Presented by Deimos Cloud

Merging the old with the new: TFGLabs makes a big e-commerce play with help from Deimos and Google Workspace

Recent data from FNB Merchant Services shows that the South African online e-commerce market is thriving.

Now valued at just under R200 billion per annum, it’s clear why some of the country’s biggest retail brands are doing their best to tap into the trend and cater to new consumer habits.

For TFG Limited this meant establishing TFGLabs, a tech hub that aims to drive the group’s omni-channel vision.

TFGLabs was set up to create remarkable omnichannel experiences for customers and establish TFG as the biggest and most profitable e-commerce destination on the continent.

This may seem ambitious but Luke Jedeikin & Claude Hanan, co-heads at TFGLabs, believe that these goals are achievable with the right team, structured and efficient execution.

Deimos, Digicloud and Google Workspace have played a key role in TFGLabs’ quest for Omni-channel market domination.

A startup working within a bigger business

As an innovation hub within TFG, it was important that the TFGLabs team work with tools and products that enable a swift and efficient response to market trends.

“Each area of the broader business has different tech requirements,” notes Alastair Hendricks, a software development manager at TFGLabs.

“While TFG is a heavily Microsoft dependent organisation, and MS solutions deliver on their needs, TFGLabs’ tech and software needs differed greatly from the larger organisation.

As such, it was essential that whatever solution they decided to use had to be able to seamlessly integrate with TFG’s existing infrastructure.”

For Hendricks, Google Workspace was the obvious choice.

“Our team is made up of people who are predominantly from startups so we’re all quite used to using Google products.

When we made the move there was excitement all-round that we could use the tools we love and that we’re all most comfortable using,” adds Bailey Kropman, head of people at TFGLabs.

“And because everyone was so familiar with Google’s offerings, as most have personal Google accounts, the amount of training required to get staff up to speed with the new solution was minimal.”

“The tooling that we use shapes how effectively we innovate, communicate and collaborate,” says Hendricks. Moving to the cloud was essential in order for them to build a competitive and modern e-commerce platform.

“This decision comes down to agility and speed. We wanted to be able to make changes in a matter of hours or minutes, not in a matter of weeks, which was the case in the past,” he explains.

“Cloud also enables us to modernise our software development flow, it streamlines how we build for the customer and allows us to react to changes in the market in a timely manner.”

Hendricks highlighted that they needed seamless collaboration and the capacity to set up shared drives in order for the team to innovate as and when they should.

“Working in a company that had previously been enabled by Google, we understood what Google Workspace could do and what collaboration could look like when you use the right technologies,” he says.

In order to enjoy the benefits Google offered, they also knew that they had to create a dual environment. But ensuring this happened smoothly wasn’t a simple task.

Partnering for integration success

Deimos played a fundamental role in TFGLabs’ integration process.

A Google Premier Partner and Digicloud Africa reseller, it partnered with the TFGLabs team to ensure that their modern cloud-enabled Google solution could speak the same language as the business’ Microsoft suite.

“This required a lot of hand-holding and consultation, which the Deimos team were happy to do,” says Hendricks.

When the initial integration was complete, Deimos were able to scale this out to over one hundred people working across different areas within TFGLabs.

For Leon van Rooyen, a customer engineer at Deimos, some of the more technical challenges related to navigating Microsoft Exchange environments that didn’t easily align with cloud-based integration methods.

Getting this mail and calendar solution to work with Google required a fair amount of creative thinking to circumvent existing notification filters and to ensure that Google Workspace’s Calendar Interop, which allows Microsoft Exchange and Google Calendar to work together, functioned as it should.

“Utilising best practices from Google, and employing a thorough testing methodology, allowed for a smooth integration.”

Making the change, managing the change

Today, TFGLabs is using the full suite of Google Workspace products.

“All our collaboration is done in Docs and Sheets. All our mail is handled through Gmail and people can chat effortlessly via Google Meet and easily keep tabs on their upcoming meetings using Google Workspace’s Calendar,” shares Hendricks.

“Visibility is another big win for TFGLabs. Shared Drives mean that everyone can access information without having to ask anyone for permission,” he adds.

From a results perspective, the team is more productive, spending less on licences and work in a more collaborative and organised way.

“But this doesn’t mean that they didn’t get a few paper cuts along the way,” adds Kropman.

“From a change management perspective, they had to put in a lot of work to build a rationale to showcase that they could pull this hybrid model off, without having a negative impact on how we function within the broader business.”

“Before starting this project, we had bold ambitions that we could have done this all on our own but these were unrealistic,” admits Kropman.

“We didn’t have the expertise or the time to really get into it and we underestimated how long it would take.

Considering what we didn’t know, it’s amazing to see how much we were able to get done in a very short space of time with the help of the right partner, Deimos.”

Hendricks jests that he would love to bring everyone in the organisation onto Google Workspace – a workforce of around 27 000 employees.

“Until then, we are excited to see our team work together and ensure continuity using the flexible and intuitive cloud-enabled solutions offered by Google Workspace.”

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Merging the old with the new: TFGLabs makes a big e-commerce play with help from Deimos and Google Workspace