Case study: Sealed Air
Acquia Platform Enables Fast, Bold Relaunch of Sealed Air’s Intranet and Internet
When Executive Director of Digital Marketing, Benjamin Pollack, first walked in the door at Sealed Air, he knew he was in for a bumpy ride. A Fortune 500 company with sales of over $7.8 billion in 2014, Sealed Air had “bubbled up” over the past 55 years from the introduction of its iconic product, Bubble Wrap, to become a purveyor of premium packaging, cushioning, cleaning, and hygiene brands around the globe. Now, the company was undergoing a fundamental re-design of its Internet and intranet IT platform.
But problems had arisen from the beginning. The content management system (CMS) provider lacked the ability to scale to an enterprise level that would accommodate everything on the development agenda. Thus, applications would be limited by a proprietary architecture ill suited to the kind of rapid application development that Sealed Air needed to accomplish its current IT objectives and future application needs.
Before the project team reached a point of no return, Pollack made a decision to “push the nuclear button” and clear the decks for a whole new approach. He assembled an internal team headed by Keyvan Eslami, Executive Director of IS Innovation, and Kiran Vedak, VP of IS Innovation, both denizens of the Drupal movement and consummate IT architects.
For two consecutive days, they took up residence in a series of conference rooms to hash out the parameters of the project and how it could be built as quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively as possible.
Freed for Speed
The major issue was speed. The team needed a process that was fast enough to match the team’s ambitious schedule. Based on decades of collective experience, they decided that only an open source environment could offer such a capability, and Drupal would provide the ideal architecture, based on its combination of an agile CMS and a scalable application development framework.
Moreover, the platform offered an unprecedented opportunity to leverage a managed crowdsourcing approach, enabling Drupal developers around the world to take on work that could not be completed in house.
Taking It to the Enterprise Level
Without Acquia, none of this would have been possible. Acquia’s best-of-class hosting arrangement, providing full-service coverage at all layers of the Sealed Air infrastructure, was the key to vaulting the system up to the enterprise level.
In a significant departure from traditional hosting, for instance, the monitoring function determines resource allocations and support requirements, which goes far beyond just putting applications on a server and maintaining an ability to see whether they are running or not. In contrast to other service and support offerings in the market, Acquia provides a full-service, application-level SLA (service-level agreement).
With this new IT platform, Sealed Air can support whatever applications are needed as well as an infrastructure with an almost infinite capacity to scale up to meet ever-rising demand.
“For CIOs concerned about open source, it’s the way that Acquia takes Drupal to the enterprise level that makes all the difference,” Eslami says. “And in a time when the web is rapidly becoming the center of the business universe, that’s exactly what we need.”
Drupal is a great CMS. Acquia + Drupal make an enterprise-level web platform. The Sealed Air team has taken this to a new level by adopting it as a Web Application Development Framework.
Leveraging developer talent throughout the Drupal community, and a rich portfolio of community-contributed modules, not only ensures that almost any application can be created, but it can be done quicker and easier than would otherwise be possible using a proprietary system.
Originally, the entire Sealed Air project was predicated on a twoyear timeframe. But the initial phase of the platform redesign was delivered in approximately eight weeks, at 50 percent of the cost originally projected, primarily because the open source Drupal platform was essentially free.
“With this combination of Drupal and Acquia,” says Eslami, “we can take a very secure approach for doing high-risk turn-key projects. Everything is top quality when we work with Acquia directly, and we can accomplish our objectives faster and easier than would have been possible any other way.”
Consensus of Concerns
Early on, the Sealed Air team took a key step in building the platform by enlisting Gyro, a “global ideas” conceptual development agency. Gyro’s job was to ignite the process and spearhead the overarching development effort.
Two of the firm’s savviest project drivers, Mike Hensley, Managing Partner and President, Chicago, and Frank Garamy, VP of technology, jumped in with both feet. They began by setting up an extensive array of internal and external interviews to gain consensus around business objectives among the organization’s various constituencies, from customer and shop floor manager to CEO.
The primary objective was to determine the top concerns of each constituency, both internally and externally, before structuring or designing anything.
The greatest challenge was to consolidate the myriad of learnings derived from this outreach into a unified expression of the company as a whole.
The realization that the groups shared some concepts led to the conceptualization of an integrated web superstructure encompassing three primary areas:
- Products—The site needed to support a robust library of products, where information—specifications, uses, and benefits—could be easily located and obtained.
- Solutions—Products germane to specific industries or divisions needed to be incorporated into an overarching solutions view. This would give the user discreet windows into government, education, beverage, agriculture, consumer goods, medical, pharmaceuticals, general packing, healthcare, facility management, food, and hospitality, as well as the organization’s four corporate divisions: Food Care, Diversey Care, Product Care, and Medical Applications.
- Company—In concert with the new “doing more with less” brand messaging, this was critical to moving Sealed Air from a position of product resource to a knowledge-based solutions provider.
On a tactical level, tapping into the 20,000-strong Drupal development community circumvented almost 80 percent of the development issues the team faced because developers in that community had already solved them. Therefore, most of the work could take the form of customization. And since tools were not dependent on proprietary vendor development, they could be modified for specific uses as necessary
Building on a modular basis, using modules aligned with functionalities, also facilitated easy localization for international markets on a global plane. Closer to home, it facilitated the creation of repositories for the stockpiling of sales brochures, data sheets, and other print marketing materials.
One of the most important aspects of this approach has been the ability to quickly and efficiently handle the development of customer marketing sites. Drupal currently offers over 30,000 modules that can deliver up to 60 percent of the functionality needed to create those sites. This allows differentiation to become the focus of the customized work that remains.
According to Vedak, “It’s like building with a basic Lego set. A single core of Drupal extends into different branches. For instance, two applications such as Facebook and Twitter might look entirely different from the outside, but those applications are really just one in Drupal.”
From a customer-facing perspective, unique opportunities for multi-level engagement abound. A user looking for a specific product, for example, can go to a solutions setting where the product is placed in that context. Likewise, visitors can move in the opposite direction, from solution to product.
Although it’s been a turbulent mission for Benjamin and his crew, they’ve come away with more than even they had expected: an intranet infrastructure accommodating extensive business process growth; an integrated, contextually-based Internet presence offering a highly-immersive consumer experience; and a new brand messaging paradigm based on the concept of “imagining a world where less is greater than more.”
Running both Internet and intranet portions of the project in parallel, this small, agile development crew has built a fully integrated Internet and intranet environment capable of extending into an unlimited future.
The English version of the Internet site went live on December 15, 2014 and will be localized for any remaining languages by the end of Q2 2015. Benjamin’s team also relaunched the company’s intranet on the Acquia Platform. That intranet portion was activated on January 14, 2015.
“Our new intranet not only consolidates all our internal resources into one central hub globally, but also introduces several integrated social media options, enabling employees to collaborate with each other and share ideas,” said Pollack.
Already, the quality of interaction has increased dramatically, delivering a quantum advance in traffic, transactions, revenue, brand affinity, and engagement on an unprecedented scale.
At the end of the day, it’s an investment from which Sealed Air is destined to reap exponential returns for years to come.