Drugstore Giant’s CIO Adds New Software to Manage Mobile and Data Infrastructure

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By: James O'Brien|

Drugstore giant Walgreens is introducing Hadoop software to handle app-driven increases in the customer data with which the company deals daily.

The move comes as Abhi Dhar, Walgreens Boots Alliance’s chief information officer, turns his attention to the company’s digital product and innovation portfolios. CIO reports that Dhar assumed responsibilities for both elements of operations in 2015 at the recently merged company.

More than 1 million consumers use the Walgreens mobile app daily, according to the CIO article, and Digiday reports that the mobile app’s rollout signaled a companywide strategy to center new digital tools on Walgreens’ pharmacy services and telehealth offerings.

The mobile app also allows customers to browse store inventories, create shopping lists and speed checkouts. It syncs with Apple Watch and incorporates Apple Pay, and a recent focus has also explored its potential in the beacon-technology space. The app also uses APIs to integrate with more than 240 third-party apps, allowing users to access Walgreens’ shopping options and services from external applications.

In tandem with all these options, developments and users, the well of usable customer behavior data that Walgreens generates is deepening quickly. The Hadoop rollout will account for that data and also handle information generated within the company’s 8,200 physical stores.

Dhar said Walgreens has turned to Hadoop for its expansive data storage potential and its ability to replace traditional, relational data infrastructure with clusters that can handle the vastly increasing text and video environments on which Walgreens’ digital plan relies.

Technology journalist Andrew C. Oliver, writing for InfoWorld, recently listed 16 key transformations to the Hadoop ecosystem. Oliver highlights the potential that new developments around cloud components and container options will have for vendors just now starting new big data efforts.

For Walgreens, where Dhar is now leading a big data project, CIO reports the next step in the company’s deployment is to expand its roster of talented IT professionals. While hiring and cross-training engineers in the Hadoop conversion, Walgreens will also seek infrastructure and security experts to bolster the project in coming months.

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About The Author

James O'Brien

Freelance Writer

As a journalist and writer in the branded content space, James O'Brien covers business, technology, social media, marketing, film, food, wine, writing and news. The Nieman Journalism Lab has called his work in the custom content space "sponsored content done right." He has written for major regional newspapers, and he has managed and edited established, startup and turnaround newsrooms in varied markets, from community papers to major-city dailies. He consults for firms and businesses — startups to seasoned — on the creation of effective content strategies and the establishment of practical editorial calendars for enacting them. O'Brien holds a Ph.D. in Editorial Studies from the Editorial Institute at Boston University, where he researched and edited Bob Dylan's other-than-song writings. He is engaged in a bibliography for Oxford University Press, covering writings about filmmaker John Cassavetes. He is the author of "The Indie Writer's Survival Guide." His short stories and poetry are published in numerous journals and magazines.

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