One of the largest supermarket and retail groups in the UK with annual sales reaching £26 billion, Argos has over 1,000 physical locations and 60,000 omnichannel products. It also represents one of the largest IBM® software estates in the UK, with 40,000 user devices, an array of servers and millions of endpoints.
Black Friday is the busiest and highest revenue-generating time period of the year for Argos. With an extensive e-commerce operation and physical presence, its IBM® technology stack – DB2, Sterling and MQ – is repeatedly put under pressure to perform.
Up until switching to Origina, the digital environment seemingly always encountered one issue or another that resulted in extended downtime during Black Friday. The support it received from the OEM struggled to solve these issues quickly, leading to substantial losses in revenue and a drain on resources during the four-day shopping frenzy.
Argos came to Origina to improve stability, reduce system downtime and cut ticket resolution time. Origina worked with its technology team to gain an intimate understanding of the client’s digital environment and how it interconnected.
A two-fold approach was agreed on. It took the shape of extensive proactive preparation in the months leading up to Black Friday weekend, as well as on-site support resolution during the project’s go-live time frame.
Preparation hinged on rooting out all the potential technical problems that could surface during the four-day weekend, as well as confirming that old issues were completely resolved. Starting 13 weeks away from the target date, Origina’s support team, our Global IBM Experts (GIEs) and Argos' IT engineers joined weekly calls lasting six hours at a time to run a series of test and potential scenarios. The resulting data was used to find weaknesses and issues in DB2, Sterling and MQ environments; any problems were subsequently fixed, and the environments were stabilized.
Once Black Friday weekend arrived, Origina supplied a team of GIEs – which included one of the original coders of Sterling and former Chief Architect of Sterling – to work alongside the retail group on-site 24x7x365 in case of any error or unforeseen downtime. Due to upwards of 80 hours having been put in specifically to find problems ahead of time though, there were no issues for the on-site team to resolve.
As a result of the strategic initiative to mitigate downtime during the four-day stretch, Argos didn’t suffer a single error across its entire IT infrastructure over Black Friday weekend in 2018.
By working with the retail group to improve and optimize its infrastructure, our support team and GIEs were also able to identify the majority of challenges they faced stemmed from IT product configuration errors. This ran contrary to what IBM’s® software support said the issues stemmed from: the version of the products the company was using.
IBM’s® solution would have resulted in more costly upgrade projects – one of which was already in progress for two years upon the retail group switching to Origina and had not yet been finished – and would likely have not resolved most problems.
In identifying the issue with IT product configurations and fixing them, Argos was able to divert funds and resources toward new initiatives and other areas of the business in financial need. The cost savings and subsequent efficiencies that were found through the activity leading up to Black Friday contributed to the organization’s £220 million cost savings in 2019.