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Supervalu hands out 2,200 iPads to store managers for better productivity

Supermarket giant Supervalu had to upgrade its identity and access management software to accommodate a major rollout of iPads to store managers.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Improving mobile access has been a common theme in IT recently, and with it has come the popular acronym BYOD, for bring your own device. But Supervalu Inc. turned that around and crafted its own acronym, TYDH: Take your device home.

Who wouldn't want a free iPad? That's what the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based food retailer figured when it handed out 2,200 iPads to store directors at locations across the country. As a business move, it was two-fold: Get store directors back in front of their customers rather than in the back room. And second:

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"It gives them productivity tools to better manage their store," said Phillip Black, director of identity and access management at Supervalu, who spoke during an interview at Oracle OpenWorld 2012. "I can't tell you what those productivity tools are because it would reveal competitive advantage, but they're really cool."

Of course, the store directors could use the iPad at work. But they could also take them home and access the applications they needed from there as well. So, Supervalu was able to get store directors to be more productive from more places, and as Black put it, store directors felt like they just got a free iPad and, "Oh yeah, they have to do some work on it too."

"It empowers people to make work an activity, not a place," he said.

The supermarket giant reached its goal of handing out the iPads last April. But getting there meant rearchitecting the organization's back-end systems. For Supervalu, a multibillion-dollar company with 180,000 employees, that's not an easy thing.

As it turns out, Supervalu was in the process of modernizing its Sun architecture at the same time. The company, which runs the Solaris operating system on SPARC-based servers, wanted a complete refresh from the hardware level to the application layer. Part of that process involved upgrading its old Sun identity and access management infrastructure to Oracle products.

When Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, both companies had identity management products, many of which overlapped in function. So Oracle went about rebranding and streamlining many of them. Supervalu is one shop that ran all of Sun's identity management products, including Sun OpenSSO and Sun Directory Server. Supervalu is now in the process of migrating everything over to Oracle Identity Management 11gR2, which Oracle announced in July.

Along with Identity Management 11gR2, Oracle is offering upgrades to Oracle Access Management (OAM), which provides user authentication across all of a company's applications. New features that intrigued Black and Supervalu included mobility access improvements around security and single sign-on, as well as support for sign-on using their social media accounts such as Facebook or Linkedin.

"What we want to do with OAM is be able to authenticate a user without them having to log into the application every time," Black said. "It would make it simpler for store managers, and in turn, the end-customer base. It will make it easier for them to do business."

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