Retail: the new role of IT monitoring for successful customer experiences

Yann Beulque is the Monitoring Team Leader at our partner ADN Consulting which has many international clients in the retail sector (supermarkets, DIY, distance selling, clothing, etc.). The customer experience is at the heart of the changes in this sector, which has had to evolve and hybridise its IT in order to cope with a major change in habits. IT Monitoring has new challenges to face to meet operational needs of a customer experience that must remain optimal.

Centreon. Can you introduce yourself and ADN Consulting?

Yann Beulque. I am the Monitoring Team Leader at ADN Consulting, an IT service provider created in 2015 which has 68 consultants and serves around 30 clients mainly in the major retail sector. We are based in North and West of France (Lille and Nantes). Our values are based on an entrepreneurial spirit, strong team cohesion and a high level of expertise.

Centreon: What business and IT evolutions have you noticed at your retail customers?

Yann Beulque. The major changes we have seen are omnichannel and the digital/physical (phygital) store combination, but there are great disparities in terms of business and IT maturity. Some are moving forward quickly or have had to (successfully) accelerate the transformation of their business and IT models to survive, others are moving more slowly. As a result, distance sales players have become digital marketplaces and specialized retailers have gone digital to move towards a unified customer experience. As a result, these businesses must have a global view of what’s happening throughout the IT chain to guarantee availability and performance.

These changes to digital have been essential for many retail chains. For some, the digital transformation has made it possible to survive or even return to profitability. These transformations have a direct impact on the hybridization of infrastructures and more generally on IT strategy.

Centreon. How does the hybridization of IT infrastructure translate for these major chains?

Yann Beulque. It has many forms. If the customer experience is unified (I order online, get delivered or go to the drive), the application chains are not really unified. For example, applications used for checkout and store management, which are sometimes still running on AS400 and hosted on-premise, rub shoulders with websites and digital applications hosted in the Public Cloud, all of which must work together with maximum availability! In addition to that, there are processes inherited from the legacy world (such as stores that set their prices locally while the website or drive offers single prices) that evolve at the pace of the transformation.

It is essential to have a global vision of IT because it has become necessary to have links between stores and websites in order to offer customers the possibility of seeing nearby available stocks, for example. This also requires making “internal” company data available to consumers, ideally in near real time!

Centreon. The new watchword is therefore “real time”. In terms of indicators and IT monitoring, how does this translate?

Yann Beulque. Consumers expect real time, responsiveness and the retail and logistics chain have had to be adapted to meet these requirements. The real time, they need to have it on the websites which present what is in stock in the physical store and what is available on the web in a unified manner. Retail chains offer a single point of entry for consumers whereas the resources are distributed.

The retail chains realized they couldn’t put everything in the Cloud. In IT Centralized contexts where the stores access the applications remotely or when part of the applications are in the Cloud, we must pay special attention to the connections that are critical to the customer experience. 

A salesperson will be able to inform a customer in less than two seconds from any workstation in the store and have access to the website (and therefore offer a better customer experience) as long as their connection allows it! In addition to resource availability and connection reliability measurements, it is also becoming important to have a business approach and take action before the customer experience deteriorates, as this can have direct consequences on sales, brand image or in-store management.

Retail companies are currently scaling up their infrastructure and connections to be better sized, which translates into a real choice of investment in infrastructure and monitoring.

Centreon. Do you have an example of the importance of business-oriented IT monitoring based on the customer experience?

Yann Beulque. Yes, with a very concrete anecdote. We set up a drive-specific indicator for one of our retail clients to track the number of order preparations in the last 15 minutes. Depending on the threshold, this triggers an alarm. By monitoring the real-time flow of orders, we can identify slowdowns due to the latency time between the entry of web orders and their inclusion in the order management application. This was set up following an incident in a drive. The service was very slow, causing a queue so long that it ended up blocking the motorway exit next to the store, panicking residents and municipal police!

Centreon. How is business monitoring used by your clients?

Yann Beulque. We provide our clients with two levels of information: for example, dashboards and reports on the availability of resources for “sysadmins” and dashboards including business-oriented indicators for managers or executives. In concrete terms, we run queries in the business applications to retrieve values to which we then apply thresholds.  It is important to have a centralized view on the Centreon console while being able to monitor the customer experience in detail. Hence the importance of being able to interface Centreon with an APM tool and to consolidate all metrics on the Centreon console. If you haven’t connected your Centreon to an APM tool you’ve messed up your life!  

The monitoring console must be used to send technical and business alerts and to have global visibility on the availability of resources and connections as well as on the proper functioning of applications and the quality of the customer experience via an APM tool.

Download this ebook: “Customer experience, the new challenge of Smart Monitoring”. You will learn how to move from technical monitoring to performance-oriented monitoring to support the customer experience and operational excellence.