Staples Finds Its Own Easy Button with Help/Systems
November 27, 2012 Alex Woodie
Staples, the $25 billion office supply retailer, has simplified the jobs of its IT help desk staff by using IBM i automation software from Help/Systems, the software vendor announced last week.
Before implementing Help/Systems products, Staples’ IT staff struggled to do anything beyond day-to-day maintenance tasks. The company relied on an operations run book to guide Staples’ IT staff through the manual steps required to maintain 34 IBM i LPARs, which house critical applications, including point of sale, credit card authorization, inventory, and warehouse management.
Using a run book wasn’t a particularly efficient form of management, especially considering the size of Staples operation–2,300 stores and more than 100 warehouses in 20 countries around the world. What’s more, when any changes needed to be made to message or process automation, the IT staff had to log onto each LPAR individually.
That all changed several years ago, when Staples implemented several Help/Systems products, including Robot/CONSOLE, Robot/ALERT, Robot/SCHEDULE, and Robot/REPLAY, according to a Help/Systems case study published last month.
According to Ed Guevara, senior manager in charge of the IBM i platform at Staples, the Help/Systems products allow the IT staff to manage by exception. “We’re able to do more important work than just looking around the system and typing commands all day long,” Guevara says in the case study.
The greater level of automation has also helped Staples IT staff to step in and deal with hardware or software issues before they cause downtime, whether from poorly written programs or hardware problems.
“In the past, we accrued a couple of big outages because we ran out of job tables,” Guevara says. “We used to get to problems so late that by the time we identified the problem, it was too late to address.”
That shouldn’t happen with the Help/Systems products on 24/7/365 watch. “We learned our lessons from not monitoring close enough,” Guevara continues. “Now we use Robot/SCHEDULE, which lets us know when the job tables are more than 75 percent used. By automating and watching these issues, we find problems early and avoid unnecessary hardware upgrades.”
The Help/Systems software has also benefited Staples in other ways, including complying with PCI, SOX, and the Massachusetts privacy law. If any changes are made to production jobs, for example, Robot/SCHEDULE will keep an audit trail of them, and make them available to auditors as needed, which saves time hunting through the change ticket system.
Help/Systems software also benefits Staples training center. New hires will often forget their passwords, which would normally lead to several phone calls to the help desk to reset the password. By automatically detecting failed logins, the help desk can re-enable the user profiles much more quickly, and eliminate those extra calls. “That saves us time and it saves time across the business,” Guevera says.