Les Mills International: A global footprint

Les Mills International: A global footprint

The cloud is redefining the concept of a global company like LMI, the largest provider of branded group fitness and training programs.

"Cloud? I don’t really like the term. It brings a lot of mystique around it,” says Aaron O’Brien, CIO of Les Mills International (LMI).

“It makes it seem intangible, and many businesses do not like things that are intangible,” he says, from the company headquarters in Auckland’s Freemans Bay.

“In reality, if you look at email in the cloud, it is there, sitting in some data centre in Singapore, so it is not in the cloud,” he adds. “Because of that, I was not looking at moving to the cloud for the sake of it; I looked at the business need.”

LMI is, essentially, a global company based in the heart of Auckland City. It is the largest provider of branded group fitness and training programs, being used in 15,500 clubs and gyms in more than 80 countries. It has more than 100,000 certified instructor guides, as well as around 1000 trainers across the globe, with 100 of them in the United States.

In the past two years, O’Brien has moved the company’s email, Office and SharePoint into the cloud. As well, the company has implemented a sales, club and portal for its instructors on cloud-based development platforms.

The business case for the move started when O’Brien was presented with the cost of upgrading LMI’s SAN every year, and putting a restriction on the mailbox sizes.

“Fundamentally, I never believed in restricting users of mailbox sizes,” he says. “I know it is costly, but everything I do is about the user experience. ‘Who is the person? Who is he working with? Am I providing the right tool?’”

“I was presented with a cost to upgrade every year if we archive,” he says, referring to the original proposal by Origin IT, which managed LMI’s infrastructure. The vendor also provided options like putting another Exchange Server in the United States, for it to be able to serve LMI’s global offices.

“I went up the white board and wrote, ‘US$25 a month a person, 25 gigabyte inbox and unlimited archives’.

You have to beat that and come back another two weeks and we will look at it. Otherwise, we are going to move to [Microsoft] Office 365.

“I believe that is the only way we can expand our ever-expanding networks across the world cost effectively and from a user experience point of view.”

He also told Origin IT to look at Microsoft Cloud Exchange. “If they did not do this, they are going to be left behind because these types of products are fantastic for mid-sized businesses,” which a lot of New Zealand companies are made up of, he says.

“These are companies who want to be able to scale without incurring massive corporate cost,” says O’Brien.

Origin IT took on the migration to Office 365, but O’Brien says a challenge at that time was getting a local reference organisation.

White papers were written for companies in the United States and Europe. LMI could not find a New Zealand company that had actually decommissioned its Exchange Server and moved to the Office 365 platform.

More importantly, LMI could not find a local company with the same business requirements: 200-plus users based in offices across the globe, particularly New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

I believe that is the only way we can expand our ever expanding networks across the world cost effectively and from a user experience point of view.

Aaron O’Brien, Les Mills International

Read more: Latest tech merger: Microsoft acquires Kiwi cloud computing company GreenButton

O’Brien wanted to do it “really aggressively” because LMI was experiencing Exchange outages and other issues. “I really wanted to make that stable.”

For now, LMI has email, SharePoint and Lync working together.

“It really opened up how we communicate,” he says. Lync, in particular, provides instant messaging and free voice and video calling from any device. O’Brien says it has been very useful especially in the United States where LMI has remote users in different states.

“The way we can collaborate is just fantastic; it has really changed the way we work.”

Next page: Explaining to the board

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