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Posted: 1/10/2012
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The Co-operative Group Retailer Avoids Tens of Millions in Growth Costs, Eases Innovation, and Boosts Security

To support growth and simplify innovation, the Co-operative Group replaced its Oracle customer management system with a solution based on Microsoft data warehousing technology for strong support and interoperability. The solution reduces the cost of the company’s growth plans by tens of millions of dollars, simplifies reporting and development, and improves the security of customer information.

Business Needs

The Co-operative Group, a member-owned company, operates retail stores and provides financial and other services. The company returns a share of members’ expenditures to them each year. As a result, members are more likely than nonmembers to take advantage of Co-operative Group services, so the company considers expanding its membership base to be its most promising path to growth.

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* Because SQL Server 2008 R2 is so scalable, we can expand from 6 million to 20 million members for 10 percent of what it would have cost on our old solution.  *

Chris Sproston
Head of Software Development
The Co-operative Group

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Since 2007, membership has grown from 3 million to 6 million, and the company has a target of 20 million members by 2020. Achieving this goal with its previous membership system—an Oracle solution, hosted by a provider that charged per member—would have cost the Co-operative Group tens of millions of dollars. This cost, combined with the solution’s unwieldy reporting and development tools, would have limited the company’s flexibility and blocked its goal of uniting its retail and financial businesses.

“It would have been financial suicide if we had tried to use the existing solution to accomplish our growth goals,” says Chris Sproston, the Head of Software Development at the Co-operative Group. “There were also huge costs associated with changes, so the business was limited in what it could prototype.”

It was also difficult for employees to obtain useful information from the solution, and the company wanted more control over security. “New reports or queries needed IT intervention, which was a bottleneck for the rest of the business,” says Sproston. “Security is a huge consideration for us, so we wanted access to strong tools.”

To support its aggressive growth goals, the Co-operative Group decided to implement an in-house data management solution with strong scalability and sophisticated reporting, development, and security tools.

Solution

The Co-operative Group chose Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 data management software. “We use Microsoft technologies for all of our internal solutions,” says Sproston. “Their strong interoperation really simplifies our work.”

The Co-operative Group worked with HCL Infosystems to develop the new solution, which went live in June 2011. The solution stores account information, records transaction data, calculates incentive payments, and supports web-based self-service account management. The solution holds 650 gigabytes of data and includes an 850-million-row table that is growing by 30 million rows monthly.

With SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services and Report Builder 3.0, employees have intuitive tools for creating powerful data visualizations. The company is also using SQL Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services, Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft Excel 2010 spreadsheet software to create analytic solutions targeting all aspects of the company’s operations. After the planned deployment of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, all of the company’s 13,000 information workers will be able to create, access, and share reports and analysis.

The Microsoft solution helps the Co-operative Group improve data security with highly specific access privileges and transparent data encryption. A familiar, integrated development environment helps developers create client, mid-tier, and data-tier applications, including business intelligence functions.

Running on the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system, the solution can scale to 256 processors and manage multiple terabytes of data. The solution’s SQL Server 2008 R2 instances are deployed on HP ProLiant DL580 server computers. To reduce energy consumption, the company is using Hyper-V technology to virtualize the solution’s application servers and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 to manage them. The Co-operative Group is also taking advantage of Microsoft Services Premier Support for 24-hour support resources.

Benefits

The Microsoft solution helped the Co-operative Group drastically reduce growth costs, improve customer service, and strengthen security. The IT team can more easily drive business innovation.

Avoids Millions in Growth Costs

The Microsoft solution will help the Co-operative Group reduce the cost of its long-term growth goal by tens of millions of dollars. “Because SQL Server 2008 R2 is so scalable, we can expand from 6 million to 20 million members for 10 percent of what it would have cost on our old solution,” says Sproston.

Helps IT Team Drive Innovation

The solution also helps the Co-operative Group IT department partner with the business to bring new services to market. “With SQL Server 2008 R2, we can try new things without worrying about cost, so the IT team can think strategically about how to improve member services and really drive business innovation,” says Sproston. “In addition, the integrated development environment in SQL Server 2008 R2 gives us an agility that is vital in retail.”

Improves Member Services

The new solution’s reporting and analysis tools will help the company retain and gain customers by providing them with better service. “With the enterprisewide views from our SQL Server 2008 R2 data warehouse, we can keep the customer at the center of everything we do by looking toward cross-marketing and offering targeted discounts,” says Sproston.

Strengthens Customer Data Protection

The new solution also gives the Co-operative Group more control over its data. “A security breach could ruin our reputation and hamper our ability to grow,” says Sproston. “This system holds our customers’ personal transactional information, so we are really glad to have it in-house and to have access to SQL Server 2008 R2 security tools.”

Strong security tools aren’t the only aspect of the solution that reassures Sproston. “I sleep better knowing this vital piece of our infrastructure is supported by a massive enterprise like Microsoft.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 110000 employees

Organization Profile

The Co-operative Group, one of the world’s largest member-owned businesses, operates 5,000 retail stores and has annual revenues of U.S.$21.3 billion.


Hardware
HP ProLiant DL580 server computers

Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2
  • Microsoft Excel 2010
  • Premier Support for Enterprise
  • BMC - Next Generation Applications
  • Business Productivity - Messaging
  • Datacenter
  • Premier Support for Enterprise
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Analysis Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel

Vertical Industries
Retail and Consumer Goods

Country/Region
United Kingdom

IT Issue
Data Warehousing

Languages
English

Partner(s)
HCL Infosystems

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