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Dow Speeds Access to Apps and Data to Solve Real-World Problems

By Microsoft on January 12, 2017

Filed under Manufacturing & Resources

Population growth and longer lifespans strain almost every conceivable resource, including food, energy, and infrastructure. The Dow Chemical Company (Dow), a game-changer ranked 169 on the Global Fortune 500 list, is looking for solutions. Self-described as an “over 100-year-old-startup,” Dow hasn’t lost its entrepreneurial spirit. Instead of positioning itself as just a maker of chemical products, today Dow is all about harnessing science and technology to drive innovation.

To meet its goals, Dow pursues close collaboration with select researchers, customers, and suppliers worldwide, driving the need for access to data anytime, anywhere. For example, to create specialized agriculture products that maximize crop yields in local conditions, Dow needed real-time access to corporate data, as well as the ability to work closely onsite with customers. So the company turned to the Microsoft Cloud, giving Dow team members access to specialized apps and data from anywhere—even farmers’ fields!

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Changing technology and business strategies

A multinational corporation with 53,000 employees, more than 70,000 IT users, and operations in 180 countries, Dow had to find ways to easily and securely access applications and data in the field. In addition to collaborating with customers and colleagues, the company works on projects with external partners such as universities and national laboratories. To access information, Dow colleagues and partners used a combination of private and unified access connections and laptops to connect to the corporate network. It’s a common scenario in the business world, but Dow wasn’t satisfied.

“As the company transforms to a market-driven business portfolio, our supporting IT capabilities have to change in a way that allows quick and easy interaction with our customers and suppliers while maintaining strong data-access controls to protect our intellectual property and manage risk,” says Todd Fox, Enterprise Architect—Security, at The Dow Chemical Company. “In  a rapidly changing business environment if you are not constantly innovating you’re losing business.”

Its goals for winning in multiple markets, including agriculture, energy, and semiconductor industries, spurred discussions about the role IT should play in enabling global business strategy. The company decided that it needed to move to a more elastic, cloud-based environment. Fareed Mohammed, Chief Architect at The Dow Chemical Company, says, “We wanted to be able to take advantage of various trends including social media, big data and analytics, the Internet of Things, and certainly mobile technologies. And from that, comes the overarching question of how to deploy and create advantage from cloud capabilities.”

Streamlining access to apps and data through the cloud

Dow’s journey to the cloud started when it moved several datacenter workloads to Microsoft Azure instead of upgrading on-premises hardware. And with assets in the cloud as well as on-premises, the company wanted an identity management solution that would span its entire infrastructure. So it decided to implement the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), an end-to-end portfolio of products that enable identity management, mobile device and app management, and data protection. After a thorough analysis, Dow concluded that it wanted to do more than shift workloads to the cloud.

“We realized that we could manage demand in a very elastic way with rapid provisioning and using Microsoft EMS for identity management,” says Mohammed. “But we also looked at our physical datacenter, where things are trending in terms of capacity, and what costs would be if we needed to expand. And since we have a clear preference for software-as-a-service and were already using Microsoft Office 365, it made logical sense to use a cloud-based solution.”

As part of its cloud transformation journey, Dow decided to take the bold step of using Microsoft EMS to provide cloud-based, single-sign-on access to approximately 40 apps running on-premises, in addition to Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, and other SaaS solutions. Instead of setting up separate accounts for diverse applications, Dow can provide access to multiple resources with just one set of credentials. “So whether people are using personal or corporate mobile devices, they’ll be able to make connections directly from the cloud regardless of location,” says Matt Olmsted, Enterprise Architect—Mobility at The Dow Chemical Company. “In addition, with multi-factor authentication available, we’ll be able to further strengthen our security posture to prevent credential theft.”

The solution will ultimately extend to both corporate and employee-owned computers, tablets, and smartphones. Dow expects to roll out the solution to all of its more than 70,000 users by June 2016. In addition, the company is using Microsoft Surface Pro tablets for its sales team when appropriate.

Providing new solutions with better agility

With Microsoft EMS, Dow and its partners can quickly and safely share information using virtually any device, including smartphones and tablets. Faster and easier collaboration, coupled with real-time access to information, means that Dow researchers and product developers can spend more time creating solutions that improve quality of life worldwide. Olmsted says, “For example, our sales team can have fast and secure access to corporate data while at a customer location.  This also enables real-time collaboration with Dow colleagues to provide timely answers instead of having to wait to get back to the office.”

By providing more fluid access to corporate apps and data, the Dow IT team can play a bigger role in driving global business strategy. “With our previous cloud SaaS identity and access management solutions, we had to go through a fairly significant design, deployment, configuration, and testing cycle, but that initial configuration has already been done with Microsoft EMS,” says Fox. “Before it used to take us 40 to 80 hours to implement an SaaS authentication solution, or hundreds of hours to do custom development to achieve SaaS single sign-on. Now, it takes just a few hours to do the configuration and testing, which truly decreases our time-to-market.”

As a result, Dow can keep its focus on solving real-world problems instead of struggling with technology. “We talk about having an entrepreneurial culture—the attitude of a startup—and some of the aspects of a startup include innovation, speed, agility, flexibility, and the ability to work from anywhere, anytime on any device,” says Mohammed. “Enabling us to work at speed in real time and quickly collaborate is where Microsoft EMS comes in “.

By transitioning to the cloud and managing apps and mobile devices in one seamless environment, Dow is staying true to its vision of being a 100-year-young startup with global reach.

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