Woolworths has credited the past five years of technology strategy and delivery for having the bandwidth - both connectivity and people’s time - to respond to challenges during the pandemic.
General Manager of IT, service, operations and infrastructure Patrick Misciagna indicated during a Cisco Live presentation on Wednesday that the grocery retailer had not found itself in the same predicament as other large organisations when the pandemic hit.
It's been common through the past year to hear much the same story replicated across major Australian businesses, which found themselves short of bandwidth and secure remote access capacity as lockdowns hit in March last year.
However, Misciagna said Woolworths had no such problems, and this validated both the retailer's strategic direction and investments in backend systems over the past several years.
“What we’ve done over the past five years has proven over the last 12 months that our strategy was right,” Misciagna told the virtual conference.
“We did not have to quickly run and prepare any part of our technology to allow for remote capability. All of our employees [that could] switched to remote working overnight [with] no issue at all, the network handled it.”
Woolworths has been upgrading connectivity and bringing its operations onto a Cisco-powered software-defined network (SD-WAN).
It has also implemented other Cisco technologies including secure access and AppDynamics.
“We’ve taken on a huge partnership [with Cisco], and part of that partnership was putting together our strategy for software-defined networking and a new state-of-the-art secure network to support everything we’re doing,” Misciagna said.
The deployment was touted last year as “the largest undertaking of its type in the world”.
Misciagna added that the retailer had used AppDynamics in the past year to identify and predict potential issues in its enterprise app landscape and for “problem solving”.
The result of Woolworths’ long tail of IT investments is “stability, first and foremost.”
That then freed IT resources to focus on more pressing issues thrown up by the pandemic, particularly those impacting its supply chain and retail environments.
“Everything [in the backend infrastructure] was fine, which gave us an ability to help the business in any new endeavour they wanted to do,” Misciagna said.
“We were there to help them so we were first across the world in many retail initiatives as a result of our technology strategy being spot-on.”
Woolworths recently named some of its other most prized technology platforms and providers that collectively helped it get through the worst of the pandemic.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) was named technology partner of the year for the second consecutive year. It has been working with Woolworths for over 20 years.
Though it was not clear at the time which projects or programs of work with TCS that Woolworths had most valued, some of this work has since been revealed.
“TCS is currently working with Woolworths Group on multiple transformation initiatives to aid its continued innovation and growth journey,” the company said in a statement.
“It has been the strategic partner in Woolworths’ store transformation program that entailed building a fully integrated, device-agnostic, centralised platform to realise its vision of a connected store.
“Further, TCS helped Woolworths build a scalable, cloud-based data platform to aggregate data across merchandising, supply chain, stores and HR, creating a single source of truth for the business.”