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ICA Sweden: Achieving data-driven grocery experiences through the cloud

About ICA Group & ICA Sweden

About ICA Group
ICA Group consists of ICA Sweden, ICA Bank, Apotek Hjärtat, ICA Fastigheter and Rimi Baltic where the core is grocery retail.

About ICA Sweden
ICA Sweden is the largest grocer in Sweden with more than 1,300 stores and 100 years of experience. ICA Group also serves customers through real estate, banking, pharmacies, and other subsidiaries.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: Sweden

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About Forefront Consulting

Forefront Consulting, a Google Cloud partner, provides companies with advisory, consulting services, training and knowledge sharing to drive business transformations through modern cloud services. At Forefront, people are central and we are driven by our passion to build sustainable systems by using technology and being innovative.

ICA Sweden worked with Google Cloud technologies and partner Forefront Consulting to migrate and modernize its data warehouse and analytics infrastructure.

Google Cloud results

  • De-silos data previously held in on-prem systems
  • Creates synergy between data analytics, science, and other teams for more cohesive cross-functional ways of working
  • Accelerates innovation and time-to-market for new products through more flexible IT
  • Unlocks customer insights for independent store owners and operators

Enables data-driven operations across 1,300 grocery stores

ICA, the largest grocer in Sweden with roughly 1,300 stores and more than a century of experience, has a long history of offering customers exceptional retail experiences. In recent years, ICA has been working to at once maximize its value for customers and better serve its independent store owners through IT transformation.

"In the past 10 years, ICA like many other companies has had to deal with the big move to providing customers rich digital experiences," says Olof Granberg, Director of Data and Advanced Analytics Technology at ICA Group. "Our customers want to understand all ICA offerings when they engage with us and receive personalized experiences at every touchpoint."

In addition to grocery stores, ICA offers services in real estate, finance, and other areas, and needed flexible IT to match technology to business needs. As a result, it chose to work with Google Cloud and partner Forefront to modernize its analytics landscape, leverage the power of cloud services, and adopt personalization strategies to better serve customers.

"Forefront works to understand our goals and then match them to capabilities in Google Cloud. They have given us a much better understanding of what is possible, the best practices of using new solutions, and showing us how to achieve success going forward."

Olof Granberg, Director of Data and Advanced Analytics Technology, ICA Group

"In 2019, we embarked on a big organizational transformation to become more agile," says Daniel Ågren, Director of Data and Advanced Analytics Technology at ICA Sweden. "This was a huge, but necessary, undertaking to change our culture to make us faster, more responsive. We also wanted to empower our teams to work cross-functionally across our business units."

Becoming a data-driven organization was a top priority for ICA. In its legacy IT framework, the company relied on three on-prem solutions for all of its data analytics. ICA quickly realized that these solutions would not serve its technical needs, and that it created siloed data that made it difficult to gain complete perspectives of performance, customer experiences, and more.

"Google Cloud was the clear choice when we wanted to transform our data analytics workflows thanks to BigQuery and machine learning applications," says Daniel. "The ability to establish our full analytics pipeline in Google Cloud gave us the opportunity to bring together everything into a complete data-driven environment so we have the insights we need to continually evolve our services."

ICA migrated its data warehouse to BigQuery and quickly positioned its marketing and other departments to provide independent store owners with better services. For example, ICA marketing leads support stores with customer analysis and personalization services, as well as other tailored solutions that each store can leverage based on their needs.

BigQuery provides the flexibility to fit the many demands from the company's 1,300 independent stores, ranging from its flagship ICA Maxi to smaller, more rural locations. Most importantly, migrating its analytics workloads to Google Cloud enables the company to provide self-service opportunities to ICA business users and store owners, allowing them to make use of advanced customer analytics as they need it.

"We knew that there would be a bottleneck if we didn't make our data readily accessible and secured for the end users in the business and the stores. BigQuery enabled us to avoid that issue," says Daniel. "Google Cloud helps our stakeholders to democratize data, enforce our data governance, and take ownership of the data we manage as a business."

"It has been a great experience to advise ICA when implementing a modern analytical platform on Google Cloud. Our engagement and collaboration have been great, and we are looking forward to supporting ICA in its journey as we progress with more Google Cloud services."

Michael Forsberg, Google Partner Manager & Cloud Advisor

Gaining expertise through partnership

When ICA embarked on its journey to transform data analytics it chose to work with Google Cloud partner Forefront Consulting to help with the migration, inject greater expertise into planning, provisioning, and deployment, and build in-house competency with the technologies.

Rather than simply lifting and shifting its data lake and warehouse, ICA wanted to improve its data pipeline while migrating to BigQuery. Forefront stepped in to help guide the IT and data architecture components of the new data warehouse, as well as provisioning, development, and deployment.

The partner also provided invaluable support in terms of education, teaching ICA users best practices and familiarizing them with Google Cloud data capabilities, solutions, and opportunities.

"Forefront helps all of our tech teams across ICA Sweden and the ICA Group," says Olof. "Forefront works to understand our goals and then match them to capabilities in Google Cloud. They have given us a much better understanding of what is possible, the best practices of using new solutions, and showing us how to achieve success going forward."

With Forefront's assistance, ICA now enjoys greater flexibility and agility within Google Cloud, leading to more room for experimentation, innovation, and service optimization. Advantages such as the more efficient and faster process of spinning up development, testing, and production environments are furthering ICA's pursuit of modernized, data-driven operations.

"Google Cloud and Forefront have accelerated our speed of development and time to market, while giving us what we need to effectively navigate this massive change management project," says Daniel.

"Google Cloud helps our stakeholders to democratize data, enforce our data governance, and take ownership of the data we manage as a business."

Daniel Ågren, Director of Data and Advanced Analytics Technology, ICA Sweden

Achieving harmony across the data pipeline

All of these efforts have helped ICA to not just harmonize its previously siloed data but also the teams involved in data management, governance, and analytics. The company traditionally had two separate groups handling data and analytics. Since migrating to Google Cloud and working with Forefront, it has created greater structure and synergy between these organizations, positioning the company to become more data-driven.

"It has been a great experience to advise ICA when implementing a modern analytical platform on Google Cloud," says Michael Forsberg, Google Partner Manager & Cloud Advisor at Forefront. "Our engagement and collaboration have been great, and we are looking forward to supporting ICA in its journey as we progress with more Google Cloud services."

Today, ICA is beginning to experiment with Vertex AI and other AI/ML solutions within Google Cloud to further improve its use of customer data in such a way that strengthens customer experiences.

"With Google Cloud, we support our data scientists and analysts, giving them an environment in which they can work faster and more freely to gain the most value from our data," says Olof. "We are still early in our transformation and truly data-driven operations. We are excited to continue to explore more Google Cloud solutions with the help of Forefront."

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About ICA Group & ICA Sweden

About ICA Group
ICA Group consists of ICA Sweden, ICA Bank, Apotek Hjärtat, ICA Fastigheter and Rimi Baltic where the core is grocery retail.

About ICA Sweden
ICA Sweden is the largest grocer in Sweden with more than 1,300 stores and 100 years of experience. ICA Group also serves customers through real estate, banking, pharmacies, and other subsidiaries.

Industries: Retail & Consumer Goods
Location: Sweden

About Forefront Consulting

Forefront Consulting, a Google Cloud partner, provides companies with advisory, consulting services, training and knowledge sharing to drive business transformations through modern cloud services. At Forefront, people are central and we are driven by our passion to build sustainable systems by using technology and being innovative.