In the same way that Amazon became a change-maker for the pace of delivery for consumer goods, cloud technology became a change-maker for the pace of business processes for corporations. Ten years ago, business leaders expected mergers and acquisitions would take time, but that’s no longer true. “Today the demand on security teams is, ‘get us up and running immediately,’” says Matt Ramberg, vice president of information security at Sanmina Corporation.
Sanmina, a Fortune 500 company, provides advanced technology and global supply chain solutions to the world's most innovative companies. In one of the fastest-growing markets—electronic manufacturing services—Sanmina constantly evolves its business, so mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures are vital to that process. To meet the demands of the business, the security team needed to move faster, so they looked at a new approach to integrations.
With so many integrations failing to meet their synergy goals, it became clear the old ways were no longer working. Ramberg joined Steven Singh, vice president of mergers and acquisitions at Zscaler, and me for a question-and-answer session during the CXO Virtual Summit event. Here’s how Ramberg addressed his team’s cloud-driven approach.
Mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures are a big part of your business strategy. How has the demand for those integrations changed recently?
Ramberg: “We average three to four mergers and acquisitions a year, which is a lot of work. To keep up with the demand, three years ago, we implemented the Zscaler Private Access (ZPA) platform to replace our VPN, and it transformed our mergers and acquisitions process. Prior to Zscaler, it would take months to establish full connection between two companies. Not anymore. Last year, we completed an integration in Belarus, and, on the same day the paperwork was signed, we had those 800 new users up and running.
“For divestitures, it’s pretty much the same demand. Our goal is to divest as quickly and securely as possible. From an IT point of view, it’s the same process but in reverse.”
How have cloud capabilities changed your approach?
Ramberg: “By adopting cloud and the zero trust approach for integrations, the business is able to be productive sooner while the technical teams sort out what we acquired.
“As head of security, my biggest concern is the security posture of the environment we’re about to merge with. Do they even have antivirus? Who do they give remote access to? Previously, it would take weeks to sort out items like whose firewall to use and whose hardware to use.
“With the cloud, that wasn’t our top concern anymore, particularly with Zscaler Private Access because I'm not putting the new users on my network. It dramatically decreased our timeline.
“Today, our first question is, ‘How many users do we need to add?’ And we’re proud to respond, ‘We'll have them connected in a few hours.’ We don’t have to wait until we have all the answers to get them going. By connecting users on day one, we’ve decreased the time it takes to realize the synergies the business identified, which inspired the integration in the first place.”
How do you ensure you're managing to compliance and adhering to regulations?
Ramberg: “We see this question often with our defense and aerospace clients, who have to follow stringent requirements. These customers are very concerned about VPN, in particular, and the answer always comes down to the underlying architecture. Once we explain the zero trust architecture and that every cloud solution we use, especially Zscaler, already has the necessary certifications, they’re satisfied.”
Have you had to adjust your resources and employee skill set to meet the demands of zero trust in the cloud?
Ramberg: “Previously, the network, infrastructure, and security teams had to dedicate their resources to connect users. Now, it’s just my team. We have about 35,000 employees, and it took two security team members to deploy Zscaler Private Access from start to finish. And these individuals weren’t cloud security experts either. They followed basic principles of security—least privilege and zero trust—but from a cloud perspective.
“With the merged company accessing everything they need on day one—enterprise resource planning (ERP) most importantly—we’ve freed up employees who previously would have been assigned to work on the integration. This allows us to take a more balanced approach to properly integrate a new company moving forward. We didn’t have that capability several years ago.”
If you compress the timeline upfront, were there additional efforts you had to start earlier in order to continue capturing benefits gained?
Ramberg: “Usually IT and security are the last to know about integrations, but we need to be involved from the beginning to speed up time to savings. That’s the biggest change we’ve seen: the business side is bringing IT in earlier. With advanced notice, the security team is able to prepare policy groups ahead of the integration and we've even created a standard mergers and acquisitions bucket that helps speed everything up.
“We also organized a dedicated support line with administrators from the security team. Employees know they can contact our group directly, and 99% of the time the issues are about a URL or application that wasn’t allowed. We’re able to easily correct these within minutes.”
What’s been the biggest surprise with the cloud-enabled mergers and acquisitions approach?
Ramberg: “Overall, it’s been a really positive experience. I believe that one of the key things to making this successful was turning the IT/security department from the ‘no’ team to the ‘know’ team.
“When we switched from VPN to Zscaler Private Access, we did a lot of communication ahead of time: we explained what we’re doing and, more importantly, why we’re doing it. Employees responded positively. We’ve seen a huge improvement in the user experience. Simple issues like connecting to a VPN and not being able to use their home printer are no longer a concern for employees.
“Perhaps most surprising though is the bump in brand reputation. When we tell one of the businesses we’re integrating with that, we can have them operational on day one, we’re surpassing their expectations and building up our own brand.”
Integrate at the speed of business today and set yourself up for the future
Cloud-enabled zero trust architecture offers a better approach to mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures. It’s not only going to help you integrate quicker, but it’s setting you up for the future. Hundreds of clients are already doing exactly this: using the Zscaler platform to move at the speed of business.
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