Transforming 7-Eleven's digital foundations

31 March 2021

The convenience consumer in 2030 and beyond will expect brands to provide digital technology to enable personalised, value added experiences in-store.

7-Eleven Australia Core Tech Area Lead, Andrew Coffey, said that to enable the 7-Eleven platform to support teams to give customers what they need, when they need it and where they need it, while ensuring that doing business is more efficient, 7-Eleven’s technology foundations needed to significantly evolve from where they were in 2018.

“Before the digital transformation, we had customer digital experiences but we didn’t have optimal infrastructure,” Mr Coffey said.

“We had a series of physical assets that were coming to the end of their lifespan. That gave us the chance to assess what our future roadmap needed to look like.

“The first thing we did was realise that infrastructure is a zero-sum game, you can never buy it or provision it quick enough for people’s liking. We aren’t in the business of owning equipment, we’re in the business of supporting outcomes across an agile enabled retail organisation.

“So a transition to cloud in some capacity was the obvious choice, but the decision to transition one hundred percent to cloud was a huge leap of faith.”

Coffey said that the complete cloud migration went beyond just infrastructure and included a 20-year-old SAP system that enabled transactions in a business that operates 24/7 365 days a year.

“Our SAP system is not only very bespoke, but it actually pre-dates cloud technology,” he said.

“We could see the potential that a complete migration could deliver.

“We needed to be able to scale quickly, securely and cost effectively and in a very stable way.

“Having said that, we needed to essentially figure out the equivalent of changing the engine of a plane, while it was in flight, with nothing noticeable to the passengers.

Choosing the right focus, partners and products was critical for success.

“Firstly, we had to make sure we had the right people in the tent to help us plan and explore what we wanted to do and how we needed to do it.

“We partnered with experts like Microsoft and SoftwareONE and we made sure we had the right tech leads, project leads, and ways of working established.

“Having a pool of expertise accessible through our partners made a huge difference in being able to resolve issues, adapt and problem solve throughout the process.

Planning was one of the key elements the team needed to focus on.

“We used the old tradie’s rule of measure twice and cut once, though I think we actually measured three times,” Coffey said.

“It was all about sequencing the change, lifting up every stone to see if there was anything we needed to know about, and then recutting the plan based on every piece of insight.

“From there it really came down to incredible precision and planning for the extensive testing process. We were able to do sequences of tests over the project.

“As we moved through each of the environments, we gained more and more comfort that when we came to the production environment, we could deliver the change in a way that was as close to invisible to stores and customers as possible.

“Stores were part of the planning as well, and they helped with feedback and insight.

When asked how the cloud migration is going Coffey says it’s the quiet response that is a sign of success.

“When we moved to go live in the production environment, we had a 30-hour window, which was planned within an inch of its life.

“When undertaking projects of this scale, having your phone stay quiet during migration events is a pretty good sign that for most stakeholders, the transition was seamless.

“The team planned incredibly well to reduce frontline impact to our stores.

“Working with partners such as Microsoft and SoftwareONE who have such proven processes and experience makes it easier to feel confident about making significant changes.

“Now our foundations are in place, we are focused on accelerating the rollout of innovations for our customers.

“It’s going to be exciting to see how our new digital foundations will enable agile innovation across the organisation,” he concluded.

Hand holding phone with 7-Eleven payment app