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Rewriting the book on retail at Text Book Centre(SAP on Google Cloud)

By Elizabeth Akinyi | 23 September 2020
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Rewriting the book on retail at Text Book Centre with SAP on Google Cloud

Text Book Centre writes the next chapter of retail operations with Google Cloud and Google Premier Partner Incentro Africa.

  • SAP on Google Cloud delivers 99.99% uptime and on-demand infrastructure supporting TBC’s ambitious modernisation programme
  • 50% hardware cost saving by moving from on-premise to cloud
  • Pandemic performance proves moving to the cloud is today’s essential not tomorrow’s ambition

Since its 1964 foundation as a family-run educational bookstore, Text Book Centre (TBC) has expanded to become Kenya’s leading bookstore chain and a growing supplier of educational and office products to customers across East Africa and the diaspora beyond. Like so many retailers, TBC faced formidable headwinds to continue this growth even before Covid-19. Pressures ranged from rapidly rising customer expectations, hungry new competitors, seismic technological shifts and continued margin pressure.

Led by Armand Houahu, TBC’s innovation lead and the first MD outside the family, in early 2019, the company embarked on an ambitious programme of modernisation. The aim was to reorient the company around the customer and transform operations for the digital age. Little did the team know that only one year later, their drive to digitise would pivot from preparing for tomorrow to surviving today.

Held back by on-premise ERP

In early 2019, TBC knew that the on-premise infrastructure supporting its SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system had to go. The hardware had reached end of life and could no longer support the growing demands of the business. For Armand and his team, choosing between a traditional on-premise replacement and moving to the cloud was a no-brainer. The cloud was flexible, scalable, easy to access and easy to manage, bringing TBC’s infrastructure into the digital age and empowering staff to fulfil the company’s mission to exceed customer expectations.

“When you put the customer experience at the centre of your decision-making, your choices become easy. You choose the cloud. Cloud hosting focuses our resources on what makes the difference for our customers, not on managing infrastructure.” Armand Houhau, MD, Text Book Centre.

A cloud reinvention

From there, TBC benchmarked the three largest public cloud companies: Google Cloud Platform, Amazon AWS, and Microsoft Azure. Google Cloud’s superior performance on measures including flexibility, innovation, monitoring and analytics capability, and price led to Google Cloud Platform being selected, supported by Incentro Africa, a Google Premier Partner and Digicloud Africa reseller.

The team from TBC, Soft Consult (the SAP Platform Consulting Partner) and Incentro Africa worked together on a phased migration of SAP workloads to Google Cloud. The solution leveraged Google Cloud’s 100% virtual machine (VM)-based, highly secure and highly available infrastructure, with access to the latest innovations in big data, analytics, and machine learning. Google’s StackDriver Monitoring and BigQuery database gathered and processed system performance data across the business.

As TBC was new to Google Cloud, Incentro Africa used their extensive experience and knowledge to guide and support TBC through their transformation. Support included simplifying the journey with best practices and reference architectures as well as providing proactive support, security and analytics reporting.

Tangible value delivered

Could have pull-out stats here: 99.99% uptime, 50% time saved for innovation, 50% of on-premise hardware investment avoided

TBC’s Google Cloud SAP infrastructure moved the company firmly towards its goal to be a digital and customer-driven business. For the students, professionals and educators relying on TBC’s books and supplies, Google Cloud’s 99.99% uptime ensures they can confidently shop online whenever and wherever desired. The in-store customer experience also benefits, with a Google Cloud-based point of sales solution helping keep shelves stocked. Across all channels, sales data is easier to process, moving TBC closer to a data-driven model that can identify and respond quickly to trends to continue improving the customer experience.

“Moving to the cloud was the best decision we made this year.” Ezekiel Kagongo, IT Manager, Text Book Centre Within TBC operations, better uptime means more efficient processes supporting the online and retail customer experience. Easier, faster and more secure access to the SAP environment helps IT monitor system performance and gather insights more efficiently, while better reliability cuts in half the time spent on uptime monitoring and issues. This frees up IT time to support the ongoing modernisation programme.

Only the start

With so much value delivered, the TBC team is delighted with both its cloud journey so far and its collaboration with Incentro Africa. Armand Houahu, the MD, believes it’s just the start. “This is a great kick-off to our cloud journey,” he comments. “We are working on a three-year road map to offload all workloads to Google Cloud and become a digitally driven company.” Armand’s vision encompasses dynamic customer experiences and workforce transformation, all enabled by Google enterprise solutions. “We want to leverage Google products like App Engine, Cloud Datastore, Cloud Storage, and Chrome-based devices to improve customer engagement and influence in-aisle purchase and point-of-sale decisions,” he explains. “In the long run, our goal is to transform the workforce. Google Workspace and highly secure devices will completely reinvent how our sales associates work. Google Cloud enables us to provide these tools at scale and with unparalleled affordability.”

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Elizabeth Akinyi

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