A sprawling datacenter footprint slows growth
Like many global corporations, WBA relies on the SAP platform to manage its inventory and supply chain efficiently and to provide vital business intelligence. WBA operates retail stores as Walgreens, Boots, and other brands in North America, South America, the United Kingdom, and Europe. It also runs a number of pharmaceutical manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution companies and has partnerships in Thailand, the Middle East, and China. The business was running on a global patchwork of huge, on-premises datacenters that featured a legacy of monolithic architectures and customizations.
As one of the largest retail pharmacies in the world, WBA runs vast amounts of store data through its business systems in countless small transactions—a classic online transaction processing (OLTP) workflow. The data is used for everything from streamlining the supply chain to workforce management. SAP technology ties the front, middle, and back office processes together.
But the big systems were aging and anything but flexible. “We were spending a fortune to expand and maintain our datacenter hardware, but it wasn’t enough. We needed to move to the cloud to support the digital transformation that we envisioned,” notes Dan Regalado, Vice President of Global Technology Transformation and Strategic Partnerships for Walgreens Boots Alliance Technology Team.
SAP S/4HANA is at the center of the Walgreens digital transformation. This enterprise application connects Walgreens to its customers with support for real-time transactions, such as entering sales orders in the system, managing inventory, and handling accounts receivable.
Because of its long-standing relationship with Microsoft, WBA looked to Azure for a solution that would scale up to the company’s worldwide retail chain. Recently Microsoft and SAP partnered to simplify digital transformation for their customers. The Embrace program includes industry roadmaps designed to streamline a company’s journey to SAP S/4HANA in the cloud, an effort that typically takes months of careful planning.
When the migration team was assembled, it included specialists from WBA, SAP, Microsoft, Accenture, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and other partners. “It was a massive team effort,” explains Regalado. “One day on site, I realized that I couldn’t tell who was from which company. Everyone worked together seamlessly.”
The task was complex, and the SAP migration team had a narrow window. “We were granted less than 20 hours of downtime to move almost 100 terabytes of data from our datacenter in the Chicago area to our new Azure datacenter. We needed meticulous planning,” Regalado notes.