Why Replatform? 5 Reasons Retailers Make the Change

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Looking back over a career of replatforms, and having been around a multitude of retail peers and solution providers going through a replatforming, this post will focus on why companies take on the significant endeavor of replatforming. I will also conclude this week’s post with tips and tricks to ensure you stay on the right course and maintain a true north of positive change focused on business outcomes.

Before we dive in, there are three critical precursors to winning with your replatform:

  1. 1. Know exactly why you are doing the replatform.
  2. 2. Pick the right partners to solve your defined problems.
  3. 3. Implement the new platform successfully.

Getting the “why” right is your first step! If you don’t have defined and measurable ties to “the why,” and all don’t understand them, you will likely fail to realize expectations, have dramatic over-runs in time and/or money, and, in some cases, experience complete failure. The flip side is getting the why right and taking your company along for the journey. When you know your why, you are starting from a position of strength.

Common reasons retailers replatform

If you don’t know your why and a clear vision of why you’re replatforming, you’re risking a lot. Even exploring retail replatforming for the wrong reasons can drain resources.

Here are a few common replatforming whys:

  1. 1. Old tech is a blocker to company strategy. Every company has a strategy. Technology is almost always an enabler of that strategy, and legacy systems are a true blocker to seamless omnichannel commerce, cross-selling, distributed commerce, and other modern retail expectations. If your systems are too old and can’t meet leadership’s expectations, the ROI of replatforming simply to enable the company strategy can alone be the justification.
  2. 2. There’s a forcing function. Old technology eventually gives out. Maybe it is no longer supported. Maybe the forced upgrade to “the cloud” is as expensive as a complete revisit. (NOTE: If you are forced to upgrade to an entirely new architecture, it’s a perfect opportunity to crack open the entire process.) Maybe you are going to hit a PCI wall. Perhaps getting data to and from your source systems has become a tangled mess. Bottom line: If you are spending more money and time maintaining than innovating, it’s a likely sign that you have some antiquated platforms that must be replaced.
  3. 3. The employee or customer experience is at risk. This should be part of any replatforming, or even an upgrade. The often-forgotten employee experience should ALWAYS become faster and more straightforward when technology is enhanced. Between too many routine manual tasks and processes that require development resources to manage or maintain, retail leaders often take their eyes off the ball at the detriment of the employee and customer experiences. That pulls resources away from keeping up with customers’ wants and needs.
  4. 4. Consolidation. On two tours of replatforming duty I’ve experienced, the mission was to standardize systems when leadership chose to combine multiple brands. The inefficiencies of maintaining various platforms across shared services and COE’s were dramatic, and a new, consolidated platform was the most effective solution.
  5. 5. A desire to modernize. There are compelling arguments for modern technology, and they are legitimate. However, in my experience, more is needed to justify the shift in technology and accompanying change management. That said, cloud-based flexibility with the right focus on business outcomes can be a future enabler. I had more than one board member, CEO, or CFO tell me something like, “Every time a new CDO or CTO comes in, they have the magic bullet, the religion that is the best solution. How do we know if they’re right?” I navigate this by focusing on the problems we were trying to solve, not just technology for technology’s sake.

Finding your replatforming why just gets you to the next step

At my last company (and, really, all my former companies), we had some or all of these whys. We were on a legacy platform, ATG, that was no longer supported by Oracle. A year before my arrival, the team had failed with an implementation of Oracle’s newest version (OCC). Not only was Oracle not supporting our legacy platform, but the developer community had stopped innovating around it and the SI market was dry. Throw in an on-premises version where, eventually, we would hit compliance challenges, and we were ripe for change.

As compelling as these whys were, they were just the supporting reasons. The bottom line was we were blocked from doing things critical to the business strategy like selling seamlessly across brands and channels. The ecommerce team was burdened with extraordinary steps to make simple changes and often these required weeks or months of development effort to accomplish what should have taken days or even minutes.

So, at the end of the day, the reasons were clear. However, other factors made selecting a new platform doubly critical. We were attempting to bring our strategy to fruition and mitigate the risk and pains employees and customers felt, which were net positives. But, coming off a recent implementation failure, our team’s trust and credibility were at stake—there would be no third try on my watch, that’s for sure.

That retail replatforming was all or nothing!

So how did we, and how does anyone, choose the right solution once you have the why? What matters? What are the key indicators of success in the realization of commerce dreams? Well, that’s for next week!

Toppers Tips & Tricks: Things to remember as you search for your replatforming why.

  • Don’t start with a solution in mind. Focus on the problems you need to solve on behalf of the enterprise.
  • Continually communicate up, down, and around. Be transparent and listen. Replatforming is a big undertaking. The more you create a wave of understanding and support, the smoother the later steps will be.
  • Forget your past, or at least be wary. What worked before in this rapidly changing retail environment may need to be improved to get through your current replatforming with flying colors.
  • Don’t make everything about technology. Over-index on the business outcomes you seek for your company and customers. Implementing tech for tech’s sake never pans out.

Topics: Commerce
Jay Topper

Head of Strategy and Innovation @ fabric

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