Gap looks to the cloud

Gap Inc. is moving to the cloud — and it’s beginning its journey with Intermix.

Gap acquired the upscale specialty brand in 2013. And unlike Gap’s other brands that all used similar software to support business operations, Intermix was laden with a “hodgepodge collection of best-of-breed and homegrown systems,” said Paul Lamoureux, Gap’s senior director of IT, at the recent Oracle Industry Connect conference in New York City.

Along with systems very disparate from those in Gap’s data centers, Intermix’s merchandising and inventory management systems relied on cumbersome, error-prone reporting processes. These inflexible systems also made it difficult to scale the brand for future operations.

“We’ve had the platforms and the money to upgrade them, but we struggled with how we were going to build this for the future, continue to release new versions and keep them current,” said Connie Santilli, VP of enterprise systems and strategy of Gap.

Intermix’s increased convergence of stores and digital was also taking a toll on its aging systems, especially as increasingly digital shoppers moved between channels.

“We need digital touchpoints everywhere since people want to shop anywhere, anytime and on any device,” Santilli said. “We have to [focus on] converged commerce and the solutions that bring online and stores together.”

These challenges dovetailed within Gap’s vision of modernizing the brand’s systems — a catalyst that would help transition Intermix onto the same processes used across the Gap family. As a solution, the company began moving Intermix onto Oracle’s retail merchandising system.

In addition to simplifying operations, the system delivers a consistent merchandising platform. The technology synchronizes end-to-end merchandising operations from buying to inventory valuation, driving a single version of the truth. Daily tasks, such as purchase order approval and sales auditing, also become more efficient since they are supported by exception-based dashboard notifications and alerts.

The retailer spent six months cleaning and standardizing data, and converting the information into the new system, said Rick Whicker, senior director of enterprise systems and strategy.

“By standardizing the data, we kept information fresh and transitioned Intermix onto a standard code base that we use internally,” Whicker added. “Our brands don’t have to use data and software functionality the same way, but all code needs to be the same.”

Intermix went live on the cloud-based system in September. The project marked the first step in Gap’s long-term journey to adopt cloud technology across its global operations. The retailer is currently planning to bring its Banana Republic brand onto the cloud-based platform, followed by Old Navy.

“The key was to get our feet wet with Intermix, and use the experience to ensure that we could get our bigger brands to scale,” Whicker said.

Cloud also is shaping up to be “a major strategy for us,” Lamoureux added. “Cloud will optimize our costs, including those associated with software maintenance. Not being tied to on-premise solutions will lower our total cost of ownership and deliver a stronger ROI.”

The company expects to move a majority of its workload into the cloud over the next three years.