Grant Thornton France, part of leading tax advisory group Grant Thornton International, is growing rapidly, and its IT infrastructure is a critical enabler of this growth. To make sure that it can accommodate more devices, data, employees, and
applications, the IT staff upgraded to Windows Server 2012 and Microsoft System Center 2012 as its centralized management console. The IT staff now has the tools that it needs to automate service management workflows, gain proactive insight into potential
problems, and give employees self-service software deployment. The benefits to the business: fewer IT interruptions that are resolved faster, the ability to support 40 percent growth in business with little increase in IT costs, tighter alignment of IT with
business goals, a better employee experience, and the ability to deliver measurable and continuously improving levels of availability.
Grant Thornton is one of the world’s leading organizations of independent assurance, tax, and advisory firms. More than 31,000 Grant Thornton people across 100 countries help customers unlock their potential by providing a range of comprehensive financial
advice and services.
||By using System Center 2012, we’ll be able to manage a larger infrastructure without significantly growing our IT staff…. Our people simply could not work without these tools.
| Bruno de Lattre
IT Director, Grant Thornton France
Grant Thornton France has 1,500 employees that serve hundreds of organizations from 25 offices across France. Technology is fundamental and critical to everything that Grant Thornton does—from communicating with customers to analyzing data, complying with government
regulations, and hiring staff. Grant Thornton data center and desktop technology has to work fast and reliably at all times—or the business falters.
The IT staff works tirelessly to deliver flawless IT services and identify and remedy potential problems before they interrupt work. However, with Grant Thornton in high growth mode, the number of end-user devices proliferating, and employee customer-service
standards rising, IT management can be a tough and thankless job.
“One of our biggest challenges is the fact that we have 25 offices in France but only 15 IT people in three of those offices to manage our entire infrastructure,” says Bruno de Lattre, IT Director of Grant Thornton France. That infrastructure includes 89
servers in the main data center (33 of which are virtualized with the Hyper-V technology in the Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012 operating systems), 32 servers in a backup data center (7 of which are virtualized), at least one server in each
branch office, and 1,500 client computers.
Hundreds of things can go wrong with this many computers and network connections, and de Lattre’s staff had its hands full staying one step ahead of trouble. The IT staff used Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3 for desktop computer software
deployment and tracking, Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 for server health monitoring, and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 for virtual machine deployment and management.
Having a common user interface among these products was helpful. But the IT staff also used a separate database for IT asset management and tracked help-desk incidents with yet another tool. These products were not connected to the firm’s Active Directory
Domain Services user directory, so help-desk technicians had to manually look up and enter user credentials every time they created an incident report. This introduced opportunities for error and delayed resolution.
“It was taking too long to resolve help-desk incidents,” says Céline Denis, Helpdesk Manager at Grant Thornton France. “Our technicians had to go to too many places to solve problems, and technicians in different offices were working to solve the same problems.
We had no centralized view of our IT infrastructure and no central repository of IT issues and fixes, so we couldn’t progressively improve our problem resolution processes.”
This was a problem because the business had set its sights on expanding by 40 percent in four years and needed IT to not only keep up but also help enable this growth. Management wanted better visibility into IT systems and wanted them tightly aligned with
business objectives. “Management expects the IT organization to serve the business as if it were a customer,” de Lattre says. “It needs to know that IT can respond as quickly as needed to support key business objectives. We could not deliver the agility that
the business needed with our old tools. Also, although the business aimed to grow by 40 percent, I knew that my budget was not going to increase by 40 percent. We needed to find tools to make our existing staff more productive.”
Grant Thornton France made the decision to upgrade to Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1), which included updated versions of all the System Center components that the organization already used and added additional new components. One component
that Grant Thornton France was keen to acquire was Service Manager, a service management tool that automates IT workflows based on industry best practices. It connects to other System Center components to provide a desktop-to-data center perspective on orchestrating
||Management expects the IT organization to serve the business as if it were a customer. It needs to know that IT can respond as quickly as needed to support key business objectives.
| Bruno de Lattre
Grant Thornton France
Before automating IT services, Grant Thornton France first worked with Microsoft Services to bring its IT processes into compliance with the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Microsoft Operations Framework best practices. The organization then deployed and
began using the Service Manager component for incident management. Today, when the Operations Manager component of System Center 2012 detects a server problem, it sends an alert to Service Manager, which automatically creates a service incident and forwards
it to a technician. Automated linkage eliminates the opportunity for human error in transcribing data between systems and gives technicians all the information that they need in one place.
That one place where technicians can find needed information is the Service Manager Configuration Management Database, which is a repository of information related to every component in the Grant Thornton France data center. It provides a history of all
the changes and fixes that the company has made to its IT environment, giving technicians a searchable knowledge base that they can consult in solving future problems.
Grant Thornton France also uses Service Manager for change, service request, and problem management. Every time the IT staff installs new software on a PC or adds a new network device, it records this information in Service Manager, giving the company a
single, centralized history of changes to its IT infrastructure. The company will soon deploy the Service Manager Self-Service Portal, which employees can use to request new applications, make service requests, and report problems.
Grant Thornton France uses the Configuration Manager component of System Center 2012 to deploy software and updates to all servers and client devices, and Operations Manager to monitor physical and virtual servers for overheating processors, wobbly fans,
inadequate memory, and other issues that could cause a server to fail. When the IT staff gets an Operations Manager alert in Service Manager, it is able to proactively spring into action.
The staff uses the Virtual Machine Manager component of System Center 2012 to create virtual machines and manage the entire physical and virtual data center landscape, in both its current and new data centers, which will include only servers running Windows
Server 2012. The staff will soon deploy the Orchestrator component, an infrastructure orchestration tool that automates many manual tasks.
Grant Thornton France runs its Microsoft data center solutions on three Dell Power Edge R620 servers running Windows Server 2012 and a Dell Equalogix PS4110 storage area network.
By standardizing on System Center 2012 as its single data center management solution, Grant Thornton France has been able to increase the productivity of its IT staff and better enable the staff to care for an expanding infrastructure, respond faster
to business needs, and keep business systems available at all times.
Shrink IT Interruptions, Maintain High Service Levels for Expanding Infrastructure
||We now have a global view of our infrastructure all over France, can share our knowledge base with our distributed IT staff, and can work more efficiently and effectively.
| Céline Denis
Grant Thornton France
With its new Microsoft data center management tools, the Grant Thornton France IT staff is far more efficient and able to keep up with company growth and an expanding IT infrastructure. “Previously, we had a hard time delivering always-on reliability,
much less being a strategic partner to the business,” de Lattre says. “By using System Center 2012, we’ll be able to manage a larger infrastructure without significantly growing our IT staff. We now have solid IT processes and the tools for managing them.
Our people simply could not work without these tools.”
Denis adds that the IT staff can be far more proactive versus reactive. “We now have a global view of our infrastructure all over France, can share our knowledge base with our distributed IT staff, and can work more efficiently and effectively,” she says.
“Technicians can search the knowledge base to see if an incident has already been resolved elsewhere. When we have a problem, everyone is alerted. When Operations Manager sends an alert, we can respond proactively and avoid failures that would turn into hours
of resolution time.”
Although the company can’t cite a specific metric because it previously lacked tools for measuring IT improvement, Grant Thornton France knows that its service incidents have decreased with the move to System Center 2012. Alerts from Operations Manager help
the staff avoid system failures.
Strengthen IT/Business Alignment
De Lattre feels that his department now is better able to be a strategic partner to the business. “With our Microsoft management solution, we can better align with the company strategy, whether it’s to expand 40 percent in four years, deploy a new
application to support a new business area, or hire 200 people,” de Lattre says. “We couldn’t measure anything before, and now we can measure everything. When the business makes a decision, the IT department doesn’t want to be a bottleneck. Now we can reconfigure
our systems at a moment’s notice and catch and solve problems before they ever affect the business.”
Having a single, centralized management environment is especially critical as Grant Thornton France rebuilds its data center. Using System Center 2012, one IT staff can easily manage both environments and all the new data that accompanies more applications
and analysis capability.
The next step is to create a business intelligence dashboard that will show company executives key IT metrics at a glance—the health of critical applications, the types of incidents being resolved, history of time-to-resolution, and so forth. “Now we have
the tools for measuring and reporting on our performance and for demonstrating continuous improvement,” de Lattre says. The company also has access to deeper statistics on its IT systems that many regulatory agencies require and were previously difficult to
Improve Employee Experience
Another consequence of more reliable, responsive IT systems is a better employee experience with technology. Despite company growth and a more complex technology infrastructure, the Grant Thornton France IT staff has been able to maintain the same
high service levels that it has always provided.
When the Service Manager Self-Service Portal is deployed, employees will have an easier, online way to interact with the IT department and a level of convenience and control that they have never experienced. They will also have a way to submit service requests
online and to track the progress of those requests.
Continuously Enhance Availability of IT Systems
Although the business never required service level agreements (SLAs) of the IT department, the IT department is now in a position to deliver measurable availability levels. “It’s critical to the business to have IT systems that are always available
and performing well,” concludes de Lattre. “Our employees and our customers rely on our IT systems, and some customers do have SLAs with us. We need to ensure that our systems are available all the time, and now we have a way to ensure high availability and
also measure and report on it. As a company that advises other companies on how to optimize their performance and productivity, we cannot expect less from ourselves.”
Windows Server 2012
Windows Server drives many of the world’s largest data centers, empowers small businesses around the world, and delivers value to organizations of all sizes in between. Building on this legacy, Windows Server 2012 redefines the category, delivering hundreds
of new features and enhancements that span virtualization, networking, storage, user experience, cloud computing, automation, and more. Simply put, Windows Server 2012 helps you transform your IT operations to reduce costs and deliver a whole new level of
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