Origina third-party support stabilizes legacy IBM software, eliminating downtime and reducing Black Friday business risk.
Facing a three-year contract renewal with IBM, Argos found itself at a crossroads. It wanted to maintain its business-critical IBM estate and avoid expensive and disruptive change programs, but was increasingly dissatisfied with the level of support from IBM.
Overall, the IT team at Argos found that IBM wasn’t as responsive as it needed. On average, when the Argos team logged a trouble ticket with IBM, it could expect a minimum wait time of 12 hours – and at times, several days – until IBM’s customer support responded to the issue. In the fast-moving world of retail, the time spent waiting for help translated to lost sales revenue.
When Argos did get a response, its team had to manage an inflexible and frustrating escalation process rather than working with one point-of-contact who knew its software needs well.
Argos took the opportunity to assess the value of their support model and see if a better option was available. When Argos raised their business concerns with IBM, their account manager tried to persuade the retailer to upgrade to new versions of their software. Doing so would have presented even more potential costs and concerns about service interruption. At the same time, the IT team at Argos faced internal pressure on the operations side to streamline spending as part of a greater cost-reduction initiative with its parent company, Sainsbury’s.
BLACK FRIDAY BLUES
One major issue for the Argos IT team was the intense pressure on its IT systems from Black Friday peak shopping.The weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the busiest and highest revenue-generating time of the year for Argos.
The IBM technology stack supporting Argos trading included IBM® DB2, IBM® Sterling, and IBM® MQ. Despite efforts from the IT team and requests to IBM, issues would arise each year that would cause systems to slow down and even create downtime. IBM struggled to respond quickly and support Argos during Black Friday, leading to substantial losses in revenue and a drain on resources during the shopping frenzy. The pressure to cut costs, preserve uptime, and see an actual return on investment (ROI) from its software support budget, especially during busy retail seasons, all motivated Argos to consider the third-party software support model.
“Some of the software we’re using is 20 years old. We don’t want to upgrade it – we want to continue using it in the same fashion that we are now.”
Argos is a subsidiary brand of Sainsbury’s, the second-largest chain of supermarkets in the UK. Argos is one of the UK’s leading digital retailers, with more than 60,000 products online and in-store. Argos.co.uk is the third most-visited online trading site in the UK. At the time, the company owned one of the largest IBM software estates in the UK, with 40,000 user devices, an array of servers, and millions of endpoints.
Retail - Grocery
After taking time to research the third-party software support model thoroughly, Argos switched to Origina ahead of its renewal date with IBM.
Almost immediately, the Argos team noticed a difference in the quality and urgency of software support. Origina made it an immediate priority to improve software stability, reduce system downtime, and cut ticket resolution time.
Origina’s dedicated support model gave our independent Global IBM Experts (GIEs) an intimate understanding of Argos’ environment and the interconnected mission-critical functions. Origina’s expert team agreed with Argos that there was no need for costly upgrades to ensure reliability and performance, and that all these issues could be completely resolved.
Once the advisory recommendations from Origina had been implemented, Argos saw its ticket resolution time drop from 12 hours to less than one hour on average. The improved level of service didn’t come with a higher price tag, either. Instead, the retailer cut spending on software support considerably, saving tens of millions compared to its previous spend with IBM.
STRESS-FREE BLACK FRIDAY
Knowing that Black Friday was a top business priority for Argos, the Origina team pre-tested the IBM estate well in advance of the four-day weekend.
Working together with Argos, the Origina team designed a strategy that hinged on rooting out all potential technical problems that might surface under increased demand. The GIEs also worked to resolve any old issues from Argos’ days of IBM direct support.
Starting 13 weeks away from the target date of Black Friday weekend, Origina’s GIEs and Argos’ IT engineers joined extensive weekly calls to run a series of tests and potential scenarios. Origina used the resulting data from these tests to identify and fix weaknesses in Argos’ DB2, Sterling, and MQ environments. Once Black Friday weekend arrived, Origina supplied a team of GIEs – including one of the original developers and the former Chief Architect of Sterling – to work alongside the retail group on-site 24x7x365 in case of any error or unforeseen downtime.
By making the switch to third-party support with Origina, Argos enjoyed:
- Significant cost savings
- Improved software support service
- Reliable response and resolution times tied to a Service Level Agreement
- Stable runtime from its legacy software without needing to upgrade
And, because of the team’s advanced planning and efforts to stabilize the environment in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, Argos experienced no downtime at all. The cost savings and subsequent efficiencies Origina achieved was a major contribution to the organization’s £220 million cost savings target.
“We’ve really found massive savings in moving to Origina. We feel like we’ve found real value and we’ve also gained a much better service.”
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