Focus on: Empower Employees, Optimize Operations

“To build the highest quality product causing the least amount of harm.”

This is Patagonia’s mission statement and their reason for being. A global clothing company with a major focus on outdoor gear and provisions, Patagonia was born in 1970’s-era Ventura, California. Sustainability is a driving principle for the company, and a question they raise in everything they do. Their larger goal is to use business to solve the environmental crisis while inspiring other companies to do the same.

Today, Patagonia is 2,000 employees strong, many of whom have been with the company more than 20 years. At 14 years, Drew Story is just a few years away from reaching that milestone. Now serving as a Solutions Architect, Drew initially joined Patagonia as a Web Developer before becoming a Technical Project Manager, and later transitioning to his current role within the IT department.

To say that Patagonia isn’t a brand naturally associated with technology is an understatement. “Tech isn’t the natural path for a bunch of rock climbers, surfers, and outdoor enthusiasts,” Drew explains. “It’s an interesting dichotomy.” While not the company’s focus, IT is a service that supports the company’s overall mission. As Patagonia grew into a global organization, the company wanted to ensure that the company could provide customers with the same experience and the same level of support regardless of their chosen purchase channel; online, physical retailer, or direct.

Drew and the integration team understood that they needed a solution that could manage data without sacrificing efficiency. In order to transform into a digital-first company, they needed to find the right digital tools that would appeal not just to millennials used to working on cutting-edge platforms, but also to long-term employees who might be slower to transition.

Motivated by the Customer Experience

One of the brand’s biggest pain points was that customers were having different experiences depending on their location. Without a standardized interface the company was unable to provide order history or updates, and was slow to implement marketing ideas.

So began the search for a customer-centric solution that would help Patagonia transition to a service-oriented architecture. To accomplish this, the team would need to rebuild all its digital scaffolding—everything from its ERP implementation and order management system, to the POS software and integration path. It also offered an opportunity to adopt a different style of integration. With a focus on establishing consistency across the customer experience and across locations, they began searching for a platform that would establish a standardized interface and offer a more secure, scalable solution for their web presence.

Patagonia’s Microsoft partner, Synegrate, weighed all of these needs and recommended Azure enterprise integration services such as Azure Logic Apps to automate workflows, and serverless computing options that would allow the Patagonia team to focus on what they do best, without worrying about server logistics. “The Synegrate team’s extensive expertise in integration led them to this solution,” Drew says. “It’s a scalable, maintainable environment that essentially takes care of itself.”

With these new technologies in place, Patagonia’s Japanese team was able to move forward with their marketing idea. Using Azure, the team created a mobile app that assigned a barcode to each customer, instantly bringing up order history, customer info, and customer ID at the point of sale. Now, customers can go to Patagonia’s retail locations and easily complete purchases and returns by quickly and safely sharing customer info, facilitating a more convenient and personalized customer experience. 

Upgrading for Global Growth

In order to remain efficient as the company expands, Patagonia needed a system that could scale to manage huge loads and massive website traffic spikes during peak sales times. The ability to remain secure while increasing efficiency was critical. “We were feeling the pain of not being able to provide a global platform that was serving our customers’ best interests,” Drew says.

With their legacy systems, Patagonia couldn’t announce a sale globally or the website would crash. Instead, they were forced to roll it out slowly, region by region, to keep the system running. In addition to Logic Apps, Azure Service Bus Messaging and Azure Functions help the integration team confidently automate internal transactions and facilitate customer communications in a scalable and reliable way. Now, time between order processing and a customer receiving a confirmation email is down to less than five minutes. That’s a significant improvement over their competitors’ average of 45 minutes. Not only do the upgrades save the company time, money, resources, and unnecessary anxiety, but the customer experience is improved.

Responsible Change Management

Although Patagonia is admittedly a relatively conservative company when it comes to technology, Microsoft partner Synegrate was up for the challenge. Their small size meant they got to know all the people on the team, which gave Patagonia additional peace of mind. “Know your team, and make sure your team is getting what they want,” Drew advises. “Think of your partners as your partners, and as friends, too. You can work for different companies, but your goals should be the same – having that mentality goes the distance.”

From Synegrate’s perspective, Patagonia’s excellent communication skills make them an ideal partner. Working with Synegrate gave Patagonia a greater comfort level in taking risks they normally wouldn’t have taken. Part of their attraction to working with Microsoft was their relatively small global footprint. “We’re lessening our environmental impact as much as we can by choosing a cloud environment that uses less energy,” Drew explains, adding that “the efficiency of Microsoft’s data centers is weighted higher and its energy input is lower than their competitors.” Azure simply fits well within Patagonia’s environmentally conscious strategy.

In addition to Azure, Patagonia is planning to implement Microsoft Dynamics’ retail platform as well as its order management system with the company’s global and direct channel. They are also working towards re-implementing Microsoft Dynamics ERP.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Part of Patagonia’s growth lies in their ability to embrace the successes that come from failure. Microsoft’s response and support during technical hiccups gave the company confidence and added trust. “Microsoft not only stood by us, but gave us excellent support, helped us technically, gave us trainings, sent us CSAs, examined our build and our methods, and was a partner in this endeavor,” Drew says. “Those are key components to success.” For these reasons, Patagonia has decided to go “all in” with Microsoft.

With Microsoft’s help, Patagonia can maintain its mission of sustainability and keep its emphasis on customer service throughout their digital transformation, and beyond.

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