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Migrating User Accounts and Servers to a New Active Directory Domain for a Packaging Manufacturer

Manufacturing | Network Infrastructure Services – Technology Deployment

After acquiring a rival company of equal size, a packaging manufacturer partnered with TEKsystems to consolidate both organizations’ Active Directories (AD).

The client, a leading corrugated and consumer packaging manufacturer, provides paperboard, packaging and marketing solutions to organizations across a wide range of industries. The client has been a partner of TEKsystems since 2011.

A free market and a competitive business environment are two of America’s deeply rooted values. As organizations compete and thrive, they grow to expand their market share, often through mergers and/or acquisitions. Mergers and acquisitions allow organizations to obtain new products and technologies, increase their global footprint and ultimately strengthen and diversify their core business offerings.

But with any move to consolidate two or more organizations comes inevitable growing pains. Some organizational decisions may be more straightforward than others—such as changing email address domains and signatures, swapping out office signage or updating corporate websites to reflect new branding. However, consider the numerous complications around merging two unique leadership teams or company cultures with different employee policies and benefits. While the spectrum of challenges relating to mergers and acquisitions is rather wide, growing pains pertaining to IT can pose some of the greatest challenges.

Consolidating IT business operations and processes can be a costly and complicated endeavor requiring a vast amount of support and coordination. Organizations must fortify core infrastructure pillars, integrate legacy technology and applications, and install vital security and data systems, among other tasks, in order to make sure the newly expanded organization can operate efficiently and effectively.

Organizations often seek third-party vendors to help tackle these challenges because they are so complex in nature and require extensive pre- and post-planning to guarantee seamless integration.

Microsoft Active Directory Migration Tool, Microsoft Server 2003 and 2008, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2012

In an effort to grow as one of the leading manufacturers in the packaging industry, the client acquired a large paperboard and paper-based packaging company, reflecting an increasingly common consolidation movement within the competitive packaging industry.

In the wake of the acquisition, the client needed to consolidate both organizations’ Active Directories (AD) into a single new domain. Consolidating the two legacy directories would help reduce infrastructure support costs, improve workstation management and increase standardization across all of the client’s business operations.

To do this, the acquired company’s approximately 10,500 user accounts and 500 servers needed to be migrated to the new domain with minimal to no disruption to the client’s business processes. Consolidating the two ADs into one domain would require thorough planning and extensive on-site coordination at the client’s 130 plants and mills across the United States and Canada.

Given the vast scope and sweeping level of coordination needed to migrate the acquired company’s thousands of user accounts and numerous servers, the client knew they did not have the internal resources to take on such a project. They wanted to work with a partner that could complete the consolidation quickly and with minimal disruption to daily plant and mill packaging operations that typically run around the clock. It was also important that the partner of choice could scale highly skilled on-site teams to meet the changing needs of the project and anticipate and manage any unknown factors once the migration was underway.

The client first reached out to a well-known AD migration company to assist in migrating the acquired company’s user accounts and servers; however, they felt that the company was not a good fit for their organization because their proposed solution didn’t translate to the best value given the cost.

Having previously selected TEKsystems to staff a data center migration project, the client decided to bring us to the table to learn more about our service offerings. At the time, we were finishing an AD migration at another, similar-sized client; this was within weeks of when the client was looking to start their consolidation effort. As such, this would enable TEKsystems to seamlessly transition an already established and proven team from the AD migration project of similar scope to support the client—a differentiator that other potential partners could not match.

Our team proposed a two-phased solution to migrate the acquired company’s user accounts and servers to the client’s AD domain. We would start by migrating the nearly 10,500 user accounts to the new domain over the course of eight months, and then during phase two, migrate the approximately 500 servers over to the new domain over a four-month period.

To complete the migration, we would provide a project management team and an AD engineering team which we would onboard, train and deploy to the client’s various locations. The project management team, consisting of one delivery manager and two project managers, would be responsible for providing overall project management and ensuring site readiness by serving as a liaison between site leaders and the AD engineering team. They would also be responsible for ramping up teams quickly should the need arise. The AD engineering team, consisting of two AD engineers and six AD technicians, would design and execute site user account migration plans, troubleshoot any unforeseen obstacles and serve as local points of contact for site leaders.

The migration of the user accounts would be done on site at the client’s 130 locations across the United States and Canada. Since the majority of the work at the plants and mills would be performed during normal business hours, site readiness would be critical to the success of the project. Our on-site teams would work closely with site leaders to map migration schedules for both individual employee user accounts and machine user accounts to minimize disruptions to the 24/7 business operations and scheduled printing/cutting jobs.

In the process of migrating the user accounts, our team would also clean up the acquired company’s legacy user accounts and group policies that were no longer active or used (i.e., user accounts for terminated employees) to make sure only active accounts populated the new domain. We would also check to make sure both the user accounts and servers would be able to seamlessly move to the new domain without any additional enhancements or work needed prior to migration.

To ensure overall alignment to the client’s IT goals, TEKsystems would hold weekly status calls with the client’s vice president for IT infrastructure to provide project management reports and metrics; review migration, communication and scheduling logistics; and escalate any key issues.

Our ability to ramp up dedicated teams quickly, adapt our solution as the partnership matured, and customize a solution and schedule that minimized business disruptions set us apart from the competition. After hearing about our current AD migration engagement and having experienced the level of service we provide as part of our existing staffing relationship, the client selected TEKsystems to partner with them for the project.

TEKsystems successfully completed the AD consolidation at 130 sites on time and with minimal impact to business processes and the user community. During the course of the engagement, we migrated approximately 9,000 user accounts at an average of five sites per week while meeting approved schedules and staying on budget. Our team was able to identify and disable the remaining nearly 1,500 initially scoped user accounts as legacy user accounts that were no longer active. We also seamlessly transitioned the 500 servers to the client’s AD domain.

Throughout the delivery of our migration support, our team recognized the vital importance of minimizing business interruptions and downtime. While many of the user accounts were tied to individual employees, a large portion were for specific machines running box cutting or containerboard roll jobs 24/7. To seamlessly migrate these users, our project management team met with site leaders to gain an understanding of the run shifts and identify a time convenient during their business process to migrate each machine, typically at the end of a full production run. After formalizing a schedule for all on-site machines, our AD team worked to create corresponding accounts within the new domain for each machine. After the new accounts were setup, on-site AD technicians went to each individual machine to switch their AD domain connection and affiliation from the old domain to the client’s. These user account migrations took anywhere from one to two weeks depending on the size and type of facility.

Our overall scheduling and on-site coordination efforts throughout the engagement remained a key driver to completing the consolidation on time and within budget. Our project management team held daily standup meetings with client stakeholders to provide specific migration metrics and address any scheduling or migration concerns. This routine communication allowed us to avoid setbacks caused by unforeseen conflicts, such as a major packaging application rollout that was happening simultaneously at several of the plants and mills. The application update impacted user accounts associated with machines, and created conflicts with many of our previously scheduled timelines. In response, our project management team readjusted the schedules accordingly and coordinated migrations at those impacted sites only after the application enhancement was complete.

Additionally, our team was able to remain flexible and adapt our site schedules when severe weather conditions caused numerous flight cancellations and several AD technicians’ arrivals to be delayed multiple days. Despite these potentially schedule-damaging conditions, our team was still able to complete the sites’ scheduled migrations on time.

Now, having all user accounts and servers on a single domain, the client’s IT team can provide better support to end users, reduce infrastructure costs, improve workstation management, increase standardization and reduce back-end support time.

The client returned high customer satisfaction reports, identifying our high-level of communication between our teams and the client’s business leaders and site staff, as well as our overall project management, as truly exceptional services. In addition, by communicating with leadership throughout the engagement, we have helped define account and server migration processes for future acquisitions.

Additionally, since completing the AD consolidation, the client has re-engaged us to help migrate a newly purchased mill to their domain, and called on us to discuss a potential service opportunity to migrate approximately 8,000 PCs at 280 different sites to Windows 7.

  • Project management expertise. Project management was the core foundation of this consolidation project. Through planning, onboarding, managing and monitoring our teams throughout the life cycle of the project, TEKsystems was able to clearly define project stages, continually improve our processes, ensure deadlines were met and deliver better outcomes. Our established project management teams kept all migration timelines on track even when challenges arose, and coordinated effectively with on-site teams by serving as liaisons between business leaders and the technical team.
  • Communication. Communicating regularly with the client’s business leaders throughout the course of the engagement helped keep stakeholders informed of migration progress, challenges and overarching timelines. Through weekly status calls, our project management team shared real-time metrics and reports that gave an accurate state of the overall consolidation effort and answered any questions as they arose. This routine checkpoint allowed leadership to feel confident in our ability to complete the project on time and on budget.
  • Partnership. TEKsystems has partnered with the client since 2011. Starting with providing staffing services to augment their IT team during a data center migration, then moving toward a services offering through this AD consolidation, we have remained a dedicated partner deeply vested in the success of their organization. We understand the client’s business drivers and overarching IT goals and have been able to customize our solutions and services to meet their evolving needs as they expand within the packaging industry.