Callaway Golf has been known for most of its 35-year history for pioneering equipment breakthroughs, a reputation forged with the introduction of the Big Bertha line of woods in the early 1990s. The iconic club essentially created the market for oversized drivers and launched Callaway as a top-selling club manufacturer in the world, a position it has not relinquished.
With regular innovations in its lines of woods, irons, putters, and golf balls from brands that include Odyssey and Toulon Design, Callaway knows that technology advancements in golf are as much a sure thing as freshly manicured fairways at a US Open. Like many large companies, it also knows that the pace of technology change often moves slower when it comes to an enterprise infrastructure, especially for large-scale, mission-critical system upgrades.
A few years ago, after a successful campaign to reinvigorate its brand and boost sales, Callaway was in a position that many weekend golfers who are playing with outdated clubs know all too well. After a solid drive down the middle of the fairway, the company realized it didn’t have the right club in the bag to reach the green. Its legacy infrastructure, in other words, prevented an optimal experience for some key processes, including advanced planning.
To achieve its goal of pivoting to a growth strategy that includes acquisitions, Callaway realized it was due for an infrastructure overhaul. “Our COO Mark Leposky challenged IT to develop an infrastructure that would support the company doing a lot of new things,” says Mike Nevlida, Callaway Golf Senior Director, Global IT Infrastructure and Support Services. “And one of those was better product planning. We wanted to shorten the turnaround time for running reports to reliably tell our customers when we could build and deliver their product.”
According to Nevlida, the batch-oriented reporting previously involved multiple systems and took approximately 32 hours to run, which limited it to being run once a week on a Saturday so as not to disrupt the business. But there were many reasons why it would be helpful for that report to be generated or re-run mid-week. “If a large customer made an urgent request for a product, to fill that order, we needed to reprioritize things because it shuffled the deck for other customers,” Nevlida says. “We had to follow that waterfall effect all the way through, so being able to run that report earlier would make reprioritization much easier.”
Across the board, users started to realize what was happening and began finding better ways to spend their time than waiting for a report to run. We could see from the beginning they were starting to use data to make better decisions and improve commitments to our customers.
— Mike Nevlida, Senior Director, Global IT Infrastructure and Support Services, Callaway Golf Company
Finding the Right Club
Callaway crafted its vision for a new infrastructure into a purpose statement: The company wanted to “operate and continuously evolve a stable, feature-rich computing infrastructure” to support global business functions with no unexpected downtime and a reasonable total cost of ownership (TCO).
In 2015, the company embarked on a search for a technology vendor that could deliver on those requirements. This search led Callaway to select SAP HANA with a decision to deploy SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA and SAP Business Warehouse powered by SAP HANA. One of the big questions for Callaway was whether it could consolidate its over 7TB database on a single SAP HANA database without having to conduct a separate data archiving project or invest in nearline storage. To alleviate this concern, the business opted for a somewhat modified scale-out approach; it purchased a dedicated SAP HANA appliance to run SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization.
Nevlida says that Callaway chose a hardware provider with a proven, scalable server with SAP-specific expertise, and it selected a 4TB system with an expandability option to 6TB that wouldn’t require hardware replacement. “We were not sure if we could consolidate everything, so we ended up hedging our bet. Our original design was to put all SAP application modules onto a single server,” he says. “We ended up separating SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization from SAP Business Suite because of concerns about incompatible workloads, like batch queries affecting performance for the interactive users, so we bought a total of five physical database servers to support the functional separation in production and quality assurance while consolidating development.”
According to Nevlida, Callaway likely could have forced a consolidation effort to fully optimize performance on a single server, but avoided this in part because the extract, transform, and load (ETL) process was so cumbersome in its previous architecture that Callaway was already satisfied by an up to five times performance improvement without even fully eliminating the network interface in the new solution.
“By consolidating further, we could have achieved faster performance with advancements in the software,” Nevlida says. “However, because of the transactional nature of SAP ERP versus SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization which is more batch-like, we didn’t want to impact the interactive users to improve the planning system. So, we do have a little bit of that old ETL delay, but because SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization runs so fast on SAP HANA, it takes just seven hours now.”
A Launch to the Green
Callaway opted for a big-bang migration, in part for minimal business disruption. From a timeline perspective, the company also planned to move to a new corporate data center in August 2016, and wanted to be up and running on the new system before then. “We worked very closely with the Basis team to help speed up the final data migration, but at the end of it all, we used a very typical and straightforward SAP command,” says Nevlida. “The team started by scanning nearly 8,000 custom objects using SAP’s source code inspector and found that, of about 1,100 recommended changes, only about 20 were specific to SAP HANA. Almost all of the changes were made in the current system before migrating the data. Those efforts made the migration that much easier because we knew that all the code would work in the new system.”
According to Nevlida, Callaway migrated over a weekend, coordinating IT services and support for roughly a dozen global sites in the event that issues cropped up with specific custom country codes. “The team spent a long night watching the migration then had remote sites report in with their verification results, and that went really well,” he says. “It ended up being a precursor for moving our entire data center from a hosted model to an internal data center that we built. We ended up using a lot of the same methodology to coordinate and communicate with everyone around the world.”
Lining up a Birdie Putt
Nevlida reports that running the SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization report, which previously took more than a day, now completes in just seven hours on SAP HANA — slightly more than its goal of four hours but within its parameters without having to invest additional time or resources. For end users, the performance improvement for this and other smaller reports was certainly a welcome change. “Typically, people would start a report and then go grab coffee or head off to a meeting, and when they got back, maybe it would be done,” he says. “On the Monday morning of go-live, the system was running so fast people thought their commands had failed because reports that took 20 minutes were taking 20 seconds.”
Of approximately 600 process benchmark tests that Callaway ran to test the new system, all but a handful showed performance improvements — with a few processes running hundreds of times faster. “The results were dependent on the data and what the reports were supposed to calculate,” Nevlida says. “But across the board, users started to realize what was happening and began finding better ways to spend their time than waiting for a report to run. We could see from the beginning they were starting to use data to make better decisions and improve commitments to our customers.”
Nevlida also highlights the low impact transition, a significant reduction in maintenance cost, increased operational efficiency, and greater flexibility for a future cloud migration as key benefits of the project. “Overall, we were able to support two very large and financially rewarding projects for the company at the same time and they went live a month apart,” he says about the SAP HANA migration one month prior to the new data center. “SAP HANA put some wind in our sails; we always strive to be better and with the success of this project and going live in just nine months fueled a lot of optimism and belief in ourselves.”