Features

Arnulfo Villalba – Servientrega

Delivering greater IT efficiency

Even at a relatively large company, an IT director might have 20 people in his or her charge. Fifty, tops. Keeping an eye on 100 people? Maybe if it’s Take Your Child to Work Day.

Arnulfo Villalba oversees that many charges each and every day—plus another 20. To be sure, given the size and scope of Servientrega—one of Colombia’s premier logistics companies—that degree of internal support is expected. The technologies Villalba and his team are deploying, however, aren’t so typical.

“On the technology side, we’re focused on helping the business meet its objectives and goals,” says Villalba, Servientrega’s director of information technology. “We work with every department to make sure we’re creating faster processes at lower costs.”

Data with destiny

Few projects better highlight that effort than the company’s recent virtualization efforts. In the past, information gathered at each of Servientrega’s 4,500 points of sale—which includes retail stores and corporate logistics hubs—was only used inside the locations themselves.

In 2013, Villalba and his team introduced a new platform that could house data from all of the locations. Known as RetailWeb, the system allows users to access sales data, inventory, delivery status and the like—and then compare it.

The goal, Villalba says, is to gain greater insights into sales trends and customer behavior. That, in turn, enables a whole host of initiatives, including marketing campaigns tailored to specific regions and promotions and discounts based on product popularity.

“What we’re doing is better measuring the capacity of our infrastructure,” Villalba explains. “So during the Christmas season, we know which stores need more resources in order to meet customer demand for deliveries. The technology helps us make better decisions.”

Six years after the initiative was launched, the amount of data Servientrega collects had grown so much, the company had to implement a brand new data center to accommodate all that information.

Delivering intelligence

Working closely with representatives from Google, Villalba and his team are now setting their sights on the next phase of Servientrega’s digital transformation: leveraging those data troves for a whole host of exciting projects, both inside the company and beyond.

One area that Villalba sees as particularly promising is geocoding. Every time a customer uses Servientrega’s services—whether they’re sending a parcel to a family member through its online portal or receiving a package at their own address—those locations are noted in the company’s RetailWeb platform.

“Obviously, we’re going to use that data internally to help our sales teams, so they can target customers with specific products and offerings,” Villalba says. “We can also add more technology and staff to specific regions according to who needs it.”

Before long, Servientrega plans to sell that data to other clients, including online retailers. All while remaining compliant with Colombia’s increasingly stringent privacy laws.

The right foundation

But for all the department’s cutting-edge projects, Villalba hasn’t lost sight of another, equally important directive: ensuring the company’s back-end processes are as efficient as possible.

In 2015, the department moved to replace its existing enterprise resource planning solution (ERP)—used for everything from inventory and accounts receivable to managing internal technology services—with a platform better able to meet the organization’s needs.

Introduced later that year, the new SAP ERP has sparked plenty of game-changing improvements: reducing payroll processing from a paper-heavy, 20-hour ordeal down to a scant 30 minutes; creating a more proactive equipment-maintenance program; and so on.

Other areas that have seen marked efficiency improvements include materials management, logistics, information systems, external services management and more.

“The great thing about this ERP is that it can be constantly improved,” Villaba says. “If we can simplify these processes, that gives us more time to spend on more ambitious projects.”

The company has also taken steps to bring virtualization to the fore. With the help of TI724, a Columbia-based company specializing in the design, implementation and management of virtualization storage solutions, Villalba and his team incorporated VMware, a next-generation software that allows users to run multiple virtual systems simultaneously, thereby creating better efficiencies.

“The project has become a real success story,” says Claudia Ruiz, account manager for TI724. “By homogenizing the company’s platforms and making IT costs clearer, Servientrega is making its IT department a strategic area of innovation and service development, while empowering the company’s business initiatives.”

Just rewards

For Villalba, the aforementioned projects are a testament to the power of the modern IT department—a division that’s not only bolstering efficiency but boosting bottom lines.

Indeed, the numbers speak for themselves: Since 2016, the company has seen an 84 percent reduction in application incidents. What’s more, he’s managed to keep his department’s average availability—a metric used to illustrate the efficacy of Servientrega’s tech infrastructure—just a shade below 100 percent.

The company has taken notice. In 2017, ten years after he first joined Servientrega as a program analyst, Villalba was tapped to be the company’s director of IT.

It’s a role Villalba is proud of, even as he eyes a heavy workload.

“There is so much to work on, whether it’s cybersecurity or improving how we use data,” Villalba says. “That’s what I love about this company: There’s always a challenge and it’s always so rewarding when you meet that challenge.”

 

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