Here's How Groupon Set Up A New Age Company

Groupon Tour

Photo: Dan Frommer, Business Insider

Groupon grew up super fast thanks in large part to cloud computing. It famously started on Amazon’s cloud, not buying much of its own tech until recently.Things are changing now. As Groupon grows, it is moving off of Amazon and into its own data centres, which are being built now, Groupon CIO Alan McIntosh told Business Insider. This lets it control security and reliability.

But some things have not changed. Groupon still doesn’t buy much traditional enterprise software, preferring cloud software wherever possible. The company is a great example of the changes we see coming to enterprise tech.

For instance we asked McIntosh Windows PCs? Macs? Linux … or all of the above?

Answer: Macs (hey, the guy is named McIntosh). “We’re probably 85% Apple. We give people options and some people come from environments where they used Windows and they don’t want to switch,” he explains. But clearly most take the Mac when offered.

iPhone/iPads, Android or Blackberry or Windows Phone 7?

Answer:  Because Groupon is a “big Apple shop” iPhones and iPads are everywhere, but the company doesn’t buy iPads for all employees, he says. Some people opt for Androids too.

Microsoft Office or Google Apps?

Answer: Both. Groupon doesn’t deal with Microsoft’s e-mail system, Exchange, but it does use Microsoft Office. “We use Google Apps as our primary, e-mail and calendaring platform.  Day to day e-mailing and scheduling is powered by Google Apps. But we have Microsoft Office installed on most of our employee machines and it’s our default suit of productivity apps.”

What’s the most unusual software used to run the business?

Surprise: Groupon just bought Cisco’s collaboration software, Jabber. The company has been a big Webex customer and uses Cisco’s Telepresence video conferencing systems. So it will add Cisco’s Jabber for instant messaging and instant voice/video. (Jabber competes with Microsoft Lync).

BUT it is supplementing that with cloud apps. In addition to Webex, Groupon uses Skype and hired videoconferencing cloud service Blue Jeans Network to connect all these different video services together.

It is ALSO rolling out Jive’s “social intranet” software, another cloud app.

Alan McIntoshAlan McIntosh, CIO Groupon

Photo: Alan McIntosh

Groupon uses and the platform “for many different things, and is working on projects for tighter integration” with its voice/communications systems, says McIntosh.Groupon also uses the Zendesk cloud app for its help desk (instead of classic software like BMC’s Remedy) and NetSuite for ERP instead (instead of software from SAP or Oracle).

The coolest cloud app Groupon uses is Okta, which does identity management, meaning it keeps track of all the employees passwords to all its cloud apps, McIntosh says.

All this cloud means that Groupon can do more with less IT people. Groupon has 12,548 employees worldwide, it says, and only about 80 IT people. “We can do more with less, without having infrastructure or apps to support. This allows us to be focused on things that are important to the business and less focused on things like patches and updates,” he says.

But more than that, the cloud lets employees be more “more connected. Most of these other systems have hooks into other platforms. They can pull in LinkedIn profile data so you are automatically building a skill set in an employee directory, for instance,” he says. “We trust the cloud. The cloud is really mature, as it relates to building an enterprise business. The cloud offers viable solutions to big enterprise apps.”

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