Retailer ushers in new era by moving to the cloud

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Today’s Office 365 post was written by Anuj Dhanda, chief information officer at Giant Eagle.

Giant Eagle 1For the average consumer, the grocery store experience is simple—find the product you need and buy it. For those of us in the retail industry, getting it right is all about making sure our customers have a positive experience every time they shop with us. Giant Eagle is ranked number 35 on Forbes magazine’s list of largest privately held US companies and is the leading multiformat retailer in its four-state region with 423 supermarkets and convenience stores serving millions of customers each year. At such a huge scale, maintaining that high level of customer satisfaction and managing a profitable business is no simple task. It not only involves deciding which products to carry, pricing them appropriately, getting them onto the shelves on time, ensuring quality, managing personnel, and tracking inventory—it also includes being prepared for the future as customer needs change and technology evolves.

Technology is changing customers’ buying experiences, preferences, and behaviors. We see a real opportunity to use technology to transform the customer experience. Key components of our transformation plan are a strong information and business intelligence platform, a simplified and modernized application stack, a scalable cloud-based infrastructure, information technology service management (ITSM), mobility and robust communication and collaboration services.

We’ve selected Microsoft Office 365 as our Team Member communication and collaboration platform. It will give us the flexibility and agility to quickly respond to customer and internal needs, cut costs, streamline internal operations and reduce time-to-market for new services.

Internal communication and collaboration will be faster and more effective, too. For example, putting together our weekly circular for print and online advertising takes a lot of action and decision making across many groups in multiple locations. There’s a lot of push and pull around which products to promote, and we have to import the right photos and get the correct pricing. By using videoconferencing to share screens for collaborative decision making, and project workspaces to keep all relevant images and files in one place, Team Members will reduce cycles, increase the quality of our output and expedite the whole process.

Our success in transforming the customer experience will not depend on whether Office 365 works—we know we can count on the technology. Our success relies on how our business leaders adopt it to change our business processes and practices in the stores, distribution centers, and corporate offices. For me, this is a business initiative that capitalizes on technology—not a technology initiative.

To fully take advantage of the capabilities of Office 365 and other applications, we plan to equip our store leaders with mobile devices so that rather than having to be in their offices or the back room to check inventory, product contents, staffing details, or emails, they can be out on the store floor, interacting with Team Members and customers alike. Say a customer has a question about when a certain seasonal item will be in stock—by giving our store leaders on-the-spot access to answers, our customers will be served faster and in a more personal way, which leads to increased loyalty. That same sense of connection extends to our Team Members. For instance, we’re moving our retail Team Members from shared to personal email accounts, which improves both morale and accountability.

For Giant Eagle, moving to Office 365 is an important element in our transformation, a catalyst for change in how we use technology to work better every day. Each little improvement, when combined, will make a huge difference in how we operate as a whole.

—Anuj Dhanda

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