The IT Challenges of Managing 400+ Retail Locations, with Yash Muralidharan

By Published On: August 7, 2018Categories: Blog, Podcasts, The CTO Studio

As the Vice-President of IT for Jenny Craig and Curves our guest for this show knows exactly how challenging it is to manage IT services for 400 retail locations around the world. Yashwant Muralidharan does this every day, and he shares the wisdom he’s learned with us on today’s episode.

Specifically we talk about how they manage the shipping logistics for sending frozen meals to their customers around the world, why they chose cloud over data management centers and much more. Join us to hear it all on today’s CTO Studio!

In this episode you’ll hear:

  • How do they manage inventory across 400 locations?
  • Why is shipping frozen food so difficult?
  • What was the best business decision they made last year and why?
  • What does he do to maintain his focus each day?
  • Why does he do prep work and what does it entail?
  • And so much more!

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Today Yash is the VP of IT for Jenny Craig and Curves and has been for just over a year at the time of this recording. He joined the company 10 years ago as a consultant and has grown through the ranks to his present role.

As the VP of IT, he’s responsible for everything that happens in the IT department for both Jenny Craig and Curves. He’s responsible for their web sites, mobile apps, e-commerce systems etc.

I wanted to better understand what Jenny Craig does. Yash explains the business model as they are a health and wellness company that empowers their clients to lose weight by providing them with meal plans and consultations through their 400 plus retail locations (corporate and franchises). The IT department provides services to those 400 plus locations, they are responsible for the infrastructure and applications within each location i.e. telecom, network, point of sale systems etc.

To me it seems like there couldn’t possibly be one day when everything is working for everyone in all of their facilities around the world – something somewhere must need his attention every day!

He says that is true, and it’s a tough job. There’s a lot that can go wrong every day, especially because it is retail. They have standardized their hardware and software: their POS system is the same for everyone, all online orders get synced with that system and the two call-centers in Carlsbad use that system. It is standardized across the entire company. On the ERP side of things, they use one system for the company across all departments.

We also discussed details of their shipping logistics, before digging into how Curves is different than Jenny Craig. Curves is entirely franchised, so they aren’t responsible for infrastructure within the location, franchisees are responsible for that. But they provide them with a POS system to collect memberships dues and schedule workouts. Customers have to call in to their local locations, there is no online scheduling available.

Also on today’s edition of CTO Studio, I asked Yash to tell us what he thinks the biggest challenges are in today’s IT world. His top problem is the POS system. It’s very complicated to use, they have continued to simplify it over time but there is a lot of functionality that sits within it.

It raises a lot of questions, the majority of the tickets they receive relate to their POS system. Those tickets are often questions about how to use certain parts of it, how to renew, etc. There are simply a lot of “how to” questions that come in, and the employees in the field are often part-time so there can be a lot of questions around how to use the system.

Because of their size I wondered if they had negotiation power regarding cloud pricing versus data centers. What made cloud more appealing than a physical data center? Yash says they used to run conventional data centers. He says there are a few things to know about running data centers: there’s a lot that can go wrong, management is cumbersome, and you need a lot of staff. All of those combine for very high costs. The cost itself was one of the biggest reasons they moved to AWS.

When they initially hashed out the roadmap they put a business case together. Right off the bat they saw a little over 50% cost savings using cloud over a data center. I asked if they had ever considered creating their own cloud? He says you could, but they didn’t want to be in the business of managing and maintaining infrastructure.

They closed down their last data center in October of 2017 and by far it’s been the best thing they’ve ever done! Now he can run their data center, a multi-million dollar business, with a few people. It’s simplified their lives a lot and brought a lot of stability to their systems and their business overall.

One of our final discussions is about how they innovate as a brick and mortar company. As far as innovation in general, their business strategy for this year is to ensure customers’ get a brand new applications to enrich their interactions and their overall experience. This year they are focused on modernizing their customer facing applications to attract more clients and drive revenue.

Those are the customer-centered advances they are focused on. In terms of an internal IT perspective, their biggest leap was to close the data center and migrate to AWS. Now that that is done they are focused on migrating their phone system to the cloud.

All in all their biggest innovations are in the food area and in the marketing area: they are constantly trying to find new ways to reach and connect to their clients and they are providing food they prefer. There’s a lot of innovation happening in those areas.

And lastly Yash tells us what secret productivity hacks he uses – join us to hear how he stays productive and so much more on this edition of CTO Studio.

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