IT Innovation

Safety in Transformation

Oracle solutions support a business transformation at UL.

By David A. Kelly

March/April 2014

When you’re in the middle of transforming a business, you should be focused on your customers. The right technology partner can focus on the business transformation technology and help you keep your focus where it should be. That’s why UL, a global safety science organization, picked Oracle as its strategic infrastructure and business software provider.

“The mission of UL is to create safer living and working environments. It is imperative that we focus on executing on our mission versus spending our time managing software,” says Christian Anschuetz, CIO at UL (formerly known as Underwriters Laboratories), based in Northbrook, Illinois. “We have so many important activities to focus on—including how to create value for our customers—that we can’t afford to be spending time worrying about the technology that runs our company.”

Location: Northbrook, Illinois
Employees: 11,000
Oracle Products: Oracle Database; Oracle E-Business Suite (more than 40 distinct modules, including Oracle iReceivables, Oracle iProcurement, and Oracle Compensation Workbench); Oracle SOA Suite (including Oracle Enterprise Service Bus and Oracle Business Activity Monitoring); Oracle Fusion Middleware; Oracle Identity Management; Oracle Exadata; Oracle Exalogic; Oracle Exalytics; Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition; Oracle WebCenter; Oracle Business Intelligence Applications; Oracle Enterprise Governance, Risk, and Compliance Manager; Oracle Enterprise Manager; Oracle Application Integration Architecture; Siebel applications

UL’s business transformation started several years ago.

UL had been a single business, focused primarily on the US market, and it was structured as a nonprofit. Today it provides new and diversified services across the globe and has recently restructured as a for-profit entity. These major changes required a significant change to the business itself. To support that transformation, UL implemented a new Oracle-based infrastructure and business software platform.

“Oracle knows what it takes to run a large, global, multidivisional, multi-business-unit company like ours,” says Anschuetz. “Our confidence in Oracle’s ability to do what we need to do to run our company was one of the key elements that supported our transformation efforts. It allowed us to focus on changing our process and people, instead of worrying about the technology.”

Worldwide Opportunity

Founded in 1894, UL started as a North American company. Its business model was based on having a limited number of highly sophisticated superlabs that handled all types of testing for all its customers.

Today, UL is a global company operating in 58 markets, servicing 110 countries. The modern UL has 74 labs and 11,000 employees worldwide, and more than 50 percent of its revenue comes from outside the United States. The company also has made 33 acquisitions in the last two years.

“UL is an increasingly diverse company, with a different footprint than we had just a few years ago,” says Anschuetz.

Business and IT Transformation

For UL, focusing on its customers and their needs was the ultimate goal of the transformation. The company helps its customers create new products that can navigate a complex set of global regulations and standards up front, so that by the time a product is manufactured, it can quickly enter the supply chain and the market.

“Our transformation has all been about putting an organization and services in place that can help our customers win in the marketplace,” says Anschuetz. “We’ve changed our orientation, our mindset, and our portfolio of products and services to all focus on helping our customers move as quickly as possible from ideation to getting their products on the shelves.”

With all those business changes came huge, fundamental changes to the infrastructure technology. The organization needed to be able to seamlessly support multiple, distributed geographical locations.

Tips for Success

When it comes to large, transformational projects, Christian Anschuetz, CIO at UL, feels strongly that CIOs and executives shouldn’t hesitate. “Even though large-scale technology transformation projects fail, you don’t need to be afraid,” says Anschuetz. “You simply have to approach the challenge in the right way in order to succeed.”

Anschuetz has the following eight tips for technology transformation success:
  1. Get and keep the unwavering, absolute full commitment of your executive suite and your boss.

  2. Define and execute a communication plan.

  3. Create and follow official guidelines for implementing the transformation.

  4. Clearly define who will make decisions about customizations.

  5. Put your best people on the transformation full time. This isn’t a side job.

  6. Get the highest level of executive sponsorship from your partners.

  7. Move fast and iterate. Break the project into chunks.

  8. Build momentum and never stop driving.

After evaluating different technology solutions, UL decided to implement the full Oracle stack, from Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalogic engineered systems up to an uncustomized Oracle E-Business Suite deployment. UL selected Oracle E-Business Suite for its completeness and robust functionality, Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalogic for speed and scalability, Oracle Fusion Middleware to integrate non–enterprise resource planning (ERP) functions and systems from acquired companies, and Oracle Identity Management to control both user and customer access. Partnering with a single vendor, Oracle, provided UL with higher degrees of integration; faster implementation times; and, most importantly, a capable partner that fundamentally invested in the transformation’s success.

When the technology transformation was complete, UL had the entire worldwide company using a single instance of Oracle E-Business Suite running on Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalogic. UL completed the final part of its 18-month deployment in December 2013, on time and under budget. In fact, the project was so successful that UL was able to expand the scope of the project midstream to include the integration of three additional businesses that had been acquired during the project’s implementation.

“As a CIO, I’ve completed several ERP implementations. I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere,” says Anschuetz. “It was due to the superlative team we have and the great commitment of the CEO. In less than 18 months, we completely transformed our front-end and back-end systems. We went into this project knowing the risks, but we chose Oracle as a partner because we have a lot of faith and confidence in Oracle.”

As anyone would expect, UL did encounter a couple of hardware and software problems during deployment. However, in both cases, Oracle provided production patches within 24 hours. “Oracle was not going to allow a technology problem to stop our company from focusing where it needed to focus, which was on the business transformation problem,” says Anschuetz.

Benefits and Big Data

UL’s new Oracle-based stack provides significant benefits. “We have better line of sight into the consumption behavior of our customers so we can understand where they’re deriving value and where we can focus ourselves to extend and create even more value,” says Anschuetz.

UL is using Oracle Identity Access Manager to provide a security framework for identifying and authenticating internal and external users, as well as providing fine-grain access rights to those users so that the critical information that UL provides is appropriately safeguarded. At the same time, UL is leveraging Oracle Fusion Middleware to create new opportunities from its vast sources of data. “Oracle SOA Suite is the connective tissue that we’re using to connect legacy and new applications together to allow us to harvest and create value from the hundreds of thousands of transactions we have with our customers every single year,” says Anschuetz.

And while UL has put the foundation for big data in place with Oracle solutions such as Oracle Exadata and Oracle Exalytics, the company is focused on smart data and on helping its customers distill the critical information needed to optimize their products and services.

“Our new Oracle-based platform is going to allow us to intelligently combine our services with information to create more value for our customers and ourselves,” says Anschuetz. “It’s not just about creating a giant repository or big data warehouse. It’s about moving data fluidly to the right point at the right time to create the right value.”

Building a Safer Future

With its technology and business transformation projects complete, UL is finding that success builds on success. “As a result of IT and business transformation, we’re going to be even more effective in the marketplace,” notes Anschuetz.

And for UL, a key part of developing that winning momentum was leveraging Oracle’s expertise. “We took advantage of Oracle’s depth of knowledge and breadth of experience to get this transformation done. We trusted they knew it better than we did, and our trust paid off,” says Anschuetz. “Oracle is at the very center of what we’re doing now, and it’s providing the foundation for the second century of growth for our company.”

Next Steps

 UL and the Big Data Challenge
UL Standardizes ERP Processes for Over 60,000 Manufacturers

 LEARN more about Oracle engineered systems

Photography byJeremy Galliani,Unsplash