Growing high street and online business meant more customers queuing, which was good. But it also meant more data queuing on Debenhams’ network too; not so good. And Steve Kircher knew the launch of some bright new in-store ideas could only add to the problem.
But the adoption of BT IP Connect, plus Ethernet in the First Mile as an access technology, now means things move faster for everyone.
Customers get a better service. Sales and stock information travels more quickly. Deliveries do too. And new touch-screen in-store internet kiosks create a lot of excitement and set the tills ringing cheerfully, just as Steve and his colleagues had planned.
Leading retailer Debenhams has 169 department stores in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, and Denmark, and franchises in 24 countries. A BT wide area network (WAN) connected them – plus distribution depots and data centres – supporting many retail and business applications, especially live point-of-sale transactions.
With online business growing fast, booming volumes from different directions often caused data traffic jams and put back office operations under pressure.
Steve Kircher, Debenhams’ Information Systems Director, explains: “As we move to a multi-channel environment we are anticipating innovative in-store applications. To support this we needed a new high capacity network at reasonable cost.”
Debenhams found what it wanted with a next generation WAN, based on BT IP Connect services and high-speed Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM). This network now connects stores in the UK and Ireland and carries sales and stock data up to 16 times faster than before. Backup circuits have been boosted too, with up to 96 times more bandwidth.
Even when stores are closed, Debenhams is a 24/7 business. BT Connect Optimisation is there to keep everything running smoothly round the clock. It automatically monitors how well different applications perform and throttles back on non-critical ones, as necessary, to ease congestion. That can speed things up by about a third.
The BT network management centre is on constant watch too. Every four minutes it automatically polls the Debenhams network to spot and tackle any performance issues before they can hit service. There’s also protection against cyber-attacks and intruders with BT Assure.
The switch from old network to new happened on a site-by-site basis, usually overnight, to help minimise any disruption.
We are delighted with what BT has done,” says Steve Kircher. “The project has been extremely well run from both a timescale and budget perspective and the impact on our stores has been very well controlled. In fact, for the vast majority of stores there was no service impact at all – they just opened next day with a much faster network.”
IP Connect with EFM has transformed the Debenhams network. Critical applications work faster to boost customer service and business efficiency. And the company has just what it needs to fuel change and growth. Yet all this comes without a price penalty.
The new BT network is much the same cost as our old infrastructure, yet it enables us to communicate faster and with greater efficiency. It will also support the rollout of new applications, which will make us more competitive and allow our stores to be more exciting and stimulating for shoppers.
Debenhams’ customers get more choice too. One new idea is in-store self-service kiosks, launched in autumn 2011. Here shoppers can use a web-connected, touch-screen terminal to browse products, view colour variations and size options, and place orders. In another pilot project, Debenhams has set up complete in-store online shops: dedicated areas where customers can sit down, relax, and shop on the Debenhams’ website.