How a major US retailer is embracing agility through SD WAN

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In our CIO research, Uncover the CIO Mindset, we looked at how CIOs around the world view themselves in terms of agility. To get more detail, we spoke to two CIOs to find out more about their challenges and whether the research reflects their view.

For our first CIO, at a major US retailer of business services, products, and digital workplace technology solutions, the route to agility was with the cloud and flexible networks.

They had an integrated B2B distribution platform, a growing online presence, and more than 1,000 stores. But legacy tech has a ceiling. To grow its e-commerce sales, they had to look beyond the on-premises, single platform, single network infrastructure. They are now in the process of moving workloads to a public cloud structure and gradually consolidated to one environment.

SD WAN and 5G enable agility

“Prior to SD WAN, it would take us three months to plan and then three months to implement. Now it takes us only a few weeks to roll out any service. SD WAN unlocks incredible amounts of flexibility and makes us extremely agile.”  

Not everything was smooth sailing. The remoteness of many of the company’s physical stores created complications. It was tough to put together a reliable network, infrastructure capability, and bandwidth in all stores to efficiently service customers. Indeed, even when trying to roll out service capabilities to their customers directly, they hit roadblocks because they simply couldn’t offer these services.

Without digital transformation, the business was trapped in rigidity, unable to speed up delivery and enhancements. Then, they modernised most of the retail network to an SD WAN infrastructure. Now, they can quickly make changes that truly support the business.

Next in line is 5G, and they are betting big on this, especially to enhance connections to remote store locations. Instead of moving infrastructure into another location, they are considering different solutions – like a combination of public and private cloud, which will give them the best of both worlds.

Evaluating partners on what matters most

Strong believers in the power of ecosystems, the company is vocal on the view that partnerships are essential to creating agility. In the CIO’s words: “Our partners really help us build out our products faster.”

Partnerships are important, but so are partner sustainability scores. This is a big consideration for the company. They want suppliers to share how they run sustainability initiatives and their successes and failures with this.

“ESG is way more important now than it has ever been. We weren’t talking about it as much last year. But since the last six months, it has become a very important conversation from a top-down perspective,” said the CIO.

Diversity is also part of the culture for this retailer. They have a Diversity Chairman, diversity activities are common at the associate or junior levels and diversity is linked to ESG scores, which are extremely important to them.

To find out more about the CIO Mindset, download the full report here

Darren Willsher

24 February 2022

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