Homefashion Group Gets Dressed for a Successful Digital Future
Hybrid Microsoft Azure integration solution boosts productivity, reduces errors, and paves the way for Homefashion Group's digital future.
- Solutions in this case
Homefashion Group, parent company of Kwantum, a leading home decoration company in the Netherlands, launched a new hybrid integration solution which enables IT staff to be more productive and ensures that store-based employees have access to the right information at the right time.
Homefashion Group had already adopted Microsoft Dynamics 365 to replace their old ERP and needed to integrate this with their backend system. However, their systems were over 20 years old and had been customized and built upon over the years. The system was very sensitive to errors, with a lot of dependencies and it was unable to properly support emerging technologies. This led to time wastage and inefficiencies for IT and store-based staff. For example, staff were never sure if data they entered into the system made it to the backend, and IT staff spent a lot of time fixing errors. Homefashion Group’s system needed to be brought into the future, so they could set a course for smooth sailing into the seas of digital transformation.
Homefashion Group’s Warehouse Management system dated back to 1997. Over a 20-year period, the inventive Homefashion Group team built and customized the interfaces up to the point that very little remained of the original system and it was considered a custom-built solution.
“They kept building on this old system and didn’t look for new applications,” said Jeroen Koppenaal, IT Director, Homefashion Group “but certain processes, such as online interfacing, are important for retailers, when this is built on an old environment it’s just an extra process in the system and it makes it more complex than needed. The complexities and huge dependencies were immense.”
Not only was the system too complex, errors were a regular occurrence. These errors directly impacted the ability of their staff in stores to do their jobs. When errors arose, stores often couldn’t operate, and IT staff had to spend huge amounts of their time fixing errors just to keep stores operational.
“We have a system where if a critical error comes through we call it a red alert, we were getting several of these a week. Our IT team just busy cleaning up errors,’ said Koppenaal.
As the industry evolved to more online interfaces, Homefashion Group’s old system struggled to cope with the digital challenges that the new tech landscape presented. When they made the switch to Dynamics 365, it became apparent that a huge overhaul was needed so that the systems could be integrated properly.
With these problems in mind, Koppenaal created a roadmap to get Homefashion Group’s IT systems back on track. The strategic roadmap aimed to reduce the complexity of the system and bring the application landscape back to standardized applications.
In order to make his vision a reality he needed to call in the experts in all things integration. Having worked successfully with Codit in previous roles, Koppenaal called in Codit to take on this challenge.
I calculated that in the last year my IT team spent 40% of their time fixing errors, that number is now much lower. Problems are dealt with immediately because we are now able to immediately track down the errors. ”
The Homefashion Group team had already adopted Dynamics 365 throughout the company and wanted to integrate this with their back-end system. They realized their back-end system needed an upgrade, with a cloud-first strategy. Together with HomeFashion Group IT team, Codit defined a 3-year project to implement a strategy to slowly phase out the old system and replace it for a modern Service Bus – Microsoft BizTalk Server. In order to create a stable, future proof system, they chose for a hybrid solution with the cloud components running on Microsoft Azure. The hybrid integration is facilitated by the InvictusTM product suite.
The Codit team advised Homefashion Group to plan for the future of their system and adopt not only an on-premises Microsoft BizTalk Service Bus, but to extend their Service Bus to Microsoft Azure and implement a hybrid integration model using cloud-based Microsoft Azure components. “The landscape for the Service Bus is shifting from BizTalk toward Logic Apps. For us a hybrid solution is perfect because it’s important to future-proof our integration solution,’ said Koppenaal.
To help speed up the development of the new hybrid system, Codit used the InvictusTM software suite. “The advantage of this software is that it integrates BizTalk with Logic Apps,” said Koppenaal “I can get an overview of the integration in Invictus, which makes the ideal situation because we are the ones in control. It makes the hybrid solution more transparent. It also helps to speed up development. I oversee the number of interfaces built in last couple of months and it has gone much faster than traditional interfaces.”
The end goal is to replace the entire legacy system with a new cloud-based application landscape. This project is being rolled out in 5 phases to ensure stability. The first release involved having all invoices scanned by stores redirected via BizTalk into Dynamics 365. The second phase focused on ensuring that Homefashion Group’s self-employed decorators could get their wages paid in a timely manner via the new ERP system. They also set up an app on mobile devices to help these decorators to take notes about their customer projects and for this information to be instantly integrated into the system via BizTalk and Logic Apps.
With the first two phases of the project successfully rolled out, the Homefashion Group team have already seen many improvements. “I calculated that in the last year my IT team spent 40% of their time fixing errors, that number is now much lower,” said Jeroen Koppenaal, IT Director, Homefashion Group “Problems are dealt with immediately because we are now able to immediately track down the errors.”
The Codit – Homefashion Group partnership is still going strong with a roll-out of the next 3 phases of the project planned over the next 2 years. With the help of Codit Managed Services, the Homesfashion Group IT team know that they are guaranteed support whenever they need it most.
The next phases of the project are currently underway, “There is a lot of analyzing to be done, we have to understand how the current interface works,’ said Koppenaal “we chose to go in smaller parts, so no big bang for the release.”
The environment is now more stable and is now documented, making it easier for the IT team to track down and resolve errors if they occur. The Homefashion Group IT team are further supported by Codit Managed Services “I have been tracking all our red alerts and we used to get many red alerts each week. Now if we get one per month it’s a lot,” said Koppenaal “This new system has had an immediate impact for our people, they can get on with their job and trust the systems will be working. The new system is much more stable, thanks to BizTalk, Azure Logic Apps, InvictusTM and also the help of Codit .”
A word from the client
“The relationship we have with Codit is built on trust. I know that they deliver the best work and I know that if there is a problem they will immediately fix it.”
Jeroen Koppenaal IT Director, Homefashion Group