Divestiture from largest catering company in the world

The seamless transition from a complex global environment ensures business-as-usual at Empact Group.
Issued by Cloud Essentials
Johannesburg, Aug 5, 2020

The Compass Group is one of the largest food services and facilities company in the world, operating in over 50 countries and providing services in over 30 000 client locations.

As of March 2019, Compass Group Southern Africa shareholding was acquired by Thebe Investment Corporation (TIC), the resulting company becoming Empact Group, specialists in providing quality food catering, cleaning, hygiene and pest control services.

The acquisition meant the new Empact entity would have to create its own independent IT environment, yet achieve this in such a way that its workforce would experience no negative impact in terms of its day-to-day operations.

Having previously undergone a successful digital transformation with Microsoft Gold partner Cloud Essentials, the South African division contacted them again to see if they could help with the move from the Compass Group Microsoft 365 environment into their own tenancy.

Maintaining user transparency

The migration was phased to take place over the course of several months. Throughout this period, Cloud Essential’s prime goal was to ensure business as usual for Empact.

This included fault-free e-mail exchange, meeting scheduling and document sharing between all staff members, regardless of whether they had already been moved into the new Empact Group Office 365 tenant, or were still part of the main Compass Group domain.

“An option where the user input was minimal was important in our business, as we are a widely distributed business and we had time constraints for the move. In addition, most of our staff are involved in day-to-day operations and any downtime would have a significant impact on our services to our customers,” explained Alan Quinn, CFO at Empact Group.

Coping with complexity

Most migrations come with some degree of complexity; however, ensuring a seamless switchover was not going to be straightforward as the South African Compass entity had three domains to migrate and a number of systems that were not running the optimal operating system version.

Added to this, many staff were working remotely, therefore limiting any opportunity for physical intervention when activating the switch-over.

There were also 13 separate historic businesses that had to be accounted for when it came to supporting e-mail traffic from its long-standing customer base.

According to George Amoils, Commercial Director at Cloud Essentials: “Binary Tree was our optimal partner for both the migration of the Outlook e-mail and OneDrive for Business workloads, and for transitioning vital infrastructure. Our experience of working with Binary Tree for over 15 years gave us the confidence it would address the inherent complexity in completing this migration successfully.”

Migrating Active Directory

A core component of setting up a separate IT environment for Empact Group was the creation of a new Active Directory (AD) service into which all existing user profiles, servers and other objects needed to be migrated.

This would ensure staff had immediate access to all their regular resources and applications after they’d logged onto the new environment, and not simply appear as though they were a brand new (and therefore, very unhappy) user.

Binary Tree’s AD Pro solution allowed the AD migration to take place seamlessly, and enabled all three domains to be migrated from one central console.

Non-optimal operating systems and remote users

Once the new AD had been commissioned, the process of getting servers and client systems to switch across also proved to be a challenge owing to a mix of older platforms and a highly distributed workforce.

Explained Dean Gilau, Cloud Architect at Cloud Essentials: “For platforms running older operating systems, even though the software could not do a full migration, we were able to use certain functionality to assist in making the manual cutover process to the new AD server easier. AD Pro also allowed users to move across to the new network without being in the office.”

Throughout the migration process, Binary Tree’s ability to keep e-mail addresses and calendars in sync meant staff could e-mail each other and schedule appointments – regardless of whether they were still on the old domain or had been migrated to the new tenant.

Likewise, address re-writing services ensured the outside world would still be able to contact staff at Empact Group using the now legacy ‘@compass-group.co.za’ address or, indeed, any of the previously acquired company e-mail addresses.

Highly efficient process with cost savings

Along with a seamless migration, the project surpassed the group's expectations of the timelines required for completion. This had the effect of reducing costs by requiring only one month of Microsoft licence overlap.

Danie du Preez, Senior Systems Engineer at Empact Group, confirms: “The tools used during the migration simplified and streamlined the process. This freed up time for us to attend other concerns as we paved the way for our move to Azure.”

Working with Cloud Essentials

The project was managed end to end by the Cloud Essentials project team, whose service included daily progress updates to the Empact IT team and a weekly summary for other key stakeholders.

The move also included switching over various servers that were still residing on-premises. These hosted other critical line-of-business applications, including Empact’s business intelligence and analytics systems, their payroll application and staff training platform.

Concluded Quinn: “This was a smooth migration with very little impact on the business during the changeover; we would definitely use Cloud Essentials and the Binary Tree toolset again if we need to do another migration!”

Over time, the group’s intention is to cloudify these servers and introduce other new technologies that will help streamline its business and enhance customer service.

“The services we provide mean our business is pretty much a 24x7 operation, so any break or downtime in key line of business systems as we migrated would not have been acceptable” – Alan Quinn, CFO, Empact Group.