Emirates Leisure Retail overcomes a lacklustre IT legacy

The retail arm of a premium airline inherited less than premium systems, and turned to the cloud to overhaul them.

Emirates Leisure Retail is a rapidly growing division of the Emirates Group that specialises in leisure, retail, and hospitality, as well as boasting brands including Hudson's Coffee in its portfolio.

To let its staff of around 380 people connect locally and globally — and keep up to speed with what customers always demand — financial controller Leigh Parry needed sophisticated and reliable IT systems that were always up to date.

Emirates Leisure Retail: Leigh Parry
Emirates Leisure Retail's Leigh Parry Image: Supplied

"We inherited a hardware infrastructure that hadn't been upgraded for some time and was falling behind," Parry said. "It had a disjointed email system with outdated POP Mailboxes for one section of the company, and Exchange email for the corporate head office."

As such, Emirates Leisure Retail's first cloud computing initiative was borne out of an increasing frustration at unstable services. Parry said the infrastructure was struggling to keep up with the demands of a growing store and customer transaction database.

"Our initial decision to adopt cloud was focused on relocating the services with a high-availability requirement which we could access from anywhere," he said.

The core business database and a company-wide email solution were the first to be migrated in 2012, when the company chose provider Interactive to manage all of its IT. Today, Emirates Leisure Retail uses tailored storage and managed backup systems, production server hosting, managed firewalls, data management, and recovery support services online.

All of the company's data is collocated and processed in Interactive's Melbourne datacentre, and Parry said systems availability is still the most important aspect of the business.

"Information drives pretty much everything we do," he said. "Sales transactions out of our stores rely on our computer systems, for example. Our connectivity keeps us in touch with all the hubs and spokes of our business around the country."

Another example is its loyalty program, which is used by everybody in the business, from franchisees and corporate stores to customers and even the head office on a daily basis. If Emirates Leisure Retail loses access, it affects every single company stakeholder, so a solid connection is pivotal in maintaining access.

Parry appreciates the guidance that a good cloud provider offers. Not only are there no issues with the system and support from the Interactive support staff, but they also recommend the best approaches.

"If there are any improvements that can be made we haven't considered, it's a good provider that puts it on the table as something for us to think about," he said.