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Text Book Centre: Reinventing their business with SAP on Google Cloud

By Elizabeth Akinyi | 23 September 2020

Our impact

Google Cloud: Secure, scalable and cost effective

There’s no industry that has been untouched by the pandemic. Businesses have to change overnight to stay relevant and grasp new opportunities. Cloud gives you that agility. Read on how Text Book Centre reinvented their business as Incentro does the rest.

Text Book Centre (TBC), the leading bookstore chain in East Africa, is in this business. Its retail, wholesale and distribution services have unrivalled capacity to meet the demands of the region’s vibrant education sector stretching beyond the boundaries of Africa to the Diaspora. With its flagship store at Sarit Centre, TBC currently has 10 branches with a plan to open more branches. It was founded in 1964 as a partnership between two businessmen in Kenya, S Vidhu Shah and Mahesh J Rughani. TBC has, over the years, grown tremendously to become the unrivalled leading bookstore chain in East Africa.

The challenge

Move to the cloud: with flexibility

TBC was trying to modernise the organisation and brand from an operational perspective and to ensure the business was more consumer-driven. With employees empowered to meet their customers' needs efficiently. One of the biggest blockers to this was an outdated ERP system that had been in place for the last 15 years, which could not meet the growing demands of the business with over 10 remote branches operating in Kenya alone. Led by the MD, Armand Houhau, the team quickly put down their requirements. Further evaluation led to choosing SAP as an ERP platform. The next big decision was the infrastructure that would host the SAP workload. The choices were on-prem and cloud hosting.

The management team was ambitious and forward-thinking regarding what the organisation should look like in the next five years. Moving to the cloud was a no-brainer. It was the right choice with considerations like future flexibility, scalability and ease of management and access.

"It was not a hard decision; the goal was to ensure we focus on what makes the difference for our consumers and offer better services to our customers and not spend our resources in managing infrastructure"- Armand Houhau, MD Text Book Centre.

The process

A plan to get started

Text Book Centre benchmarked the three largest public cloud companies to decide which one they would choose to run their SAP workloads on. They benchmarked Amazon (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and finally met Incentro, who demonstrated the capabilities of Google Cloud Platform. The firm was convinced that in terms of flexibility, for example, in virtual machine sizes, Google was superior. TBC also believed Google Cloud was more innovative than other cloud solutions; that it has better monitoring capabilities with services like StackDriver Monitoring and leveraging BigQuery to enrich data and run advanced analytics for full insight across the business. Another argument to "go Google" was the prices. Google pricing was a lot more compelling compared to other cloud vendors. Echoing the decision was Dennis de Weerd, CEO, Incentro Africa. “The reasons to choose cloud have become even more obvious. The fragility of logistics, maintenance and need for physical presence to manage and maintain a data centre has become a big challenge for companies. While it’s business as usual for companies who’ve adopted cloud.”

The solution

Seamless migration to Cloud

A challenge for TBC in migrating SAP workloads to Google Cloud Platform was that they didn’t have any experience with Google Cloud, nor sufficient resources to gain these capabilities internally. That’s why they decided to work with Google Cloud Premier Partner Incentro, who has experience with migrating their customer’s SAP workloads to Google Cloud. Incentro was vital in helping TBC understand what it means to be on, and optimise, the cloud. Incentro simplified the journey with best practices and reference architectures while providing proactive support, security and analytics reporting.

“It is refreshing to work with a visionary leader like Armand, who just gets it. No quick fixes or just keep doing what you’ve done for the last decade, but leapfrog forward and truly embrace the amazing opportunities cloud has to offer.” - Dennis de Weerd, CEO Incentro Africa

Every enterprise customer is different. Each has their unique journey when it comes to migrating SAP applications. Incentro offered market-approved industry-specific best practices tied to reference architectures, underpinned by SAP Platform and GCP services through their transformation. These solutions helped TBC modernise and create experiences using 100 per cent VM-based, highly secure and highly available Google Cloud infrastructure, as well as access to the latest advances in the areas of Big Data, analytics and Machine Learning (ML).

“Incentro embraces commitments of partners and customers who are bold to continue growing their business and offerings even in unfavourable conditions. It is through this resilience and working as one team that more growth than had been anticipated is realised.” - Simon Muraya, Lead Google Cloud Consultant, Incentro.

The methodology

Time for collaboration

In a nutshell, the methodology brought together TBC, SAP Platform Consulting Partner, Soft Consult Limited and Incentro. The migration of SAP workloads was done in phases. First, the development environment at Google was completed. Next, the testing environment for agile testing and lastly, the production environment was live.

“This was the most seamless digital transition I have experienced.”- Armand Houhau, MD Text Book Centre.

The result

Saving costs and 99% uptime

  • The upfront cost was minimal compared to the upfront massive investment required for on-premise physical servers. In addition was Google Cloud Platforms pay as you go solution offering. Only pay for what you need, scale VMS with additional vCPU, RAM and Disk on-demand as the database grows or shrinks during the year.
  • Google Cloud uptime SLA at >= 99.99 per cent during the COVID-19 period. Operations, especially online purchases, have remained efficient with sales and IT teams being able to access the information they need anywhere anytime.
  • Unmatched flexibility: TBC can turn servers on and off on an as-needed basis, thus running a flexible environment which will allow more innovation in e-commerce, providing new apps for their clients, and such.
  • Saving up to 50 per cent of site reliability engineers’ time for innovation.

”Going cloud was the best decision we made this year.” - Ezekiel Kagongo, IT Manager, Text Book Centre

The Future and Next steps

A cloud journey began

The TBC team is delighted with the collaboration and partnership with Incentro in their cloud journey. Armand reaffirms this saying, “This is a great kickoff to our cloud journey. We are working on a three-year road map to offload all workloads to Google Cloud and become a digitally driven company.” He continues, “We would like to build dynamic customer experiences: leverage products including App Engine, Cloud Datastore, Cloud Storage, and Chrome-based devices to build custom apps and power dynamic kiosks/signage enabling us to improve customer engagement and influence in-aisle purchase and point-of-sale decisions.” His vision does not end there. “The goal in the long run is to Transform the workforce: G Suite and highly secure devices, including Android and Chromebooks, can empower us to transform how our sales associates work. Google Cloud also enables us to provide these tools at scale with unparalleled affordability.”

“Cloud is more than a virtual data centre, and it is about more than just saving costs. This leapfrog technology will enable early adopters in this market to beat the competition. Definitely. I’m convinced that TBC is going to be one of them.” - Dennis de Weerd, CEO Incentro Africa

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