This supermarket and retail group is one of the largest retailers in the UK, with annual sales of £26 billion. Their digital retail subsidiary offers than 60,000 products online and in-store. Running the tech side of this operation is one of the largest IBM software estates in the UK with a figure of 40,000 user devices, multiple servers and millions of cash registers.
This customer is one of the leading retailers both online and in-store in the UK with over £32.4bn in sales in 2019 (incl. VAT). Their retail infrastructure both in-store and online depends heavily on 3 main IBM products: DB2, MQ and Sterling. DB2 manages the products database, Sterling manages the entire ordering and order fulfillment process, and MQ connects DB2 to Sterling. For their online retail, they have the additional product of WebSphere eCommerce which is the online store. If one of these products errors or fails, the entire retail system fails.
Every year, Black Friday weekend, which runs for 4 days from the last Friday in November, is one of the biggest revenue-generating periods in retail. Annually, prior to working with Origina, our customer would experience extensive downtime and errors across their IT infrastructure over this 4-day period. This ultimately resulted in substantial loss of revenue, and the need for reactive spends of time and money and fire-fighting problem resolution.
The customer came to Origina for help in gaining stability and reducing the downtime and errors across their IT infrastructure during this business-critical period.
Our approach was a two-fold proactive preparation and onsite support resolution.
13 weeks ahead of Black Friday, our support team and team of IBM Experts (IEs) had weekly calls with the customer, for 6hrs at a time, to run a series of tests and test scenarios. The data from these tests was then analyzed to find weaknesses and issues in the systems which would result in failures on Black Friday due to high volume of traffic to the site and certain products. Our IEs worked with the customer to subsequently fix the issues and stabilize the DB2, MQ and Sterling environment proactively ahead of Black Friday.
As a result, for Black Friday 2018 there was not a single error, or any downtime experienced across the entire IT infrastructure.
During the 4-day Black Friday period, we had a team onsite with the client 24/7 incase any error or downtime would occur. This team consisted of IEs who had worked with the customer in the 13-week preparation as well as one of the original coders of IBM Sterling who went on to become the Chief Architect of Sterling.
Ultimately, due to the proactive preparation, there were no issues, but our onsite team of experts provided the peace of mind for the client.
Our approach was unique as we both looked at the entire infrastructure and system, as opposed to the individual products, and we took a proactive preparation and preventative approach.
Subsequently from our work with the customer on Black Friday, we identified that the majority of their IT infrastructure issues outside of Black Friday stem from their IT product configuration and poor housekeeping by their internal IT team. IBM said the issue stemmed from the version of the products they were utilizing and doing a costly upgrade of the products would fix their specific issues. The resource-intensive planning for this upgrade had been on going for 2 years, was not yet finished, and both the upgrade and transition process not yet started.
1) improve and optimize the housekeeping
2) re-configuring their system, the product upgrade is no longer needed. As such, the money and time that would have been needed for this lengthy upgrade has been otherwise utilized.
This optimizing and re-configuration of their IT Infrastructure and the subsequent efficiencies they have brought has contributed to the organization’s £220m cost saving in 2019.