How lipstick maker Revlon turned around its business with IT

Lipstick maker Revlon (s rev) isn’t likely the first company you’d think of when you think high tech. But part of what helps the global brand push more cosmetics to consumers is an IT infrastructure based on a private cloud.

Since 2007, the company has implemented a common cloud strategy that puts all of its data in one place and better enables it to align its business goals with its technology, said David Giambruno, Revlon’s SVP and CIO, at GigaOM’s Structure 2013 conference in San Francisco. The company “literally normalized all the data at Revlon,” he said, adding that their internal cloud runs more than 500 applications run on its internal cloud and averages 14,000 transactions a second.

With that strategy, Revlon has been able to increase project throughput by 425 percent without increasing spending, survive three disaster recovery events (including Hurricane Sandy) and achieve more than $70 million in cost savings or avoidance. In a world where speed is a huge competitive advantage, Giambruno said Revlon’s new system enables its business units to get its hands on actionable information about the market and new product ideas faster and more quickly make decisions.

Most importantly for a CIO hoping to defy the “career is over” curse associated with the job, Giambruno said it helped the company boost its bottom line.

“Five years ago, if you looked at Revlon’s balance sheet — I wouldn’t call it great,” he said. “Now I’d argue that it’s one of the most profitable cosmetic companies in the world. It’s not because of what I did; it’s what I did to let the business units do what they need to do.”

In addition to changing its infrastructure, Giambruno said technology has helped Revlon shift its culture and develop an environment that’s more receptive to risk-taking.

Cynthia Stoddard, SVP and CIO of NetApp, agreed on the importance of encouraging a culture that supports change and experimentation.

“You have to create an environment where people can innovate and feel safe innovating and trying things out,” she said.

Going forward, Giambruno said, understanding the convergence of infrastructure technology will continue to be critical to the company’s success.

“From an organizational perspective, I would say there’s a crossroads,” he said. “Most of you will talk in terms of servers, stacks [and] storage stacks. In my world, everything is horizontal. My storage network and virtualization team, cloud team, no one has that title any longer… The traditional network guy has to know storage and his impact on storage. For us, the [storage area network] is the center of the universe… because everything is a file and the rate of change is huge and that’s where we serve and literally project all of our applications from.”

Check out the rest of our Structure 2013 live coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page