Announcing our newest Cloud Pioneer – A Q&A with Vala Afshar & Dan Petlon, Enterasys

December 19, 2011 Appirio

By Sara Campbell

Congrats to our friends at Enterasys! Vala Afshar, Chief Customer Officer and Dan Petlon, Chief Information Officer, are the latest Appirio customers to receive our Cloud Pioneer award. Vala and Dan are quite the dynamic duo and together are paving new roads with their cloud first philosophy and innovative business transformation. Both agreed that receiving the Cloud Pioneer award validates their success and innovation, motivating them to continue to raise the bar.

Enterasys, a Siemens Enterprise Communications Company, is a premier global provider of wired and wireless network infrastructure and security solutions. As a Salesforce customer since 2003, they have taken it upon themselves to build an impressive cloud ecosystem of applications that have truly changed they way Enterasys operates and interacts with customers. The company is engaged with Appirio on a state-of-the-art service entitlements project that is touching all aspects of the business. Earlier this week, I chatted with Vala and Dan about the cloud innovation sweeping across Enterasys and what their future plans entail.

For more detail on how Enterasys is raising the bar, follow Dan (@danpetlon) and Vala (@valaafshar) on Twitter.

Q: Can you tell me a little about Enterasys’s business challenges and why you adopted a ‘Cloud First’ philosophy?

Vala: In the early 2000s we had a multitude of disparate systems and no way of leveraging our knowledge into actionable decisions. We spent way too many cycles managing on-premise solutions. It prompted us to start the transformation to make our business processes better. Initially, we weren’t set on the cloud, but as we began looking for apps that best met our needs, we realized that they were predominantly cloud applications. So in the end, we really began to adopt the cloud for the overall business value it delivered.

Dan: I have a great example for why we went cloud. A few years ago, we upgraded our email system from Microsoft Exchange 2007 to 2010. We spent over a year just getting the environment prepped and ready, and then spent another 3-4 months migrating users. In the end, we essentially got no value out of it and wasted a ton of time and resources. After that, we decided no more new development in-house–it just wasn’t a sound investment. In the same year it took us to prep the Exchange environment for the migration, we would have gotten nine feature-rich releases from Salesforce and would not have had to spend any internal resources on it. We worked to train our existing in-house developers on Force.com, Google App Engine, Siteforce and other platforms, in an effort to be as cloud as possible moving forward.

Q: How has “working in the cloud” changed the way Enterasys does business?

Dan: With Salesforce having such a large ecosystem, we’ve been able to create a single view of our customers and partners with an unprecedented level of transparency. We’ve removed boundaries within the enterprise so that any individual within the company can see across sales, services, supply chain, marketing, professional services–the list goes on. From a services point of view for example, we’ve delivered self-service tools for case management powered by Salesforce. Customers and partners can log-in and submit technical issues, request consultation services, examine performance metrics regarding the quality of their engagement, and even get visibility into the engine room.

Vala: Our goal is to be our customers’ favorite vendor. In order to achieve that, we have to act as a trusted advisor. One way we do that is through the high degree of transparency we have developed. With dashboarding and reporting, we can essentially demonstrate to the customer a real-time view of all engagements at any given point-in-time. The visibility demonstrates value and trust.

Q: What did it take to get from vision to execution?

Dan: One of the best things we did was to achieve some small, early successes and socialize them throughout the company.

Vala: We started with the services organization and were able to show value to other functions within the enterprise. For example, if a case is opened with our call center, Salesforce automatically routes a notification to the sales owner to let them know that customer has an open case. Sales can then work with our services organization to prioritize service delivery and eliminate the element of surprise.

Dan: There is always going to be resistance to change, so we took it upon ourselves to pick the right projects early on and achieve enough success that we could ask users to take that leap of faith with us.

Q: From a user perspective, how has adoption been internally and how is it driving the need for future business innovation?

Vala: We have over 1,100 Salesforce licenses–all of our employees are able to leverage the information in our CRM system and adoption is at 100%.

Dan: Salesforce is not the only cloud application being utilized by the masses. We have about 25 or so cloud apps, including Box.net, Google Apps, GoodData, Marketo, and are constantly expanding as our users become more comfortable and demand grows. As our cloud ecosystem expands and more people touch it, adoption just goes up–they literally can’t live without it. They get a taste and they are hungry for more.

Enterasys Cloud-to-Cloud System Integrations

Vala: The key is integration. Any app by itself would simply be a cool widget, but the fact that all of our cloud apps–and even what is left of our on-premise systems–are integrated together with information that flows back and forth, we get tremendous value out of it.

Q: What are some of the exciting things you are working on for the social enterprise and beyond?

Vala: Social media, just like any other tool, is a means to an end. But being a social enterprise in the BtoB space is harder than in the consumer world, so we’re pushing the envelope here. Adoption is slower and a lot of people don’t get the evolution of where things are going and what it means for a machine to chat. If you want to use social media as a way to transform your business you must start with the people–promote transparency and innovation in an effort to achieve mass collaboration. The social enterprise is evolving where now people and machines can communicate and eventually machines will communicate socially amongst each other.

Dan: My team is already doing something along these lines. When a network device chats that something is not working correctly, that chat gets routed to Salesforce and a help desk ticket is created without any human intervention. The help desk ticket is then chattered to the owner of the account and the engineer who is responsible for fixing the issue. This capability is light years ahead of the market and we’re really excited to be leading the charge.

Vala: One of the next cool things we expect to see is addressing the complexity avalanche that many customers face. There is often a huge delta between what a product is capable of doing and how it is actually being used–and this delta keeps getting bigger as technology advances and more features continue to be added. I’m sure I only use 5% of the functionality my iPhone has. We call this the consumption gap. The goal would be to shift to a preventative, offensive service delivery model using predictive analytics in the cloud. You would profile customer usage of a product coupled with their environment and proactively recommend what next feature they should enable based on their unique needs.

Dan: This new technology would take the configuration from customer switches, upload it to Salesforce and run analysis and make recommendations to customers about what they should turn on, what their security posture is, etc. Maybe they haven’t had a network outage yet, but because of their configuration, they are ripe to have one soon. This information would allow services teams to proactively call them up and address the risk before anything even happens.

Vala: Anytime you can proactively help a customer, you in turn become a trusted advisor and are well on your way to becoming a favorite company to do business with.

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