Background

As a wholly-owned subsidiary of Specialty Steel Works, Incorporated (SSWI), Niagara LaSalle Corporation is North America’s largest independent cold-finished steel bar producer, delivering the widest and most diverse product range and technical capability for engineered cold-finished bars in the world.

Situation

Niagara LaSalle and two other SSWI subsidiaries share a single IT team for both hardware and software administration and support.  They often travel to each site during critical projects, like ERP updates. Since the team is small and stretched thin, projects and critical processes were often put on hold while people were between airports. If somebody needed to move a change, even to the testing environment, they had to wait for the IT team to find time in their travel schedules and daily duties. “Because the process was so manual, we couldn’t offload our work to anyone else. Making everyone wait for us was a huge waste of everyone’s time,” says Mohan Kottieh, ERP System Manager at Niagara LaSalle.

During a migration to a new ERP system for all of the facilities, the team also discovered that their IT system wasn’t in compliance, causing the auditors’ sample set to grow exponentially, along with the cost of the audit. Niagara LaSalle also relied on a third-party consulting firm to do most of their customizations, which meant contractors from the agency had root and administrative access to the production environment.   “We had to find a way to both manage and document the development process,” says Kottieth. “ The auditors and Management weren’t happy that there weas no segregation of duties, so we had to change that.”

The team looked for a solution that could:

  • Provide full auditing and control of their pipeline, with segregated responsibilities
  • Make it easier to hand off tasks to others
  • Drive end user self service
  • Reduce or eliminate reliance on outside vendors to manage customizations
  • Eliminate their bottlenecks
  • Give executives visibility of the entire process

Solution

Initially the team was simply trying to satisfy the auditors and to control their skyrocketing audit costs. One of their vendors recommended ElectricFlow from Electric Cloud. Kottieh initially looked at ElectricFlow as yet another tool the IT team had to manage in their overly-busy schedules.  “We saw ElectricFlow as a way to give us some automation and auditing, but we weren’t completely sold on the idea,” says Kottieh. “Then during the actual implementation, our eyes were opened to how easy it would be to solve many of the other problems we had. We were blown away and it opened up all sorts of possibilities in our minds!”

Results

The team began by modeling their pipeline and environments to make the process repeatable and consistent. They then used ElectricFlow’s extensive access control language to ensure their users and contractors had the ability to do their jobs but stayed compliant at the same time.

Now, once an initial payload is created and verified with ElectricFlow, it is published in a self-service catalog for other IT team members or other departments to propagate the changes across their Development, Testing, and Production environments.  Audits are now a matter of running a single report as ElectricFlow automatically logs changes, approvals, and promotions through the pipeline.

“We now have this repeatable process that anyone can follow.  We know that if the change works in the development environment, it will successfully propagate to the others, because all three environments are identical,” says Kottieh. “All anyone has to do is click a button to authorize the change. We manage the permissions, too, and ElectricFlow automatically documents who did what and when. That was huge for us!”

ElectricFlow has eliminated Niagara LaSalle’s Release and Audit Anxiety:

  • Guaranteed segregation of duties and logging drastically reduced audit sample sets and costs
  • Releases are now repeatable by anyone with the right permissions, including 3rd party contractors
  • The IT team is no longer a release bottleneck
  • Executives’ have personalized dashboards for instant updates on releases

Kottieh adds, “At first we were really unsure about the value ElectricFlow would bring. But now that we’re using it, it has proven to be much more than what we ever imagined it could be!”