Lessons on successful fashion sales management software implementation from H&M
H&M Group is a Swedish multinational clothing-retail company with more than 5,000 stores in 78 countries and more than 53 online markets. A growing community of citizen developers has created thousands of Power Platform solutions across the company. To support development and maintain security and governance, H&M Group set up a Center of Excellence (CoE) using the Microsoft Power Platform Center of Excellence Starter Kit. Let’s see what happen to fashion sales management software implementation.
“When we deployed Microsoft 365, we had an open approach right from the start. We wanted to drive Power Platform adoption quickly and inspire our employees to build their own business solutions,” says Claes Söderström, Cross Delivery Coordinator at H&M Group.
Both management and employees were happy with the early results and development accelerated. But with rapid success also came concerns. As the company approached 1,500 apps – and with over 30,000 users licensed on Power Platform – H&M Group realized that they needed a more controlled approach to development.
“We knew that we needed to put better controls in place to maintain security and governance, but at the same time, we wanted to foster an environment where people could continue to build great solutions on the platform,” says Helena Forsberg, Microsoft 365 Solution Architect at H&M GROUP.
That’s when a plan to build a Power Platform Center of Excellence (CoE) began to take shape.
Using these Microsoft resources and best practices, the team set up their CoE based on three core components: administration and governance tools and processes to help establish digital guardrails for Power Platform development—plus two additional sets of resources to educate and empower citizen developers and inspire new and future development. In keeping with this balanced approach, the team named their CoE the H&M Group Center of Enablement.
One of the tools from Microsoft that the company found particularly useful was the Center of Excellence (CoE) Starter Kit.
Included in the kit is a Power BI dashboard template that provides a holistic view of a company’s Power Platform activity and infrastructure. “The Power BI dashboard included with Microsoft’s Center of Excellence Starter Kit gave us all the telemetry we needed to identify potential risks in our Power Platform,” says Forsberg. That initial telemetry provided the company with three key insights.
First, the team realized that apps were being developed with no Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policies in place. This raised the risk that company data could be accidently published externally, such as on social media sites. There was also some use of premium connectors which, left uncontrolled, could also lead to licensing cost overruns. And yet another issue: high-usage apps that only had one owner. If the owner left the company, there was no one in place to provide support and maintenance.
Fortunately for H&M Group, none of these risks had yet posed any serious problem. Better yet, with its CoE plan, the company was on the right path to effectively address each one of them.
The first part of the company’s CoE plan involved setting up a tiered structure of environments to manage access to apps, flows, and connections available to employees. Environments within Power Platform can also be used to separate apps that may have different security requirements or target audiences. Appropriate security policies are implemented based on each employee’s role.
All H&M Group employees start inside a default “Productivity” environment. The team limited the environment to the standard connectors that come with a Microsoft 365 E5 license. These connectors satisfied most development needs for the apps being created by H&M Group.
Moving up the chain are environments for more ‘Important’ apps that might require premium connectors to other data sources. Here, data loss prevention (DLP) policies are used to control which connectors can be used by which makers. H&M Group employees can request access to this environment using a form in SharePoint. Similarly, they can request access to a higher ‘Critical’ level environment, enabling development of apps requiring custom connectors.
The team was able to handle all configuration and deployment of environments and related DLP policies in the Power Platform admin center–a straightforward process that be completed through a series of simple, click-thru menus. As Forsberg says, “Setting up our security and governance structure and controls for Power Platform took us just two weeks to complete for all 30,000 users at the company.”
Once H&M employees create an app or flow, they automatically receive a welcome email. The mail (see image for download) is based on a template from the CoE Starter Kit with a related flow. H&M customized the mail with links to its online training resources, including the company’s Power Platform community in Yammer. Again, the CoE team was able to leverage Microsoft guidance to develop this community, turning specifically to Power Platform nurture best practices.
This community has proven particularly effective for H&M. “We have had great success supporting and inspiring our makers with our Yammer community,” says Söderström. Citizen developers will find a wealth of technical guidance from peers within the site and, if a topic needs more coverage, the CoE team jumps in with guidance.
The Yammer site serves as a valuable resource for the Global Helpdesk at H&M Group. As Söderström says, “While we prepared our Global Help Desk to provide technical support for our citizen developers, they’ll often send users to our Yammer community for additional guidance.”
The site is also buzzing with discussions about the latest apps developed internally at the company. These apps are showcased on H&M Group’s Power Platform use case library and promoted through a digital and meetings with the company’s digital champions. “It’s been particularly inspiring when makers can see apps developed by their colleagues that solve problems similar to their own,” says Söderström.
The Power Platform solutions created by employees at H&M Group–and showcased on the company’s internal portal – address a wide range of what used to be time-consuming data entry scenarios.
Apps built to collect form responses is one of the most common use cases. Another is transferring data automatically, rather than sending via email. “Together, the Power Platform solutions created by our employees have made a huge impact on business processes across every brand and region in the H&M Group,” says Söderström.
A mobile app created in PowerApps makes it easy for employees to quickly update their location and view similar updates from colleagues. The updates can also be added to an Outlook calendar, sent to a manager – or combined with a larger master list in SharePoint to view by managers. Six different flows automate the process. The app deletes updates at the end of the day–a privacy control that earned it a GDPR validation by H&M Group’s IT security group.
Since the introduction of its CoE, H&M Group has been keeping track of activity using its Power BI dashboard. The metrics have been encouraging. “Even with our new Power Platform security and governance controls in place, creativity continues to flourish and the number of apps and citizen developers we have at H&M Group keeps growing,” says Forsberg.
As the number of Power Platform solutions continue to accelerate at H&M Group, the company has multiple ideas to evolve and expand its CoE and scale for the future.
For example, the team continues to add DLP controls to more than 350 connectors available as part of Power Platform. This will provide even more options to qualified makers and their apps–while also protecting data and maintaining control. There’s a plan to archive unused apps–again, for reduced risk but also for the option of reusing components in other projects down the road.
The dashboard also provides valuable insights that promise to drive development and adoption even further. For example, by looking at usage patterns by region, the team can target lower-scoring regions with more training and support to better promote the platform and encourage makers.
And what advice would H&M Group give other companies looking to implement a successful Power Platform CoE? “My first word of advice is don’t wait. It’s much easier to start out with a set of policies and controls rather than have to ask users to modify an existing process later on,” says Forsberg.
Forsberg also points out the importance of a balanced approach. “In many cases, the drive to start a CoE comes from the IT department, with a focus on security. But it’s super important to ensure you don’t overly restrict makers and give them the tools they need to create great apps. Power Platform has enabled us to effectively achieve that balance of control and productivity.”
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