Retailer Profits From an Advanced Data Framework

Optimizing network performance and managing data integration issues are enormous challenges for retailers. That’s equally true for companies selling goods online, which must deliver highly responsive sites and apps.

At the ALDO Group, a privately held Canadian firm that operates more than 1,750 stores in 82 countries, the need for an advanced IT data infrastructure led to the adoption of more advanced tools for the loading, extraction, transformation and processing of large, diverse data sets. “The problem wasn’t necessarily unique to us, but we found ourselves with a mix of very dated and highly customized legacy systems that didn’t integrate well with today’s service-based applications,” reports CIO Lance Martel.

At the center of the challenge: ensuring that the company had the technology to optimize order processing, improve organizational visibility and respond more quickly to the changing needs of the business. “We move huge amounts of data across systems, and one of the problems we faced was a proliferation of point-to-point integrations, which were difficult and costly to manage,” he explains.

Previously, the company had to manually connect ERP, warehouse systems, financial applications, databases and more, typically through EDI. “We were looking for ways to boost performance, simplify the overall IT infrastructure and reduce costs,” Martel recalls.

Oftentimes, the company found it impossible to reuse software code across systems. As a result, IT development and deployment costs soared.

Introducing a Sophisticated IT Framework

ALDO turned to data integration firm Talend to assist with the transition and introduce a more sophisticated IT and data framework. The e-commerce architecture, which went live in October 2014, is built on an open-sourced model that uses HADOOP 2.0 and YARN natively.

The environment integrates more than 100 different applications, services and databases that manage everything from online order entry and payment to billing and fraud detection. The technology foundation delivers big data integration capabilities through graphical tools rather than raw code, along with real-time insights and statistics. That makes it possible for the company to reuse application components and software on the fly.

“On complicated projects where there are a lot of moving parts, we’re now able to get work done very quickly,” Martel says. “There are no more bottlenecks.”

A more manageable and cost-efficient IT environment is only part of the story, however. The platform also helps the company conduct business at digital speed.

For example, ALDO now has visibility into inventory levels at the store level, as well as into order management, warehouses and order fulfillment in real time. This aids in delivering accurate information to the company and customers within an omnichannel environment that spans physical stores, a Website and mobile apps.

In addition, ALDO avoids point-to-point data integrations with outside providers. Instead, it can “abstract the vendor from the service,” Martel says. This approach boosts security and allows the retailer to change vendors and connect the appropriate datasets immediately.

“The technology is powerful and flexible,” Martel states. “It allows us to operate e-commerce and mobile platforms far better, and to match the speed required for today’s IT and business environments.”