With 9,000 employees in 16 different countries including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Lebanon, Abdul Latif Jameel Co., Ltd (ALJ) is the largest independent Toyota distributor in the world. New and used automobile sales, financing, and after-sales support, as well as an impressive array of robust community programs, are the heart of ALJ’s business. Along with a proud 50 year relationship with Toyota, ALJ also sells and services Lexus and Daihatsu vehicles and parts. ALJ attributes the “guest first” philosophy as the key to their success, and prides itself on delighting their customers with each engagement.
In order to keep up with continuous growth and the demands of this large, dynamic organization, ALJ’s IT department was experiencing pressure to develop application solutions more quickly and at a higher level of quality. Most of ALJ’s application development efforts focus on sales, finance, and after-sale solutions.
“In order to support our very large, dynamic, quickly growing organization, we needed state of the art development technologies and tools. The demands on our IT department are increasing and changing every day, so we needed the right solution to address this need --- right away,” says ALJ IT Director Amr Hamdy.
With existing systems, it was virtually impossible to accurately predict or control application delivery to internal customers. Releases often took months to develop, and when delivered, led to poor customer satisfaction because quality was very often less than desirable due to deficiencies in the application development processes. Once releases were deployed, they often contained issues that required numerous bug fixes which were a pull on the IT department’s time and resources. Additionally, this put a great strain on ALJ’s ability to retain their IT talent and maintain positive morale within the team.
With the discontinuance of the existing development solution being used, IT leadership was compelled to take action on finding a new, more effective solution for ALJ’s application development platform. While they received several partner recommendations on a potential solution, ALJ desired to remain a Microsoft-only shop and felt that Microsoft Enterprise Services offered the most comprehensive approach to identifying and implementing the best solution for their needs.
In order to enable a truly 360-degree solution, Microsoft Enterprise Services kicked-off the engagement by performing an in-depth as-is assessment of ALJ’s current application development process. From the assessment, a detailed gap analysis and current to future state roadmap were developed and reviewed with ALJ’s key stakeholders.
The gap analysis provided clear identification of what and where problems were occurring, and the correct tools to deliver the most effective solutions. The road map enabled ALJ to focus on a thorough execution of their vision through development and roll out. The MCS offering rolled out a comprehensive application lifecycle management (ALM) solution with Visual Studio Team System 2008. The solution was built and deployed through workshops with the support and guidance of Microsoft Enterprise Services’ experts. “This process allowed us to clearly see where the problems were occurring in our development cycle, and how to address solving them,” says ALJ IT Development General Manager Balaji Hiriyur Ranganatha.
Once buy-in was reached on the roadmap, Microsoft Enterprise Services technical and consulting experts worked closely with ALJ’s IT department to setup in-house pilots with Visual Studio Team System 2008 to test the new application development process with real-life projects. A wide variety of teams participated including project management, customer advocacy, deployment, operations, and more. Employee teams were assembled to take part in the pilots, which allowed participants to immediately see the value of the new process, and provided excellent feedback to the IT Department and Microsoft Enterprise Services teams.
“Our pilots were really the icing on the cake in this process. They not only increased understanding about this effort, but also stimulated better communication between our teams as a whole. We are still seeing the benefits of these strengthened relationships today. It has now become part of our culture,” says Balaji.
The final piece of the implementation process included a series of workshops to train end-users (internal ALJ employees) on how to utilize the newly developed applications and the corresponding development process. This training effort far exceeded any previous training initiatives at ALJ. Additionally, participants actively provided feedback to ALJ’s IT leadership, which enabled supplementary process improvements.
With their partnership with Microsoft Enterprise Services and usage of Visual Studio Team System 2008, ALJ was able to achieve not only their primary goal of improved quality and development speed, but also make a positive impact on employee morale and collaboration.
Adul Latif Jameel Co-customized Process Template
“Not having a clear process was killing our productivity and continually decreasing our customers’ satisfaction. Microsoft helped us achieve a very clear process and framework that has turned that all around – and more,” says Hamdy.
Increased speed and quality of development
Since implementation, ALJ’s IT department has seen some significant improvements in the quality of their applications, and the speed with which they develop and implement their application solutions. Some of these marked improvements include:
25% reduction in defects during the testing step of the development process
10% increase in productivity
Significant increase in customer satisfaction ratings
Increased SLA compliance
Leveraging the new Application Lifecycle Management process with Visual Studio Team System 2008, ALJ’s IT department was able to successfully address a complicated supply chain issue the organization was experiencing regarding aging of stock. The solution allowed for the enforcement of a “first in, first out” (FIFO) concept, was delivered within two weeks and was virtually bug free. Not only was this speed and quality of application deployment never realized before at ALJ, it also saved the organization approximately 3.6m Riyals (approximately $950k USD).
Improved job satisfaction and opportunities for IT personnel
ALJ’s IT leadership has seen marked improvements in the camaraderie and creativity of the IT department as a result of the implementation of the Application Lifecycle Management solution. Members of the IT team feel a stronger sense of pride to be able to deliver quality applications in a timely manner to their internal customers, which also provides them with greater bandwidth to think creatively about new solutions and processes. While increased morale and employee retention were not the primary objectives of implementing this solution, it is an added benefit that ALJ is thrilled to be experiencing.
Enhanced communication and collaboration between internal teams
The process that ALJ and Microsoft Enterprise Services undertook for this implementation transformed standard meetings, training, and communication within and between teams. The way ALJ manages its development cycle was strikingly improved and ultimately led to closer and more collaborative interactions and relationships.
“Microsoft Enterprise Services delivered on their promise and provided excellent deliverables and solutions to meet our immediate needs, and are positioned to help us achieve our next set of IT goals as well,” says Hamdy.