no shoes.”

With tongue firmly in cheek, this is how BMC Software’s CIO Scott Crowder describes the $2 billion software firm’s internal IT infrastructure when he landed there in 2011.

“When I started, and I hate to say this, there wasn’t even a Wi-Fi service in place.

“I came in and saw there was a lot to do with the employee’s overall experience and really bringing the company into the 21st century with regards to various software-as-a-service apps as well as consolidation of our data centre infrastructure,” he says.

Since then, BMC Software has eliminated 32 labs and data centres and recycled 24 tractor trailers worth of legacy hardware during its global tech transformation. BMC’s Houston, Texas head office has a look and feel that Crowder says “rivals anything you would see at Google”.

“We’re down to four data centres now,” he says. “It could have been anything from an IT closet with 450 square feet all the way up a floor in a ‘class A’ building with 15,000 square feet or even multiple floors.”

With only four labs and data centres remaining worldwide, the company has effectively wiped out a megawatt of power that would be used to drive these facilities.

BMC had acquired many companies over its long history, but never rationalised its data centre footprint.

“When I started at BMC, we had 62,000 square feet of labs and data centres for research and development. You can imagine the dozens of companies we have bought over our 36-year history with their own labs and data centres.”

Crowder created a reference hardware architecture and blueprint for how the company would move forward and provide its R&D organisations with the assets they needed to build products.

“In the past, they would get infrastructure and keep it forever – if it had a blinking green light, they loved it, whether it was five or 15 years old.”

BMC also previously built its own data centres, which prohibited the company from moving or strongly negotiating its facilities contracts. To overcome this, the company migrated to Tier 3 and Tier 4 data centres in Phoenix and Austin in the United States and in India.

“We have an on-premise data centre in Tel Aviv, Israel, which we will get rid of in the next six months. It’s all about building the right reference architecture and low power utilisation,” Crowder says.

"If you can wipe out a megawatt in 55,000 square feet of data centre and that’s a pretty notable accomplishment, and do it without any service interruption, and while you are doing it, increase overall capacity by 30 or 40 per cent while performance goes up by 40 or 50 per cent. We are now saving $5 million a year in power and space.”

Cloud and collaboration moves

Crowder says 80 per cent of BMC’s business applications are now in the cloud. The company runs a mix of Oracle and Siebel ERP systems and is also a big Salesforce user.

“We have very much a cloud-first strategy,” he says. “We wanted to make sure we gave employees the ability to work anywhere in the world and have access to the latest technologies that are evolving on a monthly basis.

“There is always going to be some on-premise [applications] – there are legacy apps that will eventually migrate over time, but it will be a while before we get off all our on-premise back office applications.”

In 2013, the company has also transformed the way it communicates by replacing a very old Avaya phone system – costing $7 million annually – to Skype for Business and Polycom services. The move has also enabled the company to dump third-party conference calling services, which were costing $4.5 million per year.

“In the past, we would average five to six million minutes [of calls] per month and now just through the ease of use and essentially the highly collaborative nature of the technology, we are up to 10 to 11 million minutes per month.

“We came up with a vision of how to get rid of phones … utilisation has gone through the roof. Also travel costs have gone down by 20 per cent in the past several quarters. People can get the job done anywhere in the world, whatever platform they are on,” he says.

Crowder says the company has now built collaborative environments in Houston, Santa Clara and in Pune, India much like what would be seen in Silicon Valley.

“The majority of our large offices have been converted to ‘offices of the future.’ It all comes down to the employee experience; millennials are part of the workforce now, they want to work wherever they want.”

A different CIO role

Crowder moved into the CIO role at BMC in January 2014. About six months ago, his reporting line shifted from former CFO Steve Goddard and existing senior VP, business operations, Steve Goddard to chief employee experience officer, Monika Fahlbusch.

Fahlbusch, who started at BMC in February, has ownership of the company’s shared services whether it’s HR facilities or IT, Crowder says.

“It’s a new philosophy. More and more people will switch to this model in the future because you don’t want to have the employees, HR, facilities – all this stuff has to work together to really create a safe and friendly environment that you want for your employee base,” he says.

“This is fairly unique right now but when you talk about that digital workplace and digital workspace concept, keeping employees is paramount for every large enterprise and if you are putting the employee top of mind when you are doing this, I think that attrition will go down.”

Crowder adds that typically CIOs will report into the CFO because the CIO is “out of control.”

“Spending too much money is not being fiscally responsible in some cases or the CFO really wants to keep track on where the dollars are going. Most IT organisations are perceived as cost centre and we are trying to change that perception at BMC.”