To support its international expansion, cosmetics company L’Occitane has turned to Bull to host and operate its business-critical systems.
Established in 1976 in the French town of Manosque, L’Occitane manufactures and distributes cosmetics and beauty products, using traditional know-how and ingredients from the Southern French region of Provence. Since the mid 1990s, when the company seriously began its international expansion, L’Occitane has experience spectacular growth. Nowadays, its products are sold in 80 countries via its network of 1,500 retail outlets, including 750 of its own shops. Against this backdrop, its information system had to respond to increasingly rigorous demands, and some of its applications, which have become critical to the business, were starting to require levels of performance, availability and security that the company itself was finding it hard to achieve. “We were operating our systems ourselves, but given our resources we were not able to guarantee 24×7 availability with sufficient certainty. So we needed to cover ourselves against this emerging risk,” explains Etienne de Verdelhan, IT Director at L’Occitane. Which is why the company turned to Bull to host and operate its most sensitive systems, an outsourcing solution that secures its information system and opens up new opportunities for it.
When L’Occitane put out its invitation to tender, the company was won over by the rigor and pragmatism of the solution that Bull put forward. “This kind of service is at the heart of Bull’s strategy, and we felt they paid very careful attention to our needs,” confirms Etienne de Verdelhan. “Right from our initial discussions, there was a real convergence of views about service levels and the organization we needed to put in place, given our specifications.” Another point proved to be decisive: Bull’s official certification as an SAP Hosting Partner. In effect L’Occitane, which had built its information system around industry standard packages, was looking to replace its existing ERP package with SAP. So it was essential to the long-term lifetime of the new system that its future operator had all the necessary skills.
Starting with an SAP project
To facilitate the change of system – which was going to be vitally important for the company – L’Occitane and Bull began their co-operation by focusing on the SAP platform. Since early 2010, Bull has been hosting and getting involved in building the development and test environments for the project. “This project-based way of working is enabling us to mature our partnership and to gradually gain expertise, in order to be totally ready for the moment when we launch the new system,” says Etienne de Verdelhan. In parallel, L’Occitane and Bull have been actively preparing for the transition from the current systems, completed since September with the move over of the retail system – which manages all the European shops in real time – and the Business Intelligence and data warehouse tools that are used most notably for financial reporting. Thanks to leasing arrangements offered by Bull, this move has also provided an opportunity to upgrade some elements of the IT infrastructure, either to move up to a higher model in the range or to replace ageing hardware.
For L’Occitane, however, this four-year outsourcing plan is much more than just a transfer of hardware and responsibilities: it has to be a driver for value creation to actively support the company’s strategy. “We need IT to grow, but we are a medium-sized business with all the limitations that involves,” stresses Etienne de Verdelhan. “We are relying on Bull to help us go further.” Which is why L’Occitane was looking for a supplier who could become a real partner, that is both attentive to its needs and proactive, and whose technical skills are combined with a good understanding of the business challenges. “From the moment Bull replied to our invitation to tender, we found they had just that kind of flexibility and capacity to translate our business imperatives into technical and contractual solutions,” Etienne de Verdelhan continues. “For example, service levels are differentiated depending on how critical the relevant component is to the whole information system, right up to High Availability for the most vital elements.” Undoubtedly, over the next four years, Bull will have other opportunities to prove this flexibility. Because given the sheer pace at which L’Occitane’s business is growing, its information systems will almost certainly be growing significantly.
Head office: Manosque, France
Revenues of €612 million (2009-2010)
1,500 outlets (including 750 of its own stores) in 80 countries
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