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For many Americans no weekend is complete without a trip to the home improvement store. The home improvement market is a substantial one with spending reaching $275B in 2011, which is 1.8% of the US GDP. As the US economy has recovered from the Great Recession those numbers have continued to tick upward. For home improvement stores peak selling season spans the late spring and early summer months when Americans are ready to tackle big DIY projects in their homes and gardens. That said, every quarter’s performance is important to publicly traded companies and sales during the Black Friday – Cyber Monday bonanza are arguably the most closely scrutinized for all retailers.
Home Improvement Company (HIC) operates more than 1,500 stores in the US. Like other retailers they’ve invested heavily in creating an online marketplace and IBM’s commerce solution and network backbone help deliver what customers experience. The Accelerated Value Program (AVP) has helped HIC manage their system for several years, but due to HIC’s restrictive travel policies almost all the work had to be done remotely. While IBM is a valued partner, this limitation frustrated both teams. Nevertheless it was business as usual in preparing for Black Friday 2013 and the HIC team felt prepared.
From a customer buying perspective it was a smashing weekend. Shoppers perused the deals, made their selections, and keyed in their credit card numbers. While watchdog sites reported HIC’s transaction speeds were slow, from a public perspective the site was never down and orders kept streaming in. Success!?
Behind the scenes, things were not so rosy for HIC. While the public facing online marketplace never appeared to be down, a cascading series of application failures created an overselling situation. For more than 12 hours happy customers were placing orders for items HIC didn’t have in inventory at many stores, nor were these items committed via their supply chain. For IT, it was all hands on deck running cycles around the clock to triage the failure. AVP was engaged and escalated to many senior IBM resources to triage and repair the system problems. For HIC, this was followed by 4 weeks of manually back tracking on all open orders to ensure customers received their merchandise and/or received goodwill compensation.
Emerson pegs the average cost of a critical retail application failure at $673K/hr. making HIC’s raw cost of lost productivity $8.07M for this 12 hour span. IBM Digital Analytics benchmarks the performance of the US retail market and publishes an annual Black Friday report. Their analysis shows that peak online buying hours are from about 7:30AM-7:30PM PST. Using publicly available information from HIC’s website we estimate that HIC’s online revenue accrual rate was >$47M/hr. tallying sales of $4.2B for this important 4 day period. At these rates, even a single hour’s compromised revenue and productivity seriously hurts the bottom line. HIC was in real pain.
Committed to helping our client, IBM made some significant changes to the way we partner with HIC in 2014, assigning local AVP team members with WebSphere MessageQueuing (MQ) expertise. This enabled IBM to go onsite frequently and work with HIC’s staff and systems. More face time with their local IBM team helped strengthen the relationship so that AVP truly became a trusted advisor. AVP also engaged a distinguished engineer (DE) as part of the extended team to provide guidance on HIC’s architecture. With this IBM investment we were able to help HIC create high availability clusters to optimize system performance. IBM also executed end to end testing to identify and optimize communications between all system nodes.
In the run up to Black Friday 2014, the WebSphere Application Server (WAS) AVP team got involved to help HIC’s portal team to troubleshoot and resolve frequent native memory issues being encountered in the performance testing environment. AVP collaborated with IBM Level 2 support as they worked to expedite resolution of related Portal PMRs. AVP's involvement helped to quickly resolve the native memory issues that were blocking performance testing and provide an opportunity for skills transfer on debugging and understanding native memory issues.
For the big sales event AVP sent 2 resources onsite and had WAS and MQ experts on standby throughout the long weekend. The proactive work paid off and the system performed beautifully without any outages or application failures. That set the stage for HIC to have a very rewarding and profitable online holiday shopping season.
AVP covers a broad set of technologies at HIC. For more information about this customer and the work IBM Middleware does there, please contact soft
 The US Housing Stock: Ready for Renewal. Improving America’s Housing 2013; Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard
 Rackspace. Based on the 2013 Emerson survey of 67 U.S. Data Centers
How did the IBM Software Accelerated Value Program help a Financial Services Company save big bucks?
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How did the IBM Software Accelerated Value Program help a Financial Services Company save big bucks?
Financial Services Company (FSC) is one of the world’s largest banks with worldwide operations serving more than 75M customers. They’ve made a significant investment in IBM Rational’s software development solutions, including Rational TeamConcert (RTC), Requ
FSC has a very intricate ecosystem and although RTC performed as expected, the loss of confidence in RRC and BF threatened the migration of 18,000 MKS users to RTC. The client found working with Rational Customer Support to be a very frustrating process as complex interactions between BF and RTC elongated the identification of root cause and remediation. The integration between RTC and BF did not meet user expectations and there were serious questions about BF’s to perform at scale.
To address the integration issues AVP engaged the Customer Satisfaction Project office (CSPO) and Development. Regular checkpoints with the client improved communication and collaboration and Development produced 5 hotfixes that solved this problem.
Now focused on performance, AVP arranged for BF Development to create a series of performance tests using environment variables similar to Financial Services Company’s and increasing user load. The checkpoint meetings monitored test progress and documentation recording settings and results. This also exposed a number of unnecessary workflows which AVP help eliminate, further increasing output. After 3 months BF was stable and performing satisfactorily, without degradation, above the maximum users levels FSC had set. The client was then satisfied their BF investment would produce the requisite ROI. The migration from MKS was back on track!
RRC users around the world were experiencing varied response times with some functions taking too long to respond or refresh. Upon learning that Financial Services Company planned to engage its own performance test team, AVP engaged the Rational Executive and Global Response Teams (GRT) to partner with the Financial Services Company performance group. To understand the problems being encountered, the AVL (Accelerated Value Leader) obtained previous measurements of RRC function response times and network latency from Financial Services Company’s global sites. AVP also arranged for a GRT resource to work onsite to measure system responses and recommend optimized server settings.
GRT discovered that Financial Services Company was using an unsupported topology with RTC and RRC sharing the same server – and would never achieve the desired performance. To improve performance in the short term, IBM recommended migrating to a later version of RRC and adjusted server settings on the unsupported topology to approach target performance levels. AVP also identified the impact using the newer version of RRC would have on other tools in use.
AVP facilitated daily checkpoint calls with the client and extended IBM team. A number of PMRs were raised, which resulted in 2 hotfixes being applied to RRC. Use of the newer, patched version of RRC and tuned server settings allowing the Financial Services Company performance team to report that the product was suitable for use, but the impending move to a new data center necessitated architecting a supported topology. AVP has continued to work with Financial Services Company to ensure that the data center design and implementation will optimize the performance of the Rational solution and ensure Financial Services Company’s ROI.
With AVP coordinating and prioritizing the efforts of FSC and IBM, solution stability and performance have improved, as has the quality of the partnership between our two companies. Increased confidence and usability has positively impacted productivity of Financial Services Company’s global analysts and developers.
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If you’re a developer in a shop that uses Rational ClearCase and Unified Change Management (CC UCM), you understand why our source code management solution is needed to manage your build dependencies and complex components. As your environment grows with thousands of dependencies, performance in your environment is critical. This is one of the many reasons why customers engage the IBM Rational Accelerated Value Team.
In these complex customer environments, speedy execution can fall victim to many things, including the size and complexity of the global software development project teams, network infrastructure, enterprise storage, and not following best practices.
A semiconductor and telecommunications company employs thousands of software developers in more than 150 offices spread across dozens of countries and myriad time zones. Their CC UCM environment is one of the largest in the world and as a result, maintaining acceptable levels of performance was a challenge. It wasn’t until their AVP team members met with the Semiconductor Company’s chip design and engineering leads that they began to measure exactly how their erratic UCM performance was negatively impacting many of the Semiconductor Company’s users.
CC UCM processes like rebase, make baseline, and make stream are critical tasks that are done one or more times daily by every member of the software development team. The use of these ClearCase commands help streamline the delivery and tracks the dependencies of components and prior deliveries. Operations like rebase were taking some teams 20+ minutes to execute, and in a typical week, the developers in one of this client’s large project team rebased 994 times consuming 331 man hours. Adding to their frustrations, mkbl (make baseline) and mkstream (make stream) had similar performance challenges but had larger impact to the development team in terms of lost productivity.
With performance data in hand, the AVP team collaborated with key ClearCase development resources to pinpoint the root cause and develop a solution. A promising performance enhancement showed a 35% cycle improvement in the IBM lab’s test environment. With good initial results in hand an enterprise quality solution was delivered to the Semiconductor Company within a couple of months. When tested in the client’s environment with their high speed storage and network environment, the performance enhancement delivered a whopping 90% reduction in cycle time – from 20+ minutes down to 2 minutes!
In a typical week, a single Semiconductor Company development team executes the following activities:
Assuming this team’s activity is just 10% of the total UCM operations executed each week by the company’s global development team, the enhanced productivity is worth some $20M.
Annual AVP contract cost: $208,000
Tangible ROI: Incalculable!
Important note: AVP clients benefit from being the first recipients of software improvements driven by these extended IBM team collaborations, but those with wide applicability are then made GA (generally available). The performance enhancement that resulted from this effort is now available to all ClearCase UCM customers. While the Semiconductor Company’s particular development process resulted in the spectacular 90% productivity gains other customers average 35% – which is significant! In today’s brutally competitive marketplace a software enhancement that results in productivity increases is immensely valuable. What can AVP do to help increase your productivity?
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WHAT COMPELS AN IBM PARTNER TO PUT SUCH A MAGNITUDE OF TRUST IN IBM RATIONAL AVP?
One of IBM’s largest competitors is also one of IBM's most important business partners for software and systems. This Consulting Firm’s goal is to standardize how they approach software delivery for their clients. They consider Rational to be a good technology fit in this area, so they have made the Collaborative Lifecycle Management (CLM) solution and other Rational products the critical foundation of their software delivery process. This is a clear endorsement of IBM Rational products and strategy by one of the world’s leading companies.
Since 2007, this Consulting Firm has also invested in a successfully evolving partnership with the experienced Rational Accelerated Value Program (AVP) team. AVP is Predictive, Preemptive and Proactive - bringing fast ROI for Rational Software clients across the globe. Consulting Firm relies on their AVP team for advice on their overall software deployment strategy, guidance on successful roll out of Rational tools, and the management of expedited resolution for cost-inducing software issues. The client considers the AVP team to be a high value extension of their own teams and have granted access to several of their internal systems and environments to make collaboration and troubleshooting easier- showing ultimate trust with IBM AVP.
The flexibility and personalization of the Accelerated Value Program has meant that the service continuously adapts to align with Consulting Firm's needs, so it is no surprise that the by the end of their current contract they will have been a AVP client for a full decade! AVP’s comprehensive knowledge of their customer’s business goals, ecosystem and topology helps ensure that the team is well positioned to dynamically respond to changing business conditions, partnering for continued success.
EXAMPLES OF HOW CONSULTING FIRM’S BUSINESS WOULD HAVE BEEN IMPACTED WITHOUT THE GUIDANCE OF THE EXPERIENCED RATIONAL ACCELERATED VALUE PROGRAM TEAM
2. Working with IBM Level 2 support and IBM Development, the AVP team arranged for the delivery of more than 20 hotfixes for Consulting Firm's CLM deployments in 2013. Without these hotfixes Consulting Firm would have had to upgrade all 1000+ of their CLM deployments to each quarterly release. Avoiding 5 additional upgrades saved Consulting Firm $3.08 million (1000 deployments X 8 hours per upgrade X 5 upgrades X $77/hr FTE cost).
OVER THE PAST YEAR, THE AVP TEAM HAS COLLABORATED ON SEVERAL WINS WITH CONSULTING FIRM’S STAKEHOLDERS. READ JUST SOME OF THE IMPRESSIVE AVP ACHIEVEMENTS BELOW:
WHAT’S AHEAD FOR THE CONSULTING FIRM’S AVP PARTNERSHIP IN THE FUTURE?
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In this season of The Newsroom a USB drive retrieved from a toilet tank (really?!) is used by an investigative journalist to download thousands of stolen confidential documents to a single air gapped computer. The illicit information blooms across the screen and the leaked documents reveal espionage.
Accelerated Value Program
The Defense Company’s initial vision was to have set of ‘golden’ images for their Rational tools that could be electronically distributed to users in any environment. Because Rational Team Concert (RTC) is the keystone to team collaboration, it made sense to make that the top priority and an open-area replica environment was created to facilitate integration testing and troubleshooting.
The Rational AVP and DevOps Impact
What next for Defense Company?
Rational AVP is a critical partner for Defense Company in helping to gain maximum value from its Rational software which helps the client to reduce costs, and accelerate productivity!