Growth is good; it’s the mantra for both young humans and for business.
But there can be challenges.
If children can’t get access to good nutrition they may fail to thrive; if business grows without strong foundations it may falter. Both issues need to be addressed.
Milk has long been recognised for the important role it plays in the healthy growth of infants and children, but some have experienced problems digesting milk and milk products. It is a challenge that The a2 Milk Company is keen to address.
The company was founded in New Zealand in 2000 by Dr Corran McLachlan, who had learned that some people react differently to the A1 and A2 beta casein protein types found in milk. Conventional milk contain both A1 and A2 protein types but a2 Milktm products naturally contain only the A2 protein type. Many people say this helps them overcome the challenges of digesting conventional milk products with both A1 and A2 proteins.
Dual listed in Australia and New Zealand the company has grown rapidly. Revenues have grown fivefold between 2014 and 2017 when the company reported $NZ550 million worth of sales as demand continued to rise in ANZ, China, the US and UK.
Fuelling that growth has been rising consumer awareness, rapid global expansion and diversification. It has transitioned from a predominantly fresh milk business and moved into more complex product areas such as infant formula and toddler milks.
Corporate growth is good – but can pose challenges. To grow swiftly and securely organisations need access to up to date and accessible information systems that can scale and grow to meet the changing needs of a growing global enterprise.
Steven Franklin, ITDM Manager, for The a2 Milk Company explains that the rapid organic growth of the company had left little time to stop and take stock of its information technology needs. But with growth firmly on the agenda the time came for a technology review and refresh.
“When I started, The a2 Milk Company completely outsourced IT. So, it was a little bit difficult to get some sort of coherency across the business about where we wanted to go, what we wanted IT to look like in the future,” he says.
What was clear was what The a2 Milk Company needed to succeed, and that was; “A scalable solution that was able to ramp up to meet demands within the company, both locally and globally.” In short it needed a modern workplace.
There were clear stability and scale issues associated with the earlier information systems that Steven was determined to address as a priority.
Working with Microsoft partner, Quorum – The a2 Milk Company has deployed Microsoft 365 an end to end solution for the modern workplace that is unique in its ability to cover platform, collaboration, security and devices.
“We migrated across from a hosted platform to Microsoft 365. We’ve put on Enterprise Mobility and Security, which is now up and running as well. We are in the process of migrating all our servers to Azure, we’ve got SharePoint trialling with various departments, and we’re in the process of implementing AD Premium for single sign on methodology.”
It’s given Steven confidence that staff can be productive and secure on any device anywhere in the world with the platform regulating access and offering secure single sign on.
The focus for The a2 Milk Company has always been on satisfying the dairy and nutrition needs of consumers around the world. Information systems were recognised as useful – but they weren’t the focus of the business initially.
However to ensure a stable platform for future global growth a fresh approach was needed, because as Steven explains; “With the pace of growth, we had to ensure the technical environment was stable, keeping everything up and running and available for the end users.”
“Microsoft 365 has provided the stability and performance for end users on mail and integration with mobile devices.
“We were also able to utilise the Office 365 licences for iOS for our field sales team and they’re able to incorporate that with the SharePoint solution. “
Having addressed the stability and reach issues with the cloud based solution Steven is now exploring how Microsoft solutions will help The a2 Milk Company personnel collaborate locally and globally. Leveraging Azure as the platform has eliminated silos as users will now store all their data using OneDrive in the Azure cloud where it can be easily accessed, which also promotes collaboration.
Microsoft 365 provides a scalable enterprise grade collaboration platform while Azure provides a resilient, trusted and secure infrastructure as a service with global reach.
The move to Microsoft cloud has already allowed the business to optimise various business processes leading to an increase in staff productivity. It means, for example, says Steven, that field sales teams are able to log their store visits and inventory, and also use that data for dashboard reports for executives back in head office to facilitate and enhance decision making.
Steven is even more optimistic about the potential once the SharePoint trial is complete and the solution more widely deployed.
Then, he says; “The real collaboration kicks into high gear. We’ve got a lot of staff members across multiple sites and multiple regions that all work closely together with a common goal to make sure that the a2 Milktm proposition succeeds. “
While a2 Milk’s success has been most pronounced in Australia, its future is on a global stage. Steven sees the Australian transformation as the test bed for a global deployment.
While the solution has been developed in Australia, the intent is that the US, UK, China and New Zealand offices will follow suit.
“We would then also like to hope that we can have a standard environment in place so that as the company does grow into other new regions we’re ready to be able to just drop in and have that new region not encumbered by IT but assisted by it. That way we’re able to continue to grow with agility uninhibited by technical constraints,” says Steven.
“All of the new features that Microsoft seems to be rolling out – on a near perpetual basis lately, – really seems to add a lot of value to the solution. Whether you need that component right now or you can see a use for it in the future, there’s always something new coming out that will be a benefit to the business. You always know where you’re going to stand from a stability point of view as well. “
From a workplace and process point of view there are additional benefits. “We have multiple solutions in place where we’re looking to streamline and create a new process and a new workflow that enables everyone to focus on the job at hand, not how to do the job.
“So, we’ll have, for instance, sales teams taking stock of items and scheduling appointments with various vendors and retailers, cataloguing data and then sending all that information back which can be collated locally, and recirculated in a continual loop.
“It’s really about keeping that live data, keeping nimble, staying on top of things, as we continue to expand.”
The approach has also delivered The a2 Milk Company with enterprise visibility and accountability; “from the ground up, from the paddock to field sales, through to management and to the Board, we can continue to support the company to make quick decisions and act upon them.”
Rigour and security have also been enhanced as Steven says the solution is meeting users’ needs and reducing risk.
The IT foundations for the future are now in place with Azure and Microsoft 365 but Steven says that continual innovation is a part of The a2 Milk Company’s DNA – it always has been in terms of its products, and it now is with regard to information systems as well.
His roadmap includes rolling out Windows 10 across the business to provide a standardised secure platform, refreshing end user hardware, leveraging InTune to optimise enterprise mobility and utilising the full extent of the Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise E3 solution.
“I have become more aware of the diversity of Microsoft applications within Microsoft 365. It is enabling solutions for our growing needs whether it be Microsoft Access or Microsoft Forms, we are meeting a wider range of needs through a more streamlined environment.
The value that is being liberated from Microsoft 365 continues to grow and Microsoft Teams is also getting traction in the business”, says Steven.
Just as The a2 Milk Company and its milk products are increasingly in demand worldwide to support healthy bodies and to promote growth, Steven and his team have a platform that has been structured to support current and future enterprise needs.
Growth is indeed good.