U.K. Company Swears Off Mainframe, Carefully

As Redcats Group trades its out-of-date mainframe for Sopra Group's software platform, it tries to ensure a seamless transition for its customers.
Multi-channel home shopping business Redcats Group is about to go live with a new account management and collections suite across its U.K. business.

Redcats Group, one of the largest home shopping businesses in the world, specializes in online and catalogue distribution of fashion, home, and sports and leisure goods via subsidiaries across Europe. The new software platform, ICS Credit Suite by French software company Sopra Group, is intended to help the firm manage customer payments more efficiently.

For the IT team overseeing the transition, the success benchmark for the new system is not how much extra business it brings in, but how little it impacts the status quo. Redcats U.K. CEO Michael Truluck said, "The measure of success for me in these first three months is not gain but maintain. I need no disruption in the changeover from our previous system here."

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Redcats offers its customers a range of payment options, including revolving credit, check and credit/debit card. Keen to keep innovating, Truluck decided the business would gain an additional competitive edge if it could adapt its payment options more dynamically. The new software, a customizable, rules-driven system, will support the launch of new brands and implement new credit strategies and credit offers more quickly.

Truluck's decision to retire the company's aging mainframe system was based on the need for new functionality. The new system will span the entire credit account management process: processing new credit account applications, managing payments, statement processing, credit limit management, behavioral scoring, collections and recoveries.

Truluck is optimistic that the new system will deliver what Redcats needs. Once the system is fully implemented, Redcats expects its financial services, payment collection and risk teams to improve service and strategies through the use of the new graphically driven screens and streamlined processes.

The process of implementing the new system was split into three phases, Truluck explained, ending with the sunset of the old hardware platform. Designing the new software was also a non-trivial task. "Although the project took 11 months, we had been in project design with the supplier of the new package for a considerable amount of time before we hit the go button."

In terms of resources, Truluck told Information Week U.K. that the project was done internally by Redcat's financial services and IT teams, with extra resources being brought in for issues only when required. (Truluck declined to detail the commercial cost of the move, citing company confidentiality.)

Truluck's advice for IT teams looking to manage a similar transition: Plan thoroughly. That includes ensuring that you have internal buy-in and that your team is ready to deliver the project in place.

Going forward, Redcats Group hopes to extend the benefits of ICS to other European Redcats operations; in fact, Truluck is already talking about adapting the system for colleagues in Portugal. But as you might expect after a major system change, he's in no hurry. "The key element is that we have implemented a more agile back office account management system," Truluck said. "I am happy that the change hasn't led to any sort of deterioration in our finance systems' performance."

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