The chemical and energy industry is realizing that cloud is critical to competing in the current market. In the past, reluctance to move to cloud was based on the financial structure of industries like chemical and energy that have high capitalization with assets having significant longevity. This perspective limited appreciation for cost benefits available to other industries that found the movement of operations to an OPEX model beneficial.
“Today, the move to cloud is no longer based on the singular objective for cost reduction. The advent of digital technologies, such as IoT and intelligent maintenance, has created a compelling business case for chemical and energy incumbents to replace people intensive tasks with streamlined, technology-led solutions. This can only be facilitated in the cloud,” said Siki Giunta, EVP & Head of CloudSMART, at HCLTech.
Organizations in chemical and energy can now capture data from virtual assets, such as IoT devices, for example, making production more efficient and creating safer environments in traditionally hazardous workplaces, such as offshore oil drills. The advantage of IoT has further implications for driving innovation that will enable sustainability agendas. This data driven IoT, however, can only be executed at scale on a cloud platform or architecture.
There are significant challenges to embracing these new technologies and ways of working in the cloud. Sasol wants to quickly adopt cloud models and is choosing to partner with HCLTech to implement cloud to support their business transformation.
Commenting on the relationship, Satish Nrusimhadevara, VP & Business Head of South Africa, at HCLTech said: “The relationship between Sasol and HCLTech started seven years ago. It has evolved over the years and turned into an increasingly strategic partnership, where both organizations have invested heavily to deliver results across the value chain of various IT and business stakeholders.”
He added: “Today, HCLTech manages the critical infrastructure for Sasol and is a very active partner for them in transforming to a digital business. Based on our principles of engagement and relationships, and the value delivered over the years, Sasol’s leadership invested their trust in HCLTech to be their transformation partner on this cloud journey.”
The cloud challenges
Organizations from traditional industries, those industries not ‘born in the cloud’, have several hurdles they need to overcome.
First, they often carry huge levels of technical debt resulting from monolithic legacy systems. Simply identifying data sources across disparate silos is a monumental task.
Second, traditional organizations lack cloud delivery and operational skills. At the beginning of a transformation the IT staff is unfamiliar with the agile way of working required in the cloud, and they need to rapidly adapt their risk and compliance standards to reflect the new virtual environment where the business will live in the future. These organizations struggle to adopt cloud operating models unless they have an experienced partner.
Sasol 2.0: A strong beginning
Sasol is at the beginning of its cloud journey – Sasol 2.0. The organization has experimented in this virtual environment, but their ambition is to embrace the cloud at scale. This is a natural evolution for their maturing IT function. Beginning this business transformation by adopting cloud at scale presents an entirely different operating model and is often considered the greatest challenge for a CIO leading IT through the journey.
“Two years ago, HCLTech developed a business case aligning to the Sasol 2.0 framework with a clear view of enhancing their customer experiences, increasing innovation, and reducing cost. The main objective of the business case was to enable Sasol to realize the benefits of adopting modern platforms, such as the cloud, and be more agile in achieving the changes that would align IT and the business,” explained Nrusimhadevara.
Sasol was eager to take the next step - understanding the business case and cost analytics, specifically the financial impact of workload migration and cloud adoption. Sasol IT began to develop a cost analysis – comparing the cost of modernizing applications to run in the cloud with the value the applications would provide to the business. By getting IT functions collaborating with Business Technology (BT) to align on the Sasol cloud program, they concluded on a pragmatic approach that would leave them in a better position than the traditional ‘lift, shift and match’ approach. Modernizing the technology of legacy platforms was also carried out to avoid bringing unidentified technical debt on the cloud journey.
HCLTech helped Sasol to create a program that would limit risk by introducing an experienced cloud provider - Microsoft Azure. Then, HCLTech introduced new cloud delivery and operational skills and began integrating them into the Sasol organization. The azure services used included Azure Virtual Machines, Azure Data Lake Storage Gen2, Azure SQL Database, Windows Servers, Active Directory, Azure Network and Security. This step addressed the cloud skills challenge by bringing in technical human resources and laying the foundation for an agile way of working, a critical success factor for the transformation.
By developing a communication and adoption strategy that would bring together IT and the business, the tension that sometimes exists during a major change could be minimized. Sasol’s IT organization worked with HCLTech to clearly communicate the plan and the anticipated benefits to the business and involve them to identify compliance and regulatory changes required to support the business at scale.
Sasol has taken an intentional first step to cloud and the important transformation for their business. “The progress is at a pace that is comfortable for the business. This pragmatic approach is better for transformation because it will be very stable in the execution,” said Giunta.
The adoption of cloud at Sasol has the advantage of the stable platform that HCL has created for the company over the last few years. Nrusimhadevara explains, “Sasol has already started seeing the benefits of the work done by HCLTech over the last few years. The organization's data center footprint has gone down considerably, reducing its burden of capital expenditure towards frequent upgrades and maintenance, while users are experiencing the benefits of systems being available anywhere and anytime in the cloud.” He continued: “HCLTech has been progressing well on the commitments made and is well positioned to deliver the objectives of Sasol 2.0.”
Giunta added: “Our experience of consulting on similar projects in the oil, gas, and energy industry enabled us to take a pragmatic approach with Sasol’s cloud transformation journey. We were able to confidently demonstrate how we would help Sasol embrace the cloud, clarify the financial business case, and understand the value to the business, while bringing in the right skills to accelerate the journey.”
Sasol, HCLTech, and Microsoft: A dynamic partnership
HCLTech has extensive experience working with Microsoft Azure in accounts in this industry and across the globe. “Our intent is to build on our long-term strategic relationship with Microsoft and to continue to invest in the relationship to build innovative and sustainable experiences for our mutual clients and partners,” said Nrusimhadevara.
Giunta adds “We continuously invest in our service catalogue for cloud and the implementation with the Azure platform means we can deliver everything from security and identity management to migration. The portfolio we have with Microsoft is very wide and the experience very deep.”
For this forward looking chemical and energy giant, the move to a modern cloud strategy is in its early stage but the results will soon have a positive impact on their business. Bringing together Sasol’s key stakeholders to work with HCLTech and Microsoft will accelerate Sasol’s ability to innovate and their ability to extract value from their cloud strategy and drive cost savings, organizational efficiency, and sustainable outcomes well into the future.