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Carrefour Belgium

Transforming customer experience with digital retail

A pioneer in the large food retail business, Carrefour Group is known for modern and comfortable grocery stores that offer fresh, organic, local food at affordable prices.

In 2018, the company embarked on the bigger mission to become the world leader in enabling more sustainable systems for delivering healthy food for everyone.

Central to its strategy? Uniting stores and e-commerce operations to create seamless omnichannel shopping experiences that delight customers.

But for Carrefour Belgium, there was an immediate crisis to solve. Failing infrastructure at their data center in Brussels threatened the stability of core business systems. Cooling systems were overheating.  IT was perpetually on high alert responding to the issues.

Every weekend seemed to bring escalations. The risk to the business was real. A temporary outage would impact customer experiences both online and in stores, potentially resulting in incorrect charges or delayed checkout. A longer-term failure in the data center could mean closing some stores altogether.

Within a month of joining Carrefour Belgium as their Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Stijn Stabel already might have thought athletic endurance training was an unmentioned prerequisite for his new role. Then, on a warm Saturday evening in summer, while at a family barbeque, Stijn received a call more urgent than usual. He immediately left to meet his team at the data center, which was running dangerously hot despite the HVAC system operating at full power. Together Stijn and his team used the sprinkler system to carefully cool down overheated components of the system.

“This was it,” Stijn said, “We could no longer rely on that data center. The risk was just too imminent.”


400 core business systems migrated from on-premises to a Tier-1 cloud facility without interrupting business operations

850+ store servers provisioned in Google Cloud Platform constitute a unified platform for delivering more consistent in-store experiences

1 centralized operating environment that allows IT to respond to in-store customer issues in minutes, not hours

Laying the groundwork for cloud-based innovations

Stabilizing business operations in preparation for transitioning to cloud was Carrefour Belgium’s first phase of cloud transformation. While Carrefour Group intended to migrate all operations into Google Cloud Platform, the Belgium team had to act immediately.

Stijn engaged Kyndryl—a long-time partner known for its experience with large data-center relocations. After the necessary planning and preparation, Kyndryl migrated 400 systems into their Tier 1 data center during several weekends, without  downtime or disruptions to business operations.

“The end goal of our digital transformations is to create a unique and delightful experience for our customers.”

– Stijn Stabel, Chief Technology Officer, Carrefours Belgium

Automating cloud infrastructure provisioning for store systems

Stijn also found that customer service had been inconsistent across Carrefour stores prior his tenure. This was partly due to stores running core applications on outdated PCs kept in storerooms. So, in parallel with its relocation of back-end systems, Carrefour Belgium engaged Kyndryl to design a solution for efficiently modernizing store servers.

The team used Red Hat Ansible to build and operate an IT service catalog on Google Cloud Platform. Carrefour franchises remotely provisioned instance of the same virtual server (VM) images. With consistent software running in the stores, Stijn’s team enabled front-end and back-end systems to more consistently and efficiently execute existing business operations.  

Kyndryl currently maintains the migrated infrastructure as multiple partners collaborate on Carrefour’s phased implementation of cloud-based application architectures.

Stijn points out that “the end goal of our digital transformations is to create a unique and delightful experience for our customers.” The cloud-based catalog developed with Kyndryl helps lay the foundation for achieving that goal – and for the crucial third phase of modernizing both back-end and front-end applications. Soon Carrefour warehouses and stores will be connected through automated forecasting and fulfillment of inventories. And finally, within the reliable Google Cloud Platform landing zone, by innovating how customers shop and make purchases, Stijn foresees realizing in Belgium Carrefour Group’s strategic goal of being a hybrid online and in person business that agilely adjusts to meet customer needs.

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