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October 15, 2010

Sowing the seeds of success

Crop protection and biotechnology firm Syngenta was registering nearly 4,000 new software requests each month. Steve Evans looks at what they did to overcome this time-consuming and costly issue

By Steve Evans

Syngenta employs over 25,000 people in 150 sites across 90 countries. It has around 250 applications across its business – some licensed and some purpose built in-house. If a user wanted to install a new bit of software on their computer a request would have to be placed directly with the IT team.

Syngenta 1E

Brooks Truitt, Syngenta global service delivery manager at the time, said that this was a time-consuming endeavour and meant that Syngenta was using highly experienced technical administrators to handle simple requests for software, instead of focusing on second and third level support issues and strategic projects.

"It was like asking master mechanics to change the oil on a car," recalls Truitt. "Users had to make direct requests to the helpdesk team, who would then arrange to have the software approved and then installed. It was effectively a manual process."

As well as the sheer amount of time these requests were taking, it was also proving to be a costly way to deploy new software. "Our teams were handling on average around 3,700 requests a month," Truitt says. "We calculated that each request was costing us between $30-$50 to handle."

The company rolled out Shopping from 1E, which provides applications on demand through a self-service portal. Shopping enables desk-based and mobile workers to visit an online portal to find the software they need to use, order it and then download it straight to their desktop, without involving the IT helpdesk. "Where sign-off is necessary, for example for third-party licensed software, Shopping automatically generates approval requests to Site Service Managers or department heads," says Truitt.

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As well as streamlining the software delivery process, Syngenta also reduces costs associated with rolling out new software, says Truitt: "There were significant savings to be made by allowing our users to search for, order and then receive the applications they needed by themselves. In fact, with an average of $40 saved per request, we’re saving approximately $148,000 per month, which comes to about $1.77m per year."

One of the more confusing aspects of Syngenta’s previous software rollout method was that even though much of the software was used only within certain departments, new requests had to go through the central IT system. "Our Seeds division uses a number of different applications than our Crop Protection division," says Truitt, "but each service manager would have to make a request to the central IT team every time they wanted to make a new piece of software available to their users. But because those requests were being auctioned centrally, that sometimes meant a two or three day delay before the software was made available for users to download locally. It was incredibly frustrating for the service managers and for their users."

Syngenta 1E

Using Shopping Syngenta has basically decentralised administration – shifting power to local service managers, enabling them to decide for themselves which applications would be published to their users, which the company says has resulted in faster and better decision making.

"The central IT team still has overall control, but now local administrators can decide what applications their teams need and add them to the portal themselves, so there are no longer any delays," says Truitt. "And they can define local sign-off procedures and processes, which better fit their management and users."

Going forward Syngenta hopes to add additional features, like multi-language support, deeper integration with third party tools and application rental features to further improve the software deployment process. "We want to start using Shopping in conjunction with Microsoft Configuration Manager Metering to support our new Software Asset Management initiative," say Truitt, "so we can make sure that the software being downloaded by our users is actually being used so we can make more efficient use of the licences we have."

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