Strengthening your employee experience through identity consolidation
- Posted on August 31, 2022
- Estimated reading time 5 minutes
This article was co-authored by Brad Bazley, SVP-IT, Material
Has your company recently grown through a mergers and acquisitions (M&A) process? If so, you’ll know it can be a real challenge to bring together multiple disparate technology platforms to live under a common umbrella. This is both a technology and a marketing issue. At a time when the right talent is hard to find and keeping your existing talent is key, I’ve found it’s more important than ever to provide employees with a secure, modern workplace experience using the tools they’re familiar with. Having multiple systems with no common infrastructure or brand identity makes that difficult. I’d like to share some leading practices my company, Material, relied on during such a journey when we streamlined our IT identity management and consolidated the authentication of our 1,500+ employees with a single Microsoft Azure Active Directory (AAD) tenant.
Focus on meeting people where they are
Our company structure and brand were created through a series of mergers and acquisitions that brought together twelve separate legal entities. As a next-level customer experience partner, we knew that a seamless-as-possible experience of our brand through our integration would be critical to fostering enduring relationships with both our people and our clients.
While we came from a strong base of traditional infrastructure, we were merging with younger companies that were born and live in the cloud – a common phenomenon in the world of M&As. We realized that the tools our people were using were more than just legacy – they were inherent to the way they worked and added comfort and familiarity to their day, so we didn’t want to compromise value and process for the sake of consolidation. To ensure a positive experience for our new employees – and clients, by extension – we knew we had to be ready to meet them where they were, on the systems they use.
Even the right change feels like change
For Material and many others in similar circumstances in today’s digitally-led world, this wasn’t merely a migration, but a complex modernization initiative. And because we started pulling together our new entities right at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our need to work together as one organization was compounded with the need to do so remotely. At that time, many companies quickly shifted to the cloud. Instead, we were bringing multiple clouds together, forcing us to take a more intentional approach that I would recommend to others on a similar journey: Modernization, integration and consolidation. In other words: get your cloud infrastructure up to code, get the different platforms talking to each other and get your people working as one company. After all, brand experience begins at home.
One of the most important considerations we identified during the modernization stage of the process was security. As a company working remotely together, we knew that more modern security protections were needed to operate in the new normals created by the pandemic. A fragmented Active Directory can expose your business to a range of cyber attacks and misconfigurations. By consolidating and implementing AAD with enhanced security controls, we are now much more protected against new cybersecurity threats.
Take good care
A complex consolidation effort to bring multiple entities together is no small task, and the number of variables at play might be beyond what can be anticipated from the start. With that understanding, it’s to your advantage to begin the process with a commitment to being completely present, empathetic and available to your people should they need any assistance or guidance. I believe a focus on hypercare – support that goes above and beyond usual expectations in the moment of change – is critical.
At Material, we developed a strong migration campaign and made it clear to all our people globally how this undertaking would benefit them. It’s difficult to design the perfect change management program, but my experience has been that if you remain available and invested in the change right alongside your employees, people feel heard and understood, and allow themselves to trust and evolve. Whatever issues you face in these types of migrations, and despite whatever has caused them, we have seen the game-changing benefits of throwing your full effort into finding a resolution by remaining agile and flexible.
I hope the Material story will be helpful as you move through your own M&A consolidation journey. By maintaining your focus on providing the best possible experience for your constituencies, you can get to the other side with willing and satisfied colleagues and clients.
Many people deserve credit for the success of this program – starting with the patience and trust placed in us by Material’s people and leadership, the rigorous program management by our sponsors, our head of digital workplace and Avanade. I also want to acknowledge the close collaboration between our partners and the broader Material IT community, and most importantly, the commitment, creativity and persistence of vision that our digital workplace team showed throughout a once-in-a-decade transformation of our identity and collaboration tools. I could not be prouder to be leading this team.
“We’re very proud to have partnered with Material on this important transformation. It was also a great time for the company to do it; studies have shown that organizations that accelerated their workplace transformations during the COVID-19 pandemic – as Material did – are now growing on average, five times faster than those who have fallen behind in this regard . By giving its employees a more cohesive workplace experience backed by the security of Azure Active Directory, Material is in a great position to realize its growth ambitions. Whether you’re a technology or marketing leader, you can learn a lot from this journey.”
– Marc Wilkinson, Modern Workplace Lead, Avanade
Read the full Material case study.
Hear more from Brad Bazley in this Q&A interview.