“Interview Groupe Chantelle: Companies that are turning into ecosystems through APIs”
In collaboration with Alliancy
Shared experiences around strategic and business issues of ecosystems and APIs
Axway offers a series of interviews and meetings to facilitate both testimonials and analyses, with access to expertise and inspirational visions, for CIOs/DDOs/Transformation Directors who are reinventing their role in their company.
Interview André Wei – Chantelle Group
“Real-time, simplification, security… these expectations naturally lead to APIsation”
A private French company specializing in lingerie since 1876, the Groupe Chantelle is now pursuing a digital transformation, which began when it transitioned to the world of B2C and e-commerce. André Wei, chief technology officer of the group, details his roadmap, the impact on B2B activities and the place of APIs alongside his company’s other strategic issues.
What aspects of digital transformation most affect the Groupe Chantelle?
The subject is both business and technical. The transformation of the group involves major Omnichannel challenges, information cross-functionality, new ways of managing our inventories and the anticipation of new customer use cases. From a technical point of view, this corresponds to a determined move to the cloud, to a digital workplace and to the RPA.* The company has been making a strong shift towards B2C for a long time: whereas it was historically specialized in indirect sales, today the turnover is distributed equally. We are now arriving at the second important phase of transformation: taking advantage of the best parts of digital technology, in particular, better data sharing between omnichannel interaction models. It has become a matter of survival in our sector. We must keep the pace with consumer habits especially since we will never be able to make as many technology investments as Amazon. Having these solid fundamentals is a criteria for being able to differentiate in other areas. I am thinking particularly about the global trends of a post- #metoo** women’s lingerie market. By being up to date on the customer experience addressed by digital technology, it leaves us more freedom to promote our values, our Corporate Social Responsibility choices or the fact that we have an authentic and caring attitude towards women, with for example mannequins that are truly in their image.
In concrete terms, what is your roadmap as a CTO?
I joined the company in August 2017 in a context of accelerating transformation. My field of responsibility covers both traditional technical management, in charge of workstations and infrastructures, and much broader missions around the new management of data and digital technologies. I also support the dissemination of important technology and digital culture throughout the company. With such a culture, right up to the executive level, it is finally possible to talk about transformation without the need for speaking geek. Combined with interesting projects, this is also what attracts new talent to a modern technology landscape. In addition, the group has multiple brands and logos, which implies a complexity of the business but also of the information system: hundreds of different interfaces, legacy, etc. One of the main tasks on my roadmap is, therefore, to simplify, in particular, the interconnections of all the components of our information system. This is mandatory to provide a simple, intuitive and pleasant experience for all our users. The challenge is that the IT department no longer says “no,” and that it can focus on making business choices, on the strategic orientation of the activity, etc. This bias is likely to change the relationship with all management.
Do you have an example of a project that illustrates the structural nature of these changes?
The new portal for our professional customers. The expectations of the B2B sellers in our ecosystem are becoming almost identical to those of the end customers. They want high-quality interactions, a lot of customization, but also a lot of responsiveness. The expectation is strongly linked to the possibilities of digital: the processes must be intuitive and the professional buyer expects the same qualities from the portal dedicated to him as an e-commerce site for the general public. Today, to have a competitive advantage, we must be able to go further than the old interfaces we could establish with the systems of these professionals. And we must be able to integrate all the new players in our ecosystem, such as emerging web sellers, who are much smaller and more agile than the big brands. The “Karajan project,” a true structuring project, was launched in 2018 to meet these new interconnection and integration challenges.
The objective was to move towards real-time in the management of exchanges, to simplify connectors but also to ensure security. All these expectations naturally lead to APIsation. In this area, we needed both tools and training, creating coherence for the technical team, between operation and integration, previously separated, to have a harmonized vision from start to finish. This is also why we have relied on the Axway API Gateway in order to set up a central management system for everything API, whether in terms of security or openness to the outside world. In terms of usage, for example, it is a question of being able to easily show our inventory, regardless of the point of contact into our systems. This harmonization work makes it possible to place orders, without differentiation and without a hitch on our website or in the store. It is also what will soon allow us to make data on the characteristics of our products available to our customers and partners. The Groupe Chantelle has always been proud of the close relationship it has established with its customers and this openness is a way to strengthen that. Our objective is not for these digital services to take the human factor away, quite the contrary: it is also what convinces our management of the importance of these changes. We streamline and simplify the relationship with everyone who interacts with the company.
“A better sharing of data and omnichannel interaction models: having these solid fundamentals is the condition for differentiation in other areas.” »
2018 revenue: €400 million
Number of employees: 6000
Box – The APIsation of a hybrid system
André Wei acknowledges that the challenges of transforming an information system are basic while the complexity of the system is great. In the case of the Groupe Chantelle, the CTO was confronted with a system that on the one hand hosts a highly automated software factory in the cloud or Google apps, but also some of the applications that have been running for decades on very old IBM systems, on AS/400. This is why the CTO opted for a hybrid approach to transformation: “For APIs, it was necessary to be able to manage not only the cloud, but also cloud/on-premise or on-premise/on-premise-exchanges. It was an ambitious roadmap that required close cooperation between several technology partners around the API Gateway project. All this at a time when the 2019 budget was being prepared and management was waiting for the first cases of concrete uses. The CTO committed to the end of 2019, but then saw a significant acceleration effect: the new portal for B2B customers, based on Salesforce, is moving fast, starting in January 2019. And successfully: order and price flows are now in real-time, despite complex B2B pricing rules. “We were nine months ahead of schedule and put forward real business use cases for management. It was the most urgent,” says Andra Wei.
Discover in the Success Story how a hybrid approach with Axway AMPLIFY Management has enabled the Chantelle Group to implement innovative new business models.