When Woolworths Group, a major Australian retailer, moved its business-critical SAP system to Microsoft Azure, he knew it would be a big deal – in fact, it would be one of the largest SAP cloud migrations in the Asia-Pacific region and Japan. .
The migration has enabled the Woolworths Group to be more mobile, resilient and responsive to the changing needs of its customers, as well as improved operational resilience and reduced technological risks.
The program team updated and migrated more than 20 SAP applications, 75 terabytes of data, 135 database servers, and 435 application servers in Azure. This included one of the region’s largest SAP environments used to support the Woolworths Group’s business processes through its retail capabilities as well as financial functions.
Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic, the transformation was achieved in a timely manner, within budget and with minimal disruption to business or customers. Once the deployment approach was agreed, it took the Woolworths Group just 8 months to successfully transform its critical SAP platform into Azure. This incredible result has been achieved through a high degree of collaboration using industry best practices from Woolworths Group, Microsoft, SAP and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
An important milestone in the journey in the cloud
SAP’s Woolworths Group applications, including SAP ERP, SAP Retail for Merchandise Management and SAP Customer Activity Repository (CAR) at HANA, manage major business processes in supermarkets, Metro stores, BIG W outlets, Countdown stores in New Zealand and supply chain. Connect as well as to your corporate finances and other corporate support groups. These programs support the Woolworths Group in a number of tasks, from ordering goods and inventory management to getting products into the hands of its customers.
Planning for the cloud transformation project began in early 2020, and key decisions needed to be made as to which cloud provider to choose, as well as the optimal approach to migration. The Woolworths Group has been supported by its technology team, Microsoft engineers, SAP, TCS and several other partners. In total, a combined team of more than 200 people was involved in the program.
Due to the round-the-clock nature of retail operations and the size of the SAP application landscape, the Woolworths Group needed to significantly minimize downtime. Using SAP’s dedicated downtime minimization service, Near Zero Downtime, the shutdown window has been reduced from a potential few days to 5 p.m. On the eve of the migration, a business inspection process was conducted for three days, and more than 30 teams were involved to ensure there were no disruptions in business operations.
Along with the migration to the cloud, the Woolworths Group has reworked its disaster recovery capabilities. This has improved its redundancy and resilience, which are needed to optimize operations and ensure excellent usability. Compression has also allowed the Woolworths Group to halve the size of data now stored in Azure.
Lawrence Bennett, Woolworths Group’s chief technology officer, said the company’s level of stability was impressive following the transition of the SAP platform to Azure.
“Since the switching of production in October, our daily, weekly and end-of-month processes have been completed successfully, and in some cases this has contributed to improved productivity. We also experienced great uptime and performance stability during the peak Christmas trade. It was a fantastic achievement.
“In any case, there were problems of this magnitude that needed to be overcome.
“However, clear communication and accountability at Microsoft, TCS, SAP and our Woolworths Group teams meant that we were confident in our preparations and performance plans.
“The business rationale for migration has been understood and supported by our steering team, and we have purposefully attracted senior global sponsors through TCS, Microsoft and SAP,” he said.
While the COVID-19 pandemic was forcing the country to close, Bennett said it did not slow down the project.
“Throughout the project, the team worked remotely, and it turned out to be extremely successful.
“In fact, we discussed office work over the weekend on migration – after the restrictions were lifted – but felt that the team would work more efficiently remotely, given how all our tests and test runs were conducted.
“Flexible work actually suited this type of project, and the result shows that. Many project activities had to be carried out outside of standard working hours. Remote work allowed team members to balance these activities with personal time and not have to worry about trips to and from the office if they were tired or at odd hours of the day. ”
According to John Hunt, Chief Information Officer and Director of Group Enablement Woolworths Group, the program has improved efficiency, flexibility and market speed for Woolworths, and positioned vendors for continuous ERP upgrades and the transition to SAP S / 4 HANA at Azure. in the future.
“At Woolworths Group, we use the cloud to drive innovation and increase market speed. Our cloud transformation is a key factor in providing the ultimate customer and team experience in our stores and digital channels, ”he said.
“As part of this cloud transformation, SAP’s transition to Azure is another milestone in our roadmap in providing technology solutions for an ever-changing digital landscape. TCS, Microsoft and SAP are our longtime partners, and given their deep understanding of Woolworths and experience in cloud technology, we look forward to working with them on this strategic initiative. ”
Lessons from large-scale modernization
With its core SAP platforms now at Azure, the Woolworths Group leverages the platform’s ability to adapt to seasonal resource needs and use on-demand innovation cycles to better deliver services to its customers.
Bennett said involving technology partners and their executives on the project’s steering and executive committees provides a collaborative approach throughout. Each partner brought special skills – Microsoft’s experience in the cloud and infrastructure; SAP product support and migration tools; and TCS’s in-depth contextual knowledge of the Woolworths Group, as well as its knowledge in SAP solutions and large-scale cloud transformations.
Scaling and ensuring sustainability were key to the project’s focus, given the vast breadth and scale of Woolworths across Australia and New Zealand, as well as the billions of sales, inventory, orders, promotions and financial transactions that had to be handled in private. . To achieve this goal required well-thought-out architectural projects and management, as well as strong technical experience from the Woolworths Group and its partners Microsoft, SAP and TCS. This also required a holistic approach, including consideration of impacts on downstream and upstream systems; flawless deployment; and a robust testing strategy with a focus on non-functional testing.
The project deployment strategy paid close attention to automation, and several rounds of the migration cycle were conducted. This revealed failure points at the beginning of the schedule, which helped refine the migration process and optimize downtime periods.
An iterative approach to non-functional testing ensured that the systems were evaluated against performance standards, including for peak season volumes. Profiling and extrapolation of the data ensured the correct representative combination of workload, and the systems tested against the expected benchmarks were adjusted accordingly. This preparatory work and testing has led to high performance results now that the solutions are working in production.
Cloud Transformation provides the flexibility, maneuverability and performance that the Woolworths Group needs to meet the ever-changing demands of its business and customers. The improved resilience and performance of its environment have led to the opportunity to further explore flexible and flexible solutions, positioning retail operations for continued success.