The 'Reliable' Solution: How Data Integration and Automation Fuel Competitive Advantage
Before the world shut down in early 2020, it was clear that Reliable Parts needed to transform its business to meet new customer demands across new markets. We're an appliance parts distributor that has grown through the acquisition of dozens of mom-and-pop stores across the U.S. and Canada. Due to these acquisitions, our IT systems were saddled with inefficient and disparate business processes that led to enormous IT inefficiencies and disjointed customer experiences.
Buyers today have grown up in the digital age and expect Amazon-like experiences when they shop for anything from enterprise software to sheet metal. Buyers still crave the one-to-one relationships they had with individual salespeople in the past, but they don’t want to invest the time and energy into maintaining those relationships. They want to jump on a website, fill up their shopping cart, and check out as quickly and easily as possible. Our disjointed IT environment with built-in silos prevented us from delivering the kind of experiences B-to-B buyers expect today.
Not only that, but increasing demand for real-time information put more pressure on our systems to continuously exchange information. In times of intense change and uncertainty, it's more important than ever for businesses to be able to leverage existing IT assets to fulfill different business scenarios. In our case, our systems needed to be able to deal with changes in our supply chain rapidly. This would only be possible with the right set of APIs and with the right domain alignment. To meet our goals, we needed to build future-ready systems by simplifying the management of information, connecting systems, and making them adaptable to any reality or new business need.
Automation and Integration: Built for Today, Ready for Tomorrow
When I joined Reliable Parts as CIO and CTO in 2018, I saw a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine our strategy to become a digital-first enterprise with IT as a strategic partner. This would enable us to address our customer needs while empowering the business to navigate and adapt to emerging market trends.
From prior experience, I knew data integration and automation would be key to the work we were undertaking. Reliable Parts doesn’t have the same size IT budget that a big retailer would have, so we needed to automate and streamline as many processes as possible.
Our consumers interact with digital systems, and those digital systems interact and communicate with each other with increasing complexity, building a valuable network of data, applications and endpoints. To facilitate this type of communication, we needed a robust API solution that powers seamless integration across multiple underlying systems.
Fortunately, we were able to partner with Boomi, a low-code integration platform as a service (iPaaS). Together, we enhanced and standardized our API capabilities, using out-of-the-box integration functionality to create reusable assets that reduced time to market and minimized implementation costs associated with the delivery of our integration services. Instead of developing new code every time new application connections are needed and spending time continuously managing and updating those APIs, our developers can make connections faster by leveraging APIs exposed via an API Gateway. They can simply pick from a pre-configured library of API snippets, make a few tweaks, test it, and then push the code to production. Updates only need to be made once, and then they're applied globally.
By streamlining and modernizing our IT stack, we were able to reduce customer integration time by 87 percent and cost by 92 percent — which resulted in growing our wholesale revenue by 26 percent and retail revenue by 90 percent. We also revamped our warranty system from six weeks to just 24 hours, saving 80 percent in costs.
Most importantly, we set ourselves apart from the competition and established market leadership. Our customer service improved and now it takes less time than ever to roll out new features for customers. We’re now a digital, data-driven, agile business that's ready to take on any challenge.
A New Era in Technology and Business
Business and IT boundaries are blurring. Data is shared seamlessly within and between organizations and immersive technologies create new possibilities and experiences for employees and customers alike. Applications, data and infrastructure are merging into systems and embedding themselves into the entire business ecosystem. We needed to be prepared to rethink our strategies and architectures, and support a new way of working to spur new growth, shape new markets, and reach new customers.
Focusing on building an IT foundation that's platform-powered, cloud-native, agile and data-driven gave us the flexibility to react quickly to customer expectations, deliver powerful experiences, and build a brand that customers trust. We may not have the resources of a big-box retailer, but streamlining operations and empowering the business through automation and integrated technology and data helps level the playing field — giving us competitive advantage and the ability to reliably accelerate delivery to the market.
Samy Muthusamy is the chief information officer and chief technology officer at Reliable Parts, a home appliance parts distributor in the U.S. and Canada.
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Nagarajan Muthusamy (Samy) leads the global technology team at Reliable Parts, a leading home appliance parts distributor in the U.S. and Canada. He focuses on speed and scale with award-winning technology solutions that embrace change and reinvent how Reliable works—anytime, anywhere. Muthusamy’s role is to use technology to enable business growth by being platform powered, cloud native, agile and data driven.