Consultancy for IFSP
(Later rebranded as AACS - Alliance Against Counterfeit Spirits)

Case Study

The company:

The Alliance Against Counterfeit Spirits (“AACS”) represents the world’s major international spirits producing companies. AACS has been in operation since the early 1990s with one single purpose - to combat the counterfeiting of distilled spirits brands. The actions of counterfeiters pose a direct health risk to consumers, erode legitimate tax revenues and undermine consumer trust in well established brands. AACS is active in more than 20 countries and protect the brands of some of the largest spirits businesses in the world, including Pernod-Ricard, Diageo and Bacardi. They run covert operations to note under-counter serving in bars, do litmus tests to check whether drinks are genuine, then track and follow perpetrators to prosecute other illegal activity such as production and warehousing.  

The problem:

IFSP (as AACS was known) engaged an out-source company in India to develop a web-fronted database, to track the fake-booze cases. Whilst the out-source company produced some good program code they lacked the design and organisational abilities required for such a project. As a result the overall quality was poor and the out-source company had difficulty improving it. Bad structure meant that fixing one bug would make an earlier bug re-appear, and caused other problems of this nature. To compound this the system was running on an old server located in Texas, with out-dated system software and unreliable connections.

The solution:

Mike Burton of Myco Systems first investigated the system and its supplier to inform AACS’s main decision, namely whether to abandon or repair the system. On balance “repair” was the more beneficial option, so Mike worked with AACS’s network technician to establish the underlying root causes of unreliability. Mike then introduced proper engineering principles such as change-control, logging, source-code management, and a repeatable build-process to support the different operating-system platforms used by AACS’s agents. In the process many errors were fixed, and enhancements were implemented which the original supplier had been unable to achieve.

Having stabilised the system the next step was to plan for its long-term care and support. Firstly Mike evaluated and chose a hardware company to rent a new server from, with security and resilience mechanisms such as load-balancing and a dual server configuration for continuous operation in the event of hardware outage or downtime for OS patches. The new server was good for GDPR compliance too, being UK-based and therefore compatible with AACS’s sophisticated multi-national data protection requirements.

Finally Mike selected a software support company from several candidates he located, so that the system could be handed over to them for ongoing frontline support and routine changes without needing Mike’s specialist knowledge. Mike provided knowledge-transfer at this stage, and advised AACS on a suitable collection of changes to use as a pilot project for the support company. This also completed their detailed knowledge of the system, fully equipping them to support it going forward.

Having achieved this Mike is occasionally called upon by AACS and the support company for specialist advice and technical input.



  • The key benefit has been greatly improved system reliability, with security and added resilience from the new server hardware.
  • The software can now be changed without the fear of collateral damage from “whack a mole” random problems emerging.
  • Day-to-day operation is now possible in a cost-effective way via the server and support companies, allowing the system to fully support AACS’ business operation and staff with minimal disruption and maximum, smooth efficiency.

"Ten minutes of Mike Burton’s time is worth 3 days of other peoples." Basil Smith, Luxembourg Stock Exchange

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