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Firm Builds SAN After Merger

Merger of 30 organizations into one leaves IT scrambling to organize data center

Any merger or acquisition can stress an IT staff, but few have to deal with combining 30 organizations in one shot.

That's what happened when Allied Capital Corp. acquired Advantage Sales and Marketing for $257 million and decided to consolidate what had been an umbrella group of 30 marketing firms into one company. The deal started Advantage's IT staff on a consolidation project that continues today -- nearly two years after the June 2004 acquisition and through a subsequent sale last month to J.W. Chids Associates and Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity for $1 billion.

"We had 30 different companies, and I think 30 different ways of doing things," Advantage's national technology director William Hiatt says. "That changed overnight for us."

As separate entities, Advantage's groups had direct attached servers in small offices around the country. The consolidation left it with 3,500 users, 553 servers, and an IT staff of about 45. That staff had to support a firm that claims revenue of more than $700 million annually and handles more than 1,200 clients, including DelMonte Corp., Quaker Oats, Tropicana, and Gatorade.

IT divided the project into two phases. The first phase was consolidating 35 disparate email systems, 30 Windows domains, and 60 SQL Servers into one corporate data center. The second phase consisted of deploying business applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise content management (ECM), and Business Intelligence.

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