Headquartered in Westborough, Massachusetts, BJ’s is the leading operator of membership warehouse clubs in the Eastern United States. The company currently operates 217 clubs and 138 BJ’s Gas® locations in 16 states.
BJ’s Wholesale Club is known for delivering value to its members on thousands of products. The chain offers everything families need, from fresh food and diapers to apparel, TVs and gas.
BJ’s is continually finding ways to further improve the member experience and provide convenient shopping options. As part of this effort, the company has been undergoing a cloud transformation that is improving the functionality of both its brick and mortar and online operations, providing a more personalized shopping experience for members.
BJ’s started its public cloud journey in 2017. In the beginning, the company’s goal was similar to other organizations’: to migrate applications and systems to the cloud to reduce its data center footprint.
But over time, several other goals emerged. These included: improving agility, to help IT respond to infrastructure requests faster; replacing heavyweight back-end applications with nimbler ones in the cloud; and being able to innovate faster by leveraging cloud-based solutions. The warehouse club also wanted to change its IT culture – to drive more automation, to infuse DevSecOps into its processes and to create excitement around rewarding its people for building deep skills in cloud technologies.
The objectives were to be cloud-first, cloud-agnostic and to assemble a world-class organization of technologists.
Building the Fundamentals
Early on, BJ’s engaged Cloud Technology Partners, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, to begin building a framework for transitioning to the cloud. This framework focused on six core pillars: Strategy and Economics, Security and Governance, Applications and Architecture, Portfolio Migration, DevSecOps and CloudOps. BJ’s organized around these pillars and set up agile pods for each, developing and prioritizing its backlog to optimize how the company attacked the work.
As BJ’s made incremental progress, momentum grew, as well as internal excitement over the cloud program. The company made sure it saw quick wins in both developing internal skills and demonstrating high business value.
Organizing for Success
BJ’s next challenge was transitioning the organization from a traditional software development life cycle (SDLC) while simultaneously continuing to support the business. In other words, the company needed to support legacy systems while transforming the organization to cloud technologies.
The warehouse club operator created two core groups to be cloud evangelists and help move the transition forward. A Cloud Technologies group was chartered to focus enterprise architecture on cloud design thinking. This group would be engaged early and often in every go-forward initiative to ensure that a cloud-first mindset was always a top consideration. Simultaneously, the company created a Cloud Operations and Engineering group focused on DevSecOps and cloud optimization. BJ’s supported these groups primarily with internal resources, providing them with everything they needed to grow their expertise.
Migrating to the Cloud
One of BJ’s key priorities was ensuring its Cloud Data Security Strategy was well architected and operationally supported before beginning the transition. Though starting small, BJ’s built its cloud migration momentum by leveraging its successes, and continuing to master the new services introduced each week by its cloud providers. BJ’s moved two SAP applications – SAP CAR (Customer Activity Repository) and SAP PMR (Promotion Management for Retail) – and centralized their data in the cloud. CAR and PMR were hybrid implementations working with BJ’s SAP ERP on-premises solution. Next, BJ’s migrated its e-commerce platform, IBM WebSphere Commerce and Order Management, into the cloud, taking advantage of compute on-demand, auto scaling, and several other cloud services to best manage the cyclical nature of e-commerce demand.
Recently, BJ’s migrated its teradata data warehouse platform to the Amazon Redshift solution in the cloud. The retailer also shifted away from its on-premises data analysis solution, so that it could provide an improved shopping experience for members. Turning to the public cloud, BJ’s created a data lake, and hired data scientists to help analyze the data. This move provided the business with self-service analysis tools that helps it create and execute more personalized promotions and campaigns.
Looking back over the early stages of its cloud journey, BJ’s can point to several benefits it has been able to achieve:
- Speed. The retailer now has processes in place to build new capabilities and deploy them into production in a short period of time.
- Increased ability to attract talent. Being a highly progressive AWS and Azure technology organization, BJ’s is finding it easier to attract and retain technical talent.
- Greater overall efficiency. The shift to leveraging private, hybrid and public cloud allows the company to operate on a higher plane in several areas:
- More effective use of resources: BJ’s optimizes its resources and hibernates non-production workloads.
- Unlimited scalability: BJ’s now has the ability to scale up and down based on events and business needs, critical for a retailer with presence in the cloud.
- Improved business continuity and disaster recovery: Using multi-availability and regional strategies, adopting a cloud-based backup and recovery strategy and building a BCP and a DR plan from inception has strengthened BJ’s ability to meet business SLAs.
A cloud journey does not happen overnight, nor does it end abruptly. Two years after it began, BJ’s is making strong progress on several fronts. The warehouse club operator has created new processes to work in the cloud, as the focus continues to be delighting its members. The result? BJ’s is leveraging cloud technologies to provide members with an even better shopping experience.