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Building for Scalability, Block by Block: An Interview with Carrefour Links CTO Mehdi Labassi

When I ask Mehdi Labassi (@Mehdi_Labassi), CTO of Carrefour Links, what he does outside of work, the first thing he mentions is his family. Mehdi spends a lot of his free time playing with his kids. Sometimes they play video games on Nintendo Switch, but they also enjoy hands-on activities like building with Legos. Lego is a popular interest among tech practitioners building products on Google Cloud––after all, the four letters in “Lego” can also be used to spell “Google.” This connection turns out to be a fitting point of departure for an examination of Mehdi’s journey to a decision-making role on the technical team at Carrefour Links.Mehdi Began his career as a software engineer, working first in air travel and then moving on to Orange, “the one major telco in France.” At Orange, Mehdi led the company’s Google Cloud skills center and took part in a major migration to Google Cloud from a historically on-premises infrastructure. “We had a really strong on-prem culture, so we had our own data centers, our own Hadoop clusters with thousands of machines, and the shift to cloud-based services was not something natural,” he says. “There was a lot of resistance, and we needed to really show that this gives us something.”Proving the value of the Cloud to a historically on-prem organization required zeroing in on a specific technical limitation of the existing infrastructure: “As I was driving the big data platforms and the recommendations, I do remember we had a lot of issues in terms of scalability.” Google Cloud turned out to be the perfect solution to this problem. “Then we tried the Cloud, and we found that instant scalability,” says Mehdi. “That’s another level compared to what we had on prem, so this is really the proof by experimentation.” “You assemble and program the thing, and then you need to understand how each brick works.” When Carrefour introduced Carrefour Links, its cloud-hosted retail media and performance platform, in Spring of 2021, Mehdi was immediately interested in getting involved. He reached out directly to the executive team and joined as CTO three months after the company declared the platform. “I joined when the thing just got in production, the first version, the V1. That was kind of a proof of concept,” Mehdi says. In the time since––only a little over a year––the venture has grown considerably: “We have a lot more data from different verticals, everything that’s related to transactions, to the supply chain ecosystem, to finance, a lot more insights, and we are exploring machine learning, AI use cases… so we are scaling even in terms of use cases.”Even a fast-growing platform run on Google Cloud, however, will encounter challenges as it continues to scale. “The first thing is the ability to scale while keeping FinOps under control,” Mehdi says. As he sees it, this is a matter of “internal optimization,” something he believes Carrefour Links handles particularly well. “The second thing is how to provide what I call a premium data experience for our customers, because we are dealing with petabyte-scale pipelines on a daily basis, and however the end user connects to our data solutions, we want him to have instantaneous insights,” he adds. “We leverage some assets and technologies that are provided by Google Cloud to do this.”These are challenges any technical professional managing products or resources on the cloud is likely to face. Overcoming these challenges is also what makes new solutions on the cloud possible. What competencies do IT professionals need to be able to overcome these challenges and pursue these solutions? According to Mehdi, “a good engineer working on the cloud, with this plethora of tools, he needs to be good at Lego.” Mindstorms, Lego’s line of programmable robots, he explains, require a lot of the same skills to build as machines and systems hosted on the cloud. “You assemble and program the thing, and then you need to understand how each brick works,” he says. “I really find a lot of similarities between these activities and what we are doing in our day job.” Extra Credit:  

Categories:Industry SolutionsDatabasesRetailInfrastructure

Retail Case Study: How Marriott International Builds Smart Kiosks on Google Cloud

Early last year, Marriott International, Inc. introduced various smart kiosks at several Marriott venues to eliminate the need for in-person interactions. These grab-and-go kiosks have everything from snacks, beverages, and sundries to piping hot coffee, fresh sandwiches, sweet indulgences, yogurt, cereal, and fruit. Other Marriott smart kiosks provide keys to your hotel rooms and help you map out your itinerary. Don’t have cash or credit for your purchases? Don’t worry. Marriott kiosks also accept contactless Bluetooth connection for mobile pay. According to Chard the Tech Guy “These contactless kiosks are the wave of the future.” Use case: Marriott International Hotel, Hangzhou, China Visitors to China use Marriott’s smart kiosks to check in for reservations and pick up their room keys. The machines are powered by facial-recognition technology and work in tandem with Marriott Bonvoy apps, where guests have previously paid for rooms. Before departure, guests use those same machines for contactless check-out. The whole process displaces traditional long lines with less than a minute. Smart Kiosk Technology Smart kiosks are everywhere. They serve hot pies and pizza in Ottawa, Canada and jars of fresh salad in six U.S. states. They’re also used in the education sector buying school meals, printing class schedules, renting or purchasing books, registering for classes, and checking exam grades. In healthcare institutions, post-offices, (or other organizations across industries), these kiosks are used to schedule appointments. Airports use passport kiosks to slash average wait time by half, according to Global Gateway Alliance. In retail, these kiosks provide consumers with brand information, directions, self-checkout, and price lookup, leading to shorter lines, boosted revenue, lower labor costs, and increased customer satisfaction.Naturally, smart kiosks have their issues too. They break down, stall, and sometimes return inaccurate responses. Mostly, though, they’re controversial because they displace certain human jobs. In 2018, employees at Marriott International went on strike across the U.S. to demand a say in decisions related to the adoption of new technologies. For kiosks to maximally benefit Marriott International, the hotel will have to successfully integrate its workers with its robots.Marriott International uses Google Cloud to create experiential memories for its customers across 19 brands in 81 countries. Objectives include monitoring news and popular events; real-time analytics on Marriott’s hotel bookings worldwide and where they’re coming from; a calendar of cultural events; and YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds.Have you ever used a smart kiosk? Can you think of any other Google Cloud retail or travel industry use cases? Reply below or write a post to our community to let us know. Extra Credit:  

Categories:Industry SolutionsRetailTravel

Getting Maximum Value from Cloud: Key Takeaways from C2C's Deep Dive on Cloud Repatriation

“Cloud repatriation,” like “cloud migration” and “cloud native,” is a tech term borrowed from the language of social science: all of these terms describe a relationship to a place of origin. What each really describes, though, is where someone, or something, lives. In social science, that someone is a person, someone born a citizen of one country or returned there after displacement by conflict or other political circumstances. In tech, the something born in or returned to its place of origin is an asset or a resource an organization controls: it’s your organization’s data, its software, or whatever else you need to store to be able to run it.After years of cloud migration dominating the conversation about software and data hosting and storage, the term “cloud repatriation” is emerging as a new hypothetical for migrated and cloud native organizations. So many organizations are now hosted on the cloud that a greater number than ever have the option, feasible or not, to move off. Whether any cloud-native or recently migrated organization would actually want to move its resources back on-premises, to a data center, is another question. To discuss this question and its implications for the future of the cloud as a business solution, C2C recently convened a panel of representatives from three major cloud-hosted companies: Nick Tornow of Twitter, Keyur Govande of Etsy, and Rich Hoyer and Miles Ward of SADA. The conversation was charged from the beginning, and only grew more lively throughout. Sensing the energy around this issue, Ward, who hosted the event, started things off with some grounding exercises. First, he asked each host to define a relevant term. Tornow defined repatriation as “returning to your own data centers...or moving away from the public cloud more generally,” Govande defined TCO as “the purchase price of an asset and the cost of operating it,” and Hoyer defined OPEX and CAPEX as, respectively, real-time day-to-day expenses and up-front long-term expenses. Ward then stirred things up by asking the guests to pose some reasons why an organization might want to repatriate. After these level-setting exercises, the guests dove into the business implications of repatriation.The question of cost came up almost immediately, redirecting the discussion to the relationship between decisions around workloads and overall business goals:  Govande’s comments about “problems that are critical to your business” particularly resonated with the others on the call. Govande briefly elaborated on these comments via email after the event. “In the context of repatriation, especially for a product company, it is very important to think through the ramifications of doing the heavy infrastructural lift yourself,” he said. “In my opinion, for most product companies, the answer would be to ‘keep moving up the stack,’ i.e. to be laser focused on your own customers' needs and demands, by leveraging the public cloud infrastructure.”These sentiments resurfaced later in the discussion, when the group took up the problem of weighing costs against potential opportunities for growth:  The more the group explored these emerging themes of workload, cost, and scale, the more the guests offered insights based on their firsthand experiences as executives at major tech companies. Tornow used an anecdote about launching the game Farmville at Zynga to illustrate the unique challenges of launching products on the cloud:  During the audience Q&A, a question about TCO analysis gave Hoyer the chance to go long on his relevant experiences at SADA:  As soon as the conversation began to wind down, Ward put the guests on the spot again, to ask Tornow and Govande point-blank whether either of them would consider repatriation an option for their company that very day. Unsurprisingly, neither said they would:  By the time Ward handed the microphone back to Dale Rossi of Google Cloud, who introduced and concluded the event, the conversation had lasted well over an hour, leaving very few angles on the subject of repatriation unexamined. Many hosts might have felt satisfied letting an event come to an end at this point, but not Ward. To leave the guests, and the audience, with a sense of urgency and resolve, he treated everyone on the call to a rendition of “Reveille,” the traditional military call to arms, arranged exclusively for this group for solo Tuba:  Repatriation may not be a realistic option for many if not most businesses, but discussing the possibility hypothetically illuminates the considerations these same businesses will have to confront as they approach cloud strategy and workload balance. “Nobody on our panel had heard of anyone born in the cloud ever going ‘back’ to the data center,” Ward said in an email reflecting on the event. “Any infrastructure cost analysis is a ‘complex calculus,’ and there's no easy button.” For Ward, there is one way to make this complex calculus manageable: “To get maximum value from cloud, focus in on the differentiated managed services that allow you to refocus staff time on innovation.”When you hear the word “repatriation,” what comes to mind for you? What does it imply for your organization and the workloads your organization manages? Are there any relevant considerations you consider crucial that you want to talk through in more depth? Join the C2C Community and start the conversation! Extra Credit:  

Categories:InfrastructureGoogle Cloud StrategyIndustry SolutionsGoogle Cloud PartnersMedia, Entertainment, and GamingRetailSession Recording

Leveraging Data for Consumer Behavior (full video)

This session was led by Quantiphi, a foundational partner of C2C and a Google Partner that uses AI to solve the problems at the heart of businesses. Connect with them directly @Quantiphi in the C2C community.One of the best ways for enterprises across a broad range of business sectors to remain relevant is to use consumer behavior data in ways that will help their brands stand out from the competition. Using this data effectively and uniquely can help businesses improve the rate of customer acquisition, increase the ROI from marketing spends, and also ensure customer centricity and personalization. But what can we do to improve customer experiences by leveraging customer data, and how? To learn more, C2C sat down with Vijay Mannur, Customer and Marketing Analytics Practice Lead at Quantiphi, to discuss how to enhance consumer engagement and conversion using behavioral data. Questions answered will include:The recording from this Deep Dive includes:(1:55) Agenda overview and introduction to speakers (8:05) Marketing analytics How and why Quantiphi built a dedicated marketing and analytics team Options for marketing analytics from Google Cloud (14:50) Consumer data Third-party vs. first-party cookies and rich data quality Consumer Data Platform (CDP) vs. traditional Customer Relationship Management (CRM) How to build and upskill teams to use CDP effectively Using BigQuery and other Google Cloud analytics tools (32:25) Examples of customer stories using CDP How a French retailer centrally connected their consumer databases with custom pipelines from BigQuery How a bank optimized consumer segmentation and profiling using Vertex AI (39:00) Future of analytics The future of consumer data and trends nearing the end of their lifecycle Addressing privacy concerns using Google Cloud data warehousing and analytics solutions Ethical use of machine learning for consumer behavior  Speakers featured in this Deep Dive   Vijay Mannur Practice Head, Customer and Marketing Analytics, Quantiphi   Vijay Mannur is a Practice Head at Quantiphi with 12+ years of experience in the field of Performance Marketing, Sales and Analytics. He leads the Customer and Marketing Analytics practice at Quantiphi, a leading Digital Transformation and AI solutions company. He has grown the practice at Quantiphi to encompass engineering teams building cutting edge solutions, delivery teams, and sales teams. He has delivered multiple large-scale digital transformation solutions to marketing teams of large Retail and FSI clients. Prior to Quantiphi, Vijay worked for companies like Media.net, Idea Cellular, and NEC Corporation.     Daniel Lees Staff Partner Engineer, Google Cloud A Cloud Architect at Google, Daniel Lees was a Principal Architect in Financial Services Select helping Google’s most valued clients build in Google Cloud Platform before joining the Partner Engineering team in support of Google’s most important partners. He has extensive expertise in defined best practices, blueprints, security and compliance standards, and evangelism of reusable assets for cloud deployment in CICD pipelines with IoC working on both cloud native and hybrid application modernization. Before Google, he had 20 years of experience at HSBC Bank where he was the Chief Technical Architect for AWS Cloud globally, leading a small team of SME cloud architects.     Other ResourcesRedefine customer and marketing analytics Google Cloud Marketing analytics & AI solutions Responsible AI practices

Categories:Data AnalyticsIndustry SolutionsGoogle Cloud PartnersRetailSession Recording

One-on-One with Google Cloud's Lori Mitchell-Keller

This article was originally published on September 3, 2020.She’s the new voice in the room at Google Cloud, having been brought on board not even four months ago, but Lori Mitchell-Keller is already amplifying the call for transformation in Google Cloud’s five commercial industries. These include: financial services; health care and life sciences; industrial and manufacturing; retail; and media and entertainment, telecommunications, and gaming.   Mitchell-Keller has spent more than 30 years as a strategic global leader committed to helping transform organizations with innovative technology. In her new role at Google Cloud—VP of industry solutions—she’s responsible for leading a team charged with not only understanding customer requirements across various industries, but also predicting where the market is going over the next few years.  Lori Mitchell-KellerWe all heard Mitchell-Keller at Google Cloud Next '20: OnAir talk about her goals of helping drive business transformation for organizations across key industries. (If you didn’t, check it out here). But C2C wanted to dig a little deeper into how she sees her role evolving and what that really means for you, Google Cloud customers."We need to know both customer and industry trends, so we can better design and execute a solution portfolio that will meet current and future needs,” she said. “We want to meet the challenges our customers are faced with whether it’s today, tomorrow, or years down the road.”Rallying Cry for Solutions that Cross IndustriesAs organizations large and small are tackling several different challenges, what’s consistent—across industries and across the globe—are those challenges associated with COVID-19. “These range from providing virtual care in health care, delivering better omnichannel experiences in retail, adapting to new ways of working in manufacturing, and more,” Mitchell-Keller noted. “Technology is a huge enabler to driving business continuity, and we’re focused on developing industry-specific solutions that help customers in new ways.”C2C recently shared “4 Industries’ Takeaways for Google Cloud Customers.” During our conversation, Mitchell-Keller added some more color to the initiatives her team are working on now. “We believe that a partner ecosystem makes our solutions stronger,” she said. Google Cloud has announced several strategic partnerships that will expand the company’s impact across industries—including a recent one with Amwell that will transform access to virtual care with Google Cloud artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and collaboration tools, as well as one with Tenemos that will accelerate banks’ digital transformations with new financial services offerings.The current pandemic has brought to the forefront pressing issues that span all industries—supply chain management is one, and delivering better customer experiences is another. “As we emerge from this pandemic,” she explained, “companies are thinking about how to build more resilient supply chains for the future. We recently formed a new global supply chain, logistics, and transportation team that will support each industry with a dedicated go-to-market strategy and solution road map.” A couple of early focus areas she mentioned include a demand-forecasting solution for retailers and a last-mile optimization solution for manufacturers. As for delivering better customer experiences, Mitchell-Keller said that Google is a data company at its core, and it has invested in accelerating innovation through the smarter use of data at scale. However, she pointed out, “the underpinning of our Google Cloud industry solutions road map is our AI platform, where we’re focused on embedding easy-to-use AI and machine learning in solutions that deliver new value to customers across industries.”Your Voice Is Your MoonshotAlthough relatively new to the Google Cloud team, Mitchell-Keller is not new to working on complex issues or developing comprehensive solutions. She has held numerous leadership positions and worked on everything from product and solution development, to management, to building and nurturing partnerships. “My grandmother taught me true empathy,” she said. “But she also taught me to trust myself enough to take risks in order to achieve more. I think we all need to take risks to innovate.”  As she looked inward and then forward, Mitchell-Keller said this: “I’m most passionate about solving difficult, complex problems with the simplest of solutions.” It’s that same mindset that has allowed her to use her voice and platform to not only help business leaders transform and succeed, but also to help others do the same on a personal level. She tweeted not too long ago, “I’m a strong believer in the value of volunteering. Aside from the good it can do for others, it can make a difference in your productivity at work, too.” We talked about how her own volunteer work has shaped her professional narrative, and in turn, her contributions.Mitchell-Keller spends her time volunteering at two organizations that are near and dear to her heart: Retail Orphan Initiative and Autism After 21 with the Madison House Autism Foundation. She recalled a trip she took to Honduras with her then-two-year-old son on behalf of the Retail Orphan Initiative. The goal of the organization is to help build schools to provide education, as well as provide food, clothes, and other necessities to underprivileged and orphaned children all over the world. “For our first trip, my son and I gathered hundreds of stuffed animals that we carried in our luggage. The experience that followed struck me so profoundly,” she said. “As we handed out stuffed animals, it became clear that we would not have enough to give to every child. As we walked off, we were approached by a mother asking if we had just one more so that her child did not feel left out. Being a mother myself, I understood that ask from her more than anything else. I knew what it meant to be a mother and to want only the best for your child. I handed her a stuffed animal intended for the next stop. I realized in that moment the power in asking for what you want.”Mitchell-Keller continued, “We all have things we want to accomplish professionally, but we sometimes hesitate to ask for what we want or need to make it happen. We have to ask for help from others to attain those goals that seem so out of reach sometimes. I have applied that mindset to the way I work, as well as to the way I lead. Your voice—our voices—are the stepping stones to launching technology moonshots.”Lori-Mitchell-Keller: The Quiet Drum that Beats  I asked Mitchell-Keller what she would write if she had to leave for a year and the only communication she could have with her team was a message sent via email. She paused for a minute and said: “I would say trust yourself, trust your instincts, and trust your experiences. We all have it in us to be better than we sometimes think we can be, and often we just need a reminder of that.”She wanted to make sure to remind all of you that, although 2020 has been an unpredictable year, she hopes that you lean into C2C, ask for what you want, and feel empowered to stand on each other’s shoulders to share experiences, learn from each other, and enable more informed business decisions with cloud technology. She reflected, “As Issac Newton said, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ That’s what I want for C2C members—to see further and to do it together.”

Categories:Careers in CloudIndustry SolutionsGoogle Cloud PartnersHealthcare and Life SciencesManufacturingRetailSupply Chain and LogisticsInterview

4 Industries’ Takeaways for Google Cloud Customers

This article was originally published on August 19, 2020.There has been no shortage of interesting and incisive industry profiles during the first five weeks of Google Cloud Next OnAir. The breadth and depth of the on-demand content is just right for leaders of enterprises looking for inspiration from peers and in-the-trenches know-how across several key industries.As VP of Industry Solutions Lori Mitchell-Keller noted in her welcome remarks, Google Cloud is focusing on a set of core areas to help drive business transformation for organizations in those industries. (See below.)Let’s take a closer look at some of the key industries that have been covered and what customers can take away from the compelling stories we’ve heard so far.1. Retail Is RockingSince July, we’ve heard numerous fascinating and insightful retail presentations during Google Cloud Next OnAir, as well as announcements from leading retailers that are seeking to change the status quo. We’ve heard from brand-name giants and smaller players about how they are charting their own paths during 2020 and how they’re preparing for the future.Best Buy, for example, is partnering with Google Cloud to “unify its data sources across various legacy platforms in order to develop more personalized shopping experiences for consumers,” according to ZDNet. Once the data house is in order, Best Buy is going to tap Google’s analytics, AI, and machine learning wares to create new retail services across channels.Keurig Dr Pepper is going to “shift to virtual machines running on Google Cloud by the end of 2020, retiring two data centers with more than 1,000 servers,” writes CIO Dive. The move is key for Keurig Dr Pepper’s “merger integration and modernization efforts.”Etsy did good for its business-modernization efforts and for the environment: “Etsy completed its Google Cloud migration in only two years, allowing the organization to scale both up and down as needed based on the cycles of its e-commerce business,” notes ITProPortal. “This transition enabled Etsy to be more cost-effective and set the organization up to reduce its overall energy use by a whopping 25% by 2025.”Lastly, online shopping can get much more personal—and help drive lasting customer loyalty—with Recommendations AI. Read about the topic on this post by Google Cloud’s Pallav Mehta. You can also check out a great summary of retail sessions and resources compiled by Carrie Tharp, Google Cloud VP of retail, including some helpful advice on getting ready for the holiday shopping season—which will be here before we know it.2. Financial ServicesStart your financial services deep dive with high-level conversations between Google Cloud and its customers Capital One and The Bank of New York Mellon. For the record, Google Cloud’s financial service category includes banks, capital markets, and insurance companies.Melanie Frank, managing VP of PowerUp Technology at Capital One, offers a look into its seven-year digital transformation journey, with a key focus around talent and how its employees work. Frank talks about how the company’s “work from anywhere, at any time, on any device” strategy has been hugely critical to operations during COVID-19.Sarthak Pattanaik, CIO of clearance and collateral technology at The Bank of New York Mellon, shares the financial institution’s “bi-modal” approach to technology strategy: its transaction platform, which is on-premise; and its cloud platform investments, which serves as the basis of its “innovation engine,” Sarthak said. One example: the bank is using Google Cloud Platform to predict the probability of a transaction fail, which is a huge customer service win for the bank.Another recent article involved CME Group and how the company has approached real-time data feeds. Of course, there are key constituents that need market data delivered in real time—and that’s what CME Group already does. But what about those who don’t need real-time data for, say, analysis of big sets of data? Here’s a look at CME’s offering so that its customers “can now access its delayed data, useful for analytics that don’t need more expensive real-time data, through Google Cloud,” according to Forbes.Finally, take an inside look at KeyBank’s decision-making around moving its data warehouse to the cloud. “There are some big considerations that go into making these kinds of legacy versus modern enterprise technology decisions,” writes Michael Onders, EVP chief data officer, divisional CIO, and head of enterprise architecture at KeyBank, in a blog post.3. Health Care and Life SciencesCOVID-19 has forced nearly every industry to reimagine “business,” and none more critical than health care and life sciences. Dr. John Halamka, president of Mayo Clinic Platform and a practicing ER physician, shared that “COVID-19 is pushing us toward a digital-first health care delivery system” during his interview on Google Cloud Next OnAir. He went on to predict that big change will continue: “Health care will be 60% or more virtual across all modalities of delivery in this new normal.”As for managing health care data, he offered this quip: “We have too much data and not enough wisdom.”Take a deeper dive into the Mayo Clinic’s story and read how its data platform has been accelerated using BigQuery and Variant Transforms. Beyond the ability to provide better services and make better decisions, there’s this benefit: “As Mayo Clinic scales out sequencing to hundreds of thousands of patients, they estimate saving $1.5 million over three years by using Google Cloud and Variant Transforms instead of their existing solution,” notes this Google Cloud blog post.We all know that, in many cases, good health care starts with the human being. This profile of how Fitbit moved its monolithic application to the Google Cloud Platform offers insight into how its “progressive” project plan kept Fitbit’s users happy during the transition. “Fitbit ultimately found success with its approach,” according to a diginomica article, “completing the migration three weeks early.” Which is always a nice win-win.4. What’s Next?What you just read was a small sampling of the customer stories, product insight, and resources available for Google Cloud customers across numerous industries.At C2C, we are continuing the conversation on multiple fronts and for multiple industries, so please join us:On Friday, Aug. 21, we host our first Next OnAir Talks, and cover Google Cloud industries and takeaways from Google Cloud Next OnAir. Read more about the series and register for that event or our two other upcoming sessions.On Thursday, Sept. 10, we’re kicking off our Rockstar Conversations series with none other than Lori Mitchell-Keller. You can reserve your spot here. Don't delay—seating is limited.

Categories:Google Cloud NewsIndustry SolutionsFinancial ServicesHealthcare and Life SciencesRetail