If the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be an accelerant for digital transformations, Walgreens Boots Alliance was on the vanguard of that pattern.
The Deerfield, Ailing. -based firm, which counts practically 9,000 retail Walgreens pharmacies within the US and practically 2,300 Boots retailers within the UK, had no choice to shut down or decelerate when the pandemic hit globally in March 2019.
As an alternative, International CIO and Senior Vice President Francesco Tinto, who joined WBA six months prior, pushed the corporate’s cloud-first enterprise transformation into overdrive to make sure the pharmacy chain might higher serve its clients digitally, as the necessity for COVID-19 scheduling, testing, and vaccinations spurred the corporate to construct digital options sooner than deliberate.
“COVID actually pushed us to guarantee that we might actually have service to clients in the course of the lockdown,” Tinto says.
To this point, WBA has administered 56 million COVID-19 vaccines and 22.9 million assessments within the US, thanks in some measure to a digital transformation largely primarily based on Microsoft’s Azure cloud and a dizzying array of bleeding-edge applied sciences, together with MongoDB databases, Snowflake information warehousing, and Databricks’ Spark-based AI platform.
Now the Walgreens Boots IT chief is leveraging this potent cocktail of superior cloud, information analytics, and synthetic intelligence applied sciences to ship mass personalization providers and to boost WBA’s on-line relationship with customers.
Information is a core ingredient
WBA’s modernization of its IT stack has entailed migrating the back-end processes that drive its on-line retail enterprise, reminiscent of accounts payable, the final ledger, and stock administration, to Microsoft’s cloud. As a part of this, WBA rebuilt its enterprise utility stack by shifting to SAP S/4HANA and migrating to ServiceNow’s cloud-based automated operational providers.
Walgreens Boots Alliance
The corporate additionally began consolidating its quite a few information property right into a Microsoft Azure information lake, a shift that has proved pivotal to creating analytics and AI magic occur, Tinto says. As a part of this transformation, WBA migrated from legacy databases to superior cloud databases and analytics, deploying Azure Synapse for relational information, Azure Cosmos for unstructured and semi-structured information, and MongoDB for document-oriented fashions.
The retail chain can be migrating on-premises information saved in Teradata, Netezza, and Hadoop home equipment to the cloud, leveraging Snowflake for information warehousing and Databricks for AI, Tinto says.
That information basis has proved key to establishing WBA’s next-generation providers, enabling builders and information scientists in WBA’s 2,000-member IT workers, together with hundreds of its companions’ programmers, to construct about 100 in-house AI merchandise up to now, Tinto says.
Along with Databricks’ platform, WBA makes use of Python instruments, Spark Clusters, Jupyter Notebooks, and open-source NLP (pure language processing) capabilities to jot down machine studying fashions for stock optimization and pricing optimization, and to create buyer profiles — the core of WBA’s next-generation personalization providers, Tinto says.
“AI for us is absolutely the expertise that we’re pushing so much,” he says. “A giant push is constructing an working mannequin the place we are able to actually leverage the info and the info scientists enhance their information and utilization of AI. We wish to guarantee that AI and machine studying is embedded in every little thing we do.”
Subsequent frontier: Mass personalization
Within the third yr of its transformation, WBA’s high focus is now to construct out buyer profiles and supply mass personalization to its clients, advancing its on-line meting out system and giving customers extra administration of prescriptions on-line, in accordance with Tinto.
“It’s actually the consolidation and curation of all of our information is how we begin constructing the shopper profiles and personalization capabilities,” Tinto says, including that the corporate is implementing cloud providers in a fashion that allows the corporate to “harmonize between international functionality and native adaptation.”
Tinto and CEO Rosalind Brewer each consider WBA’s cloud infrastructure is crucial to the corporate’s technique for delivering extra personalized, customized providers to the majority of its customers within the US and UK, in addition to an rising variety of WBA pharmacies in Mexico, Thailand, and Eire.
“We now have the set the muse. We’re not shifting to the cloud. We’re within the cloud,” Tinto says, noting that the corporate is finalizing its on-line meting out system and shifting extra aggressively into information analytics which are “far more prescriptive and predictive.”
Whereas the corporate remains to be leveraging some purposes in its information middle, the next-generation information analytics and AI platform will allow WBA to get very near its customers — one buyer at a time.
The intention is for patrons to handle their prescriptions on-line from their Walgreens’ or Boots’ accounts and obtain private suggestions for merchandise and options that handle every client’s distinctive well being points.
“AI is essential to understanding the profile of the shopper. Now we are able to serve one of the best promotion, one of the best content material, customized choices,” says Tinto, including that the plan additionally consists of making the customized providers interactive utilizing chatbots.
WBA, for example, signed a partnership with Microsoft and Adobe 18 months in the past to supply one-to-one communications with customers and to ship tailor-made prescription experiences on-line. Adobe’s Buyer Expertise Administration (CXM) options, one other facet of the partnership, will supply analytics, content material administration, personalization, and marketing campaign orchestration providers on-line.
“For instance, we’re launching a brand new expertise for a affected person who has been identified with a power situation so we will help the shopper by the journey and supply recommendation and options that assist the particular person reduce the impression of the illness,” Tinto says.
The worldwide CIO is happy with the progress up to now and excited in regards to the prospects for the long run.
“I’m on a journey that doesn’t cease with a transfer to the cloud,” he says of his effort to create a data-driven group that may supply mass personalization. “With the entire problems of the pandemic, I’m in the course of rebuilding a corporation shifting from being extraordinarily operational into a corporation that’s transformational.”