Halfords CIO: Moving to managed cloud SAP service enabled business to create new service

Halfords, the bikes and car parts and services retailer, has revealed how moving to a managed cloud SAP service with HP helped the business to create a new service for customers.

The retailer launched Car Parts Direct in September. The service allows customers to order any product in-store or online to be delivered to their nearest Halfords store or to their home or work address the next working day.

“We used to deliver to stores once a week and we used to deliver click and collect by courier [at the other times],” CIO Anna Barsby said. “[Now] we deliver five days a week to our stores. SAP enabled this.”

As well as offering customers a better service, the move helped Halfords to reduce its courier costs, as click and collect orders can now be delivered with the Car Parts Direct orders, she added.

Halfords upgraded its SAP for Retail systems - which had not been updated in 10 years - and moved them to an HP Helion managed virtual private cloud environment has part of a five-year deal.

HP supported the SAP upgrade and provides Halfords’ SAP ERP application, SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, SAP Process Integration technology and business intelligence solutions from SAP from two data centres. It also provides the managed services, which comprises 24x7 operation, management and monitoring of Halfords’ SAP systems.

Barsby said that Halfords chose to move to the cloud for two main reasons.

“Part of our strategy was to get my in-house [IT] team to concentrate on the value-add [work],” she said. Previously, it was the internal IT team’s responsibility to do the patching, for example.

She added that cloud also gives the company the ability to “flex in peak trading times”, which occur during the summer and in the Christmas period.


Carrying out a major SAP upgrade and moving to more managed services was a “big programme” to deliver, Barsby said, admitting that there were cultural and people challenges associated with the move.

However, with a background in change management, Barsby said that the programme had a strong change management focus built into it from the start.

The key to successful change management is “understanding the impact and how individual roles will change each person’s role, how people’s lives and jobs will change at the end,” she said.

It also helped that there did not appear to be much change for the end user.

“When it went live, there were a couple of screens that were different, but overall, nothing changed,” Barsby said.

Nonetheless, the Halfords CIO and HP admitted they did not get everything right straight away,when it came to working out the appropriate mix for onshore and offshore testing.

“We had to make some changes in our approach sometimes,” said Mark Powell, director for Retail Board UK at HP.

“We found we needed more expertise from Halfords on-site to do the testing.”

Carrying out such a major overhaul also affected the whole business because all major business projects - except for the development of the Car Parts Direct service - were frozen while the new SAP system was implemented between December 2013 and May this year.

It was important for the system to work straightaway without any issues as the company was unlikely to accept such a “broad change freeze” again, Barsby said, adding that the system was live by the set deadline, and that “everything worked”.

Other achievements and the future

Moving to the managed cloud service has allowed Halfords to consolidate its data centres, going from nine to four. Virtualisation has also removed 4.5 tonnes of hardware and saved £40,000 a year in electricity bills, Barsby said.

She added: “This year is about rationalising apps.”

Many retailers are investing in making their supply chain systems more efficient to enable click and collect, which is seen as a way to bridge the gap between online and bricks-and-mortar stores. However, Barsby admitted that Halfords does not yet have a seamless, single view of its customers across the different channels.

“CRM is a big part of our agenda,” she said of the company’s future plans.

Earlier this year, Halfords announced it had signed a contract with Fujitsu for three years of IT maintenance and support, taking over from IT services provider Barron McCann.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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