Using Axway WideVision Alert, FNAC has standardized and prioritized its alerts, monitoring availability of its services from a business perspective and reducing the incident resolution time by a third.
Leading French retail distributor of entertainment, leisure and technology products FNAC is strongly established in France, where it has nearly a hundred stores, as well as in six other countries. Since 2011, FNAC’s multi-channel strategy has strengthened the integration between stores and online orders (Internet, mobile, etc.), allowing customers to access the same service regardless of the channel, and to obtain products at a range of delivery points, such as in-store or collection-point pick-up or home delivery.
FNAC’s IT has been outsourced since 1977, and supports the activity of 176 stores that see 131 million visitors and 45 million transactions annually, including peak customer flow during Christmas holidays. IT services availability requirements are particularly important. However, beginning in 2006, the supervision of IT systems proved insufficient. “We lacked visibility. I didn’t have any activity report when I got to work in the morning. The supervision was scattered. A multitude of alerts displayed on 14 supervision consoles. And at noon I still had no global visibility. In case of an incident, we were not able to provide truly useful information to store managers, who then didn’t know what to say to their staff or customers,” remembers Daniel Richard, IT Production and Operations Director.
The IT department therefore wanted to standardize IT supervision by consolidating data coming from three areas: technical monitoring tools (SCOM, Tivoli and Nagios), configuration management databases (CMDB) and an incident management tool. IT also wanted to prioritize alerts and the related actions, precisely measure availability of their systems to communicate with the business (store managers and application managers) and assess with precision the business impact of technical incidents. “Solving a problem is not only a technical issue which has been identified or treated but a store which becomes completely operational again,” said Daniel Richard.
CHOOSING A SOLUTION
In 2008, the decision was made to find a tool that would meet those needs. A functional specification followed by an RFI and then RFP process was elaborated with the help of ITS Group. Seven vendors were consulted, Axway being one of them and playing the role of troublemaker from the beginning. “I must say that I was initially a bit skeptical,” admitted Daniel Richard. “But the fact that Axway’s solution is non-intrusive played in its favor. We did not want to install additional agents on our servers!”
The Proof of Concept was decisive: Against the other finalist represented by a team of 12 people and 9 servers, Axway was judged much more efficient with only 2 people and 1 machine. Moreover, the vendor offered a clear economic model with no surprises. Finally, FNAC enjoyed working with a highly-responsive team on a human scale. “We did a lot of work on concepts with the R&D department of Axway. We benefited from having their ear in a way that we probably wouldn’t have had with a bigger company,” said Daniel Richard.
The project was conducted in three major phases. The first phase, 2009-2010, defined the bases and operational supervision necessary to operators. The second phase, 2011-2012, was about implementing configuration management databases. And since 2012, FNAC has been focused on improving communication, including publishing tactical and strategic dashboards for internal customers.
FNAC also did an important functional analysis of technical and business databases. The purpose was to redefine the essential business concepts such as organization (store, business, external provider, etc.), customers (store or warehouse), and the subscription to a service that associates a business service to a customer who would consume it. This also applies to technical knowledgebase with the concepts of business service, physical components (server, network, etc.) or logical components (software) to which a level of critical importance is attached.
Events were classified, correlated and translated to make them more understandable. By default, the solution incorporated a prioritization based on ITIL standards taking into account the urgency and impact of the alert. FNAC extended this prioritization: An indicator is attributed to each alert and combines the severity of the alert, the critical importance of the impacted component and the business impact of the service. The indicator gives the priority with which the alert will be treated. Alerts are considered incidents if their severity exceeds a certain level. SLA definitions associate incidents’ priorities to resolution times.
Three levels of supervision were established: operational, tactical and strategic. At the operational level, Axway WideVision’s alert hypervisor consolidates and correlates the information coming from the IS’s supervision tools, gives priorities to alerts and helps with the diagnosis. It allows operators to manage alerts according to business priorities. The tactical supervision, dedicated to business managers, helps to continuously monitor the operation of all services and their availability, and to measure gaps with what was expected. The concept of availability is given a business sense through the comparison between the availability of services from an IT perspective and the opening hours of each store. Therefore, the dashboards show the opening hours as well as availability or unavailability of services for each store in the group. Finally, the strategic supervision controls SLAs over time, anticipates changes and provides reports to management.
The benefits are substantial. “We gained a lot in responsiveness and understanding of problems while reducing incident resolution time,” said Daniel Richard. Indeed, responsiveness to incidents was improved by 50% while incident resolution time was cut by a third. Communication with internal customers has also been improved through a business-oriented translation of technical alerts and the increased professionalism of IT production. “Today, when a store manager calls us about a problem, we are able to say that the incident is already taken into account and provide specific information on the situation with the estimated resolution time. We have reached a level of professionalism that reassures our internal customers.”
Finally, this new management method allowed better balance in the relationship with external providers. In addition, the reduction in the number of alerts and therefore the costs related to their management led to a financial reduction of outsourcing contracts.