Western companies working in Russia are trying to transfer the majority of their IT functions to outsourcing. Whether it is possible to obtain services of this level in our country, Sergey Vinogradov, head of IT infrastructure of L’Oréal Russia Vladislav Lantukh, Deputy General Director of IBS DataFort told CNews in an interview.
CNews: What is the structure of the L’Oréal in Russia?
Sergey Vinogradov: L’Oréal Company in Russia is represented by the head office in Moscow, two Beauty Academies, located in Moscow and St. Petersburg, as well as the plant in the Kaluga region. In the state of the Russian branch of the company there are more than 1,000 people.
CNews: What is the ICT infrastructure of the company? To want extend is Russian branch of the company is allowed to make decisions about its formation?
Sergey Vinogradov: All information resources of L’Oréal throughout the world are united in a single network. In the formation of the ICT infrastructure here in Russia, we use solutions that are recommended directly by L’Oréal France, and implement their own projects – in fact, any country, any unit has its own specific features, including features relating to local legislation.
I have been working in the company since 2008, and since then its ICT infrastructure has undergone a number of changes, mostly related to the business expansion. Initially, the computing systems were located in the office server rooms. Infrastructure was expanding, security and availability criteria came to the fore, which prompted us to make a decision about placing the infrastructure in the data center with the appropriate level of certification.
We began looking for a company that could provide us with a range of services – not just racks renting, but also communication channels, their maintenance and monitoring. The project began with the organization’s backup platform for the ERP-system in one of the data centers of IBS DataFort. The main criterion was the ability to replicate data in real time.
This project was considered a success, and the next step was placing everything in IBS DataFort Data-center, which, for us at the moment, is major and other infrastructural facilities, namely, almost all production systems. The project was completed in 2012.
Now all of our IT solutions are in the Data-center, and we use the telecom infrastructure company IBS DataFort. We have the data channels that connect Data-centers to each other, as well as the office. The system is monitored and maintained at a high level, which ensures the continuity of our business. Currently, the duplicate part of the network infrastructure – such as equipment providers, redundant links to sites, link with the central office has moved to the Data-Center. That is, our strategy to ensure that all critical equipment, the entire critical infrastructure, all critical telecom are duplicated in places that are completely protected and secure, such as IBS DataFort Data-centers.
CNews: What was the impact on your business from 152-FL and 242-FL?
Sergey Vinogradov: Together with IBS DataFort we had to solve the problem of transferring the web-servers, such as websites and online stores, to the territory of Russia. The project was successfully completed by the beginning of 2015. Associates provided us with a cloud service on demand, that is, they provided us with the necessary computing power, and developed the necessary services for us. As a result, the entire hosting moved into the territory of the Russian Federation.
Vladislav Lantukh: We have been working with the L’Oréal Company for a long time and provided it with a wide range of infrastructure services. So adding another one, in particular, related to the processing of personal data, was not hard. If you had to do everything from scratch, the process would prove to be more difficult and time consuming.
CNews: What were you guided by when you were choosing service provider?
Sergey Vinogradov: We had to place their data and applications in the repository and provide continuous access to them. Criteria for selecting the service provider was to some extent banal. What is important for the infrastructure? Reliability, availability and security. Of course, the financial component is also important. Fortunately, our company has always focused on the best value for money when choosing service providers.
That’s why we chose the IBS DataFort. Another important criterion was the flexibility of our interaction. We all know great companies that provide outsourcing services, but working strictly according to regulations, deviation from which by a half-step – is a reason for long-term agreements. In our case it is not. Our colleagues probably also negotiate something and change within the company, but these processes are absolutely not visible and are not critical to us, because they are always willing to listen and adapt their services to our needs.
CNews: How did the transfer to outsourcing happen? What were the difficulties? How were they overcome?
Sergey Vinogradov: Any changes have consequences that cannot always be fully anticipated. In our case, there were mainly technical difficulties related to the question of location, running certain equipment under certain conditions. But they are quickly resolved. From the point of view of service, we are protected by the SLA, and I can say with certainty that there is no difficulty here. For example, when we started using the cloud hosting, it turned out that some of the services that we need were not yet implemented colleagues. But we have worked together and colleagues have implemented them on their infrastructure, and now, I hope, other customers of IBS DataFort will be able to receive such service.
Vladislav Lantukh: Yes, it was a very rewarding experience of transforming specific customer requirements in to the standard product in the form of ready service. Today, this solution is used for our other customers. L’Oréal – Western company, and many of its needs come to us with a maturity of the Western market. It is very important to us, because we want to fully comply with them. While the Russian market is in its infancy, and this experience is invaluable for it.
CNews: You probably are dealing with many colleagues from other local offices L’Oréal. Do you think that if you manage to get the same service in Russia, as in Europe?
Sergey Vinogradov: Of course, in the L’Oréal company, there are many corporate standards, which we must follow. Among them there are requirements to the quality of services received. When choosing a partner we consult not only with our central office, but also with colleagues working in the EMEA region, and thus, I hope, we have made the right decision.
As for SLA, it is, of course, is signed, and sufficiently stringent conditions. But I cannot remember the exact figures at the moment, simply because I have never had to handle it in order to resolve any disputes. And it’s probably a good sign.
CNews: How is responsibility for the performance of the solution between the client and the provider allocated?
Сергей Виноградов: L’Oréal Company – is a company that is widely used to outsource. We think it is right to have a plurality of narrow specialists in the state, for example, for issues related to the functioning of the networks. Here we partly rely on qualified colleagues. They have enough competent specialists, with whom we communicate online with any questions or problems. They participated in the implementation of this decision, and are now engaged in its support.
Vladislav Lantukh: We consider our relationship with L’Oréal to be a long-term cooperation, not just any regular project. After all, in the end, we provide the service, and it has the property of continuity. Therefore, if the customer is not satisfied with the service, the cooperation ends immediately.
CNews: How difficult is it to break such cooperation?
Sergey Vinogradov: Nowadays it is not difficult. In today’s economic situation both customers, and service providers are becoming more mobile, they look around carefully. Arguments that the company historically provides this service and therefore cannot abandon its services is not possible, do not work. At the forefront is always quality and cost. If the service will be provided for inadequate money and does not meet our requirements, we will very quickly find another partner.
Vladislav Lantukh: We must understand that customer requirements are due to the need of resolving some problems, often urgent. And if you’re not ready to change and to consider new requests, then you go out of the market, you lose customers. Long-term cooperation, even such with L’Oréal, does not give grounds for relaxing and not doing anything to collect revenue. We understand that as soon as we stop responding, or suddenly decide that our service is self-sufficient, we just lose the customer. It is obvious that there is SLA. But in the market there are always new products, new options. And we are trying to offer them to customers without compromising (and often improving) SLA. I do not know whether our colleagues do so, but, in my opinion, it is very important.
CNews: Were there times when colleagues offered you a new service, such that you have not even thought about?
Sergey Vinogradov: Yes, it was cloud service. As I said, there was a problem of transition to a local hosting. Not knowing our intentions, colleagues have been active, come, tell us what services we can get out of the cloud. And last but not least, they were willing to consider a full and long test period. After all, when faced with any new service, it is very important to try. We were able to test on our own experience, how it works, and then make a decision.
In the future, we have started to use the cloud for temporary projects in terms of attracting computing power. This is great because it gives us the opportunity of not buying the equipment that is after some time, it may not be used.
Vladislav Lantukh: I would like to add that our contract was denominated exclusively in rubles, without any “crafty” reservations. And this applies not only to L’Oréal, but also to all our customers. This is our firm position. After all, one of the key indicators of service – is a predictable cost. And if we start to raise her, arguing that changes in the market situation, the price-quality balance is disturbed, and the customer will begin to consider alternative proposals.
Sergey Vinogradov: Why even foreign companies, customers are interested in ruble contracts? Because, while in Russia, they have budgets in rubles. And the economic situation today is a little predictable. And we very much appreciate the attitude towards this issue from IBS DataFort. Not everyone does so nowadays. Sometimes prices can be denominated in rubles only at first glance, but in fact they are “tied” to the dollar.
CNews: How do you assess the level of maturity of the infrastructure outsourcing market in Russia in comparison with the foreign? What kind of services is not enough? Are Russian companies able to provide the required quality of service?
Sergey Vinogradov: I have long been associated with the outsourcing of not only services, but also the staff. Outsourcing has come to Russia from the West, but for a long time, most Russian companies did not know how to provide the services that should be the criterion of their success. Prevented the establishment of this market and crises. Nevertheless, outsourcing in Russia today is much more mature than several years ago. And myself as the customer’s representative can say that the attitude has become more respectful.
However, in my opinion, there is a big problem with the definition of service levels. Willingness to take responsibility for their services in the Russian IT companies in general is poor. In the West, if a service does not work like a clock, its provider pays a penalty. In Russia outsourcer tries to draw up a contract so that in the event of failure he pays nothing. This is a problem of any Russian service, in principle, not just in the IT field. I can say IBS DataFort at the moment can be considered a pleasant exception.
Vladislav Lantukh: I fully agree with Sergey, willingness to be responsible for the service that you provide, characterizes the level of maturity of the market. In our opinion, the market will become mature only when in Russia everyone will be ready to do this.
CNews: What is your plan for developing cooperation in the future?
Sergey Vinogradov: We are very respectful to the possibility of the network provider providing us with the knowledge of network technologies. And today we are ready to consider projects related to the modernization of the network infrastructure. After all, IBS DataFort has its own core network, unlike many other companies who simply buy up the service.
Vladislav Lantukh: Today, we are actively discussing what can be helpful to each other, hoping somehow to optimize the current situation. After the service – it is a continuous process, it never ends. For us, cooperation with L’Oréal is very important, firstly because it is perennial, and secondly, because it is a large reputable company. So the customer can certainly be proud of it. In addition, the IT department of the customer is very receptive to our proposals and at the same time encourages us to change. Of course, we will try to develop our cooperation.
Sergey Vinogradov: I also hope that such cooperation will be developed, and will not stand still. After all, to organize all the things that we have today, on its own, we would need to have a separate staff of professionals who would be involved in networking, servers and filling infrastructure. In addition, we had to organize the proactive support of this entire complex. Instead, we buy services from point A to point B, and if the service is of high quality, we, in fact, already do not care who specifically (in terms of specialists) it provides. The most important thing to queries at the point A, we received answers at point B. I believe that maintenance services, especially in the current situation, have a great future.