1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. is a floral and gourmet foods gift retailer and distribution company in the United States. It was one of the first retailers to use a 24 x 7 toll-free telephone number and the Internet for direct sales to consumers. 1-800-Flowers brands include: 1-800-Baskets.com, The Popcorn Factory, Harry & David, Cheryl’s, and more.
Arnie Leap already understood how a proactive monitoring solution, like AlertSite, could help reduce availability and performance headaches for his team when he joined 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. as CIO in December 2013.
In fact, Arnie knew better than most — he was one of AlertSite’s first customers and had used the product for nearly a decade in his previous role.
“When we first looked at AlertSite many years ago, we just wanted to know that our website was up, and to demonstrate to our customers that we were meeting our Service Level Agreement (SLA) for uptime,” Arnie explains. “The tool just worked. I believe we were customer #7 of AlertSite and that relationship has continued to grow over the last 10-12 years.”
Upon joining the team at 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc., Arnie had a lot of decisions to make about how he would transform the company’s incredibly complex technology stack.
“When we talk about delivering flowers and gifts, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. We have more than 75 million customer profiles — nearly 40 million have been active in the last nine months. We do more than 20 million deliveries a year,” Arnie explains. “We have used just about every tool that’s ever been developed in the IT world. At the moment, I have more than 400 applications and service providers in the middle of my portfolio and certainly don’t have a 400 person team. It’s important to be able to consolidate around strategic partners and application stacks.”
One of the first tools Arnie asked his team to evaluate upon joining 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. was its existing synthetic monitoring tool, Keynote. Having evaluated the solution prior to getting started with AlertSite in a past role, Arnie already had some questions about whether the tool made sense for 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. moving forward. Specifically, Arnie had questions about the cost and maintainability of the solution.
“When I got to 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc., we had a contract with Keynote and decided that needed to be evaluated right away,” Arnie explains. “I found Keynote to be a heavy and expensive tool. We wanted to reduce time and resources on monitoring. That’s why we decided to move to AlertSite to continue the long-standing relationship with SmartBear.”
A Good Tool Defends Itself
When evaluating tools and solutions, Arnie explains that much of the responsibility is in the hands of his team. Team members are asked to present the tools they believe are most needed, but are also asked to defend those solutions as well. The defense of AlertSite has been an easy one for Arnie and the team.
“A good tool defends itself,” Arnie explains. “There's work to get something going or introduced. But once it was up and running it (AlertSite) just worked and we didn’t have to do a lot with it.”
“You depend on it more and more every day and if it continues to perform and there's no dependency issues, then there's not a lot for a CIO to do. Which is exactly, in all honesty, what we're trying to do.”
Monitoring Performance During the Holidays
AlertSite allows 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. to monitor its e-commerce websites and applications across multiple locations throughout the entire year. But the value of a monitoring solution like AlertSite is truly put to the test during peak holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day, where orders on the site can reach more than 120,000 during their busiest hours.
“Through AlertSite we create a report to show average homepage response time, and through AlertSite’s API interface, I’m able to pull that data into a dashboard to compare against peers in the retail industry,” Arnie explains. “We watch that dashboard on a daily, almost an hourly, basis as the system starts to scale. If response time varies by even a tenth of a second, I know that’s a half of dozen questions we’ll need to answer. So, AlertSite is a key indicator of performance related issues within our infrastructure, especially during the holidays.”
A Solution Built for CIOs
Whether it’s during the holiday season or throughout the year, AlertSite provides Arnie and his team with one of the most important things a company like there’s could ask for: performance peace of mind.
Since adopting AlertSite the company has scaled its usage to different applications, and has become a critical part of the company’s investment in APIs. By setting up monitors on his different applications, along with internal and third party APIs, the team knows it will be the first to know when they experience any performance-related issues.
As a CIO, not having AlertSite as a regular topic of conversation has been one of its biggest benefits.
“From a CIO point-of-view it's very important that I don't talk about SmartBear (AlertSite) much. If it's constantly being talked about, I have two potential issues. One, it’s because the tool itself isn’t functioning and it’s causing headaches for my team. Luckily, that hasn’t been an issue,” Arnie explains. “Or, it’s because we are having a performance issue. By AlertSite performing day in and day out, it reduces complexity in our operating file as we go forward. It's important to not be top of mind all the time. Out of sight, out of mind.”
In addition to providing peace of mind, Arnie explains that the relationship with SmartBear and the team behind AlertSite, has been critical in implementing and expanding usage of the tool.
“It’s always important to have business relationships beyond contracts and to get a sense of what your key partners are doing, what direction they're heading in,” Arnie explains. “It gives us a better understanding of the things that SmartBear's trying to do strategically over time also gives us a little bit of insight as to what direction we may be able to influence cycles on some of the things that we're trying to accomplish.”
"It's one less headache. When stuff works, there’s not a lot you need to do."
— Arnie Leap, CIO at 1-800-Flowers.com
The Future with AlertSite
As 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc. continues to grow, innovate, and expand its operations across new devices and platforms, they know that they have a trusted tool to protect against performance setbacks. This is particularly important for 1-800-Flowers.com, Inc.’s investment in partnerships with companies like Facebook, Amazon, and IBM Watson, which are based on integrations with its APIs.
“SmartBear has demonstrated over the long term that they can deliver tools and services that can be both economically effective but also reliable,” Arnie explains. “SmartBear’s track record is always about performance, and that relationship has been incredibly important to us.”