Leroy Merlin want to understand the lifestyles, expectations and needs of its customers, so that it can do everything to satisfy them. Beyond the distribution of products in its 120 stores in France, Leroy Merlin supports its customers in their choices, offering information, advice and services. And it is in this perspective that the group wanted to improve the customer experience by allowing sales assistance to overcome the IT constraints on the sales floor. Taking advantage of the opening of a new store in Gonesse near Paris, Leroy-Merlin has redesigned its infrastructure and access to their business applications.
“We had an aging infrastructure with multi-user workstations, which created so many fixed points on the sales floor and posed security problems,” remembers Lehoucq Thibaut, Project Manager at Leroy Merlin. “The workstations, shared by multiple sales consultants in the same store, were started in the morning and were off that night. This posed problems of confidentiality and organization. We wanted to simplify the lives of our users by offering them the opportunity to have jobs with custom sessions, while ensuring better security and more mobility.”
The challenge for the IT department is then to make applications and associated profiles available anywhere in the store.IT management therefore decided in 2010 to turn to virtualization. But changing technology and, even more, how to work, is not always an obvious choice. The challenge is to avoid damaging the commercial activity but to accelerate analysis. An apprehension that, given the potential benefits, was quickly exceeded.
More mobile present and available assistance, are some of the advantages that directly benefit its customers. But also to the infrastructure of the group. Each store runs a hundred applications: email, office applications, web applications and business applications, such as kitchen modeling tools in 3D or decoration simulation, half of these applications are local to each store. The idea was to centralize much of the infrastructure, without loss of performance. “We wanted the user sessions to open in less than 10 seconds,” says Thibaut Lehoucq. After evaluating several solutions, and the establishment of a model, the team chose the Citrix XenApp solution. “We were reassured with a robust tool that had proven itself in the market, especially in the case of deployment of thousands of jobs,” added Thibaut Lehoucq. ISD provides equips more than 20 000 users in all of its stores in 3 years. Citrix XenApp, for Leroy Merlin, was the only satisfactory product both technically and functionally.
The IT team used the opening of a new store in Gonesse, to initiate the project. It was able to work upstream with the store management committee, to mount the pilot site. The first step was to renovate the infrastructure with new servers in two data centers that ensure redundancy and business continuity. “We firstly sized our infrastructure to meet the needs of five stores. Indeed, the amount of CPU and RAM needed for this project was difficult to assess, and we wanted to take advantage of this pilot site for measures that would allow us to extrapolate subsequently our needs,” added Thibaut Lehoucq. On the test site, 60% of applications have been virtualized. IT teams of Leroy Merlin particularly appreciate the HDX technology, which ensures, with little bandwidth, quality user experience, even with demanding applications. We have a network of 10 Mbits per store, which is more than enough to comfortably access the applications. Every day the Citrix EdgeSight tool allows ISD to monitor the performance of virtualized desktops, and verify proper operation.
Four months after the architecture study, the site is in production. “We performed a progressive increase. Today, 90 stations are in operation,” explains Thibaut Lehoucq.
In practice, each employee with an RFID badge can access its own session without requiring a connection login, and use its applications and personal data that are saved centrally in the data center of the company. The hardest was not the technology migration, but to get the sales assistants to change their working tool. In the end, whether for sales assistants from existing stores, or new sales assistants that accompanied the opening of this new store, the result is positive. “They were excited about the ease of use and flexibility of such a solution, which allows them to work faster, to move throughout the store by finding their space on each workstation, while guaranteeing the confidentiality of their data,” says the project manager. This result encourages the group to continue the deployment of over 7 000 virtual desktops in 120 other French chain stores.
Next step, replace workstations with thin clients, and equip sales consultants hardened tablets, to further increase the mobility and availability of sales consultants in the shops.
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