Five years in five months: the leap from traditional to digital operations

Business Impact
Culture

What you will read here:

  • See how a traditional giant was able to work like a startup in just a few days 
  • Learn more about digital culture and the discovery of opportunities
  • See how IT can be the protagonist of change
By

CI&T

With a 45-year history in Brazil, the Carrefour chain has built a solid operation that today has 72,000 employees and 498 stores distributed in 26 states. This makes it the largest food retailer in the country with a strong organizational structure behind it that has been undergoing a major digital transformation in recent years. As partners in this journey, we at CI&T have guided and followed their major initiatives and significant and successful changes towards speed and agility in meeting consumer needs. 

We witnessed this food giant quickly and efficiently in an already uncertain, fast and volatile world, and how it was able to react to the arrival of COVID-19. In just a few days, the company managed to establish everything from structural changes—how to make 27,000 people work 100% remotely and take actions to ensure the safety and comfort of its customers and employees—to new management practices. All of this was possible thanks to the digital transformation process that was already underway, with a growing focus consumers and a culture increasingly focused on collaboration and experimentation in search of delivering more value to customers. 

Carrefour's CIO, Paulo Farroco, discusses their journey in our our podcast (in Portuguese). Farroco chats with CI&T CTO, Bruno Simioni, and CSO , Bob Wollheim. Below are some highlights of the conversation.

Five years in five months

"We are living a moment that we call ‘VUCA 2.0’. Because it’s super intense, super uncertain and there’s a lot going on. I believe we accelerated five years in five months. There is a strong acceleration and a very large business transformation, a transformation in customer behavior that is also very large and many opportunities are emerging. All businesses are in full reinvention. "

Paulo Farroco, CIO of Carrefour

When the need for social isolation and the consequent obligation to close a large part of commerce, services and offices was necessary, the great challenge, both for Carrefour and for most companies, was - and is being - dealing with urgency to have operational structures prepared for the VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). It was digital knocking on company doors unexpectedly. 
 
Companies including Carrefour had to quickly adapt. Carrefour executives rapidly acted in expanding the number of squads - or autonomous multi-disciplinary teams that work with a focus on solving customers' pains - to address the many new demands that have emerged. These teams immediately took on tasks ranging from improving digital communication and sales channels so that they were able to cope with the increase of orders, to create solutions for stores to continue to function properly. 

"I say that Carrefour became a startup in a few days. In other words, decisions were made much faster, the cycles for decision-making were shorter and the number of people who were involved in each of these decision-making was much smaller. It was necessary for this to happen in the very short term and the decisions were much more collective and the responsibility of each team with a clear purpose. We really put the safety of our customers and the safety of employees in immediate attention. "

Paulo Farroco, CIO of Carrefour

All of these actions, as well as the various social initiatives developed by the company - such as making 40,000 masks and preparing basic food baskets for distribution to needy communities - were also the result of the new digital culture of the company. The ideas were born from design practices and rites, in which the discovery of the most pressing needs of consumers and society was the focus. 

"Carrefour was a pioneer in many things in Brazil. With squads, we began to clearly internalize these concerns with customers and employees. We started measuring the temperature of the customers in the store, we were the first to start cleaning the carts, installing acrylic barriers between the cashier and customer for the protection of everyone, marking the distance between customers on the floor … These things were all happening very quickly. "

Paulo Farroco, CIO of Carrefour

Digital culture and the discovery of opportunities

All of these actions, as well as the various social initiatives developed by the company - such as making 40,000 masks and preparing basic food baskets for distribution to needy communities - were also the result of the new digital culture of the company. The ideas were born from design practices and rites, in which the discovery of the most pressing needs of consumers and society was the focus. 

"Today, we are no longer just putting the customer in the spotlight, but genuinely as a strategic center for the company's digital transformation." .

Paulo Farroco, CIO of Carrefour

Apart from physical measures, studies carried out by the teams pointed out opportunities for developing digital solutions. For example, in São Paulo, 250,000 elderly people live alone. Aware that this group needed extra support because of their higher risk status due to the pandemic, the squads responsible for e-commerce, developed a feature to prioritize people aged 60 or over, in addition to creating a new type of service in the Contact Center prepared to guide and assist the elderly with their online shopping. 

"This process of solidarity, with a look of empathy, has changed several fields of the company. It has changed in the physical world, it has changed strongly in technology with super short-term actions and it has expanded our field of community and social attention. "

Paulo Farroco, CIO of Carrefour

Technology professionals as protagonists of change

Behind all this, enabling actions and operational changes and supporting cultural transformations, is the use of new technologies. To achieve good performance with the necessary speed, however, IT professionals had to gain prominence at the table where the company's strategic decisions are made. 

"The pandemic created a huge space for the technology professional to be a protagonist because he is the most capable of making that bridge between business impact and engineering strategy. Even more so in a world now 100% driven online. The shopping experiences, the user's online journeys, this is the professional who can support this. It has to be at the strategy table and the decision making table "

Bruno Simioni, CTO of CI&T

Before, acting more to "solve technological problems" in the business, IT professionals took the lead not only with regard to the implementation of tools and solutions, but also in the study of opportunities and action planning. At Carrefour, this movement has been clear since the establishment of the new market scenario, but it is also being evident in all companies. 

"It is this professional who is able to determine what field of play I have, what I need to implement an architecture strategy, a Cloud strategy, from Devops to run, to make releases more often, to talk about this new world of technology. I think that the movement was very accelerated for the main technology executives. For me, the main learning experience, especially in our field, is this new playing field that is now very fertile in an unprecedented way. "

Bruno Simioni, CTO of CI&T

"I would advise our professional colleagues to seize that moment to effectively win a permanent seat at the strategic decision-making tables. This is a great opportunity for the IT professional whose contribution was instrumental in a very short-term strategic transformation. "

Paulo Farroco, CIO of Carrefour

And following the forecast of Mark Andreessen, founder of Netscape, who said that in the future, the whole company will be a technology company, at CI&T we understand this moment of great transformations and uncertainties that we are going through as a great opportunity to embark on this future as soon as possible. Thus, we offer the market our learnings and knowledge that can help to cut paths and set the course in their digital transformation processes and we support our customers in accelerating their journeys safely. As a great example of this new vision, Carrefour has already taken the lead and put into practice one of the great teachings of management philosophy that guides us "learning by doing". 

"I believe that Carrefour in order to be successful and long-lasting has to become a technology company as well. We have to make technology an area for attracting and retaining talent And for that you need to effectively practice the technology in a much more updated, modern way using the top-of-the-line tool to attract this talent and for you to be recognized in the technology market. My personal desire is to help Carrefour to be recognized as a company in which technology permeates the areas and makes the areas have a much faster delivery speed. "

Paulo Farroco, CIO of Carrefour


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