Technologies in retail: a look from the inside

Moscow hosted the Retail Tech conference, which brought together the best IT industry specialists in retail. We could not ignore this event with our attention, because the exchange of experience helps a lot in our work. The group “M.Video-Eldorado” was represented at the meeting by Alexander Sokolovsky, Director of Information Technologies.

The discussion participants chose a topic dedicated to the realities and prospects of IT architecture in retail. Representatives of Zalando, Lenta and Magnit joined the search for an answer to the question of how to provide TIME-TO-MARKET to business. The moderators were Alexander Niznik, CEO of Novardis, and Maria Arkhipova, head of the SAP expertise center.

To begin with, the participants tried to understand what kind of relationship exists between traditional and microservice architectures: are they mutually exclusive or can complement each other, making the work of companies more efficient.

According to Alexander Sokolovsky, if a few years ago the ERP system was mandatory for virtually every company, it was impossible to do without it, but now this time is irrevocably gone. In the present, we can see successful examples of organizations working with and without ERP, so the search for the optimal solution always remains with the company itself.

In addition, it is worth talking not about the confrontation between microservice and monolithic architectures, but about the disadvantages and advantages of companies’ own developments in comparison with the products offered by vendors. Alexander noted that different types of processes have their own criteria for choosing one or another option. For example, if we are talking about a critical, constantly changing business process, which is a competitive advantage for a company, then we are always talking about our own developments.

If we are talking about “commodity processes” that do not change much and should be, first of all, stable, then boxed products may be quite a suitable option. An example is financial accounting. This is the case for which it would be at least strange to develop your own accounting system.

During the discussion, the issue of interaction between business and IT was also raised. At M.Video-Eldorado, the decision about what functionality a particular product should carry is made jointly by the business and IT staff, since we are a technology retailer. Alexander noted that over time, these interaction processes have also undergone a number of changes.

If earlier there were roles of customer and executor, now united product teams are working on solving each problem. IT as an exclusive technology management function is a thing of the past.

Alexander Niznik remembered how in 2003 the widespread introduction of ERP systems began with the Lenta company. Self-written solutions gradually gave way to monolithic ones. Today, various microservices are actively developing on the market, and in this regard, there are a number of questions and concerns.

Are they a higher level variation of older systems? Is there a threat of overgrowth of architectures and loss of control over them? Perhaps it is worth going back to monolithic systems, since virtually all aspects of functionality have already been carefully worked out and implemented by vendors?

Alexander admitted that in his work he was not often faced with the need to introduce vendor boxed products, so it is difficult for him to make any predictions for the future. But from the point of view of the development of architectures, in his opinion, it is wrong to talk about the presence of any cyclical or spiral development.

Rather, it is about a clear evolution of architecture based on the accumulated experience of past years. And this evolution has led us to use cloud services.

When a company moves to a cloud platform, it gets an ecosystem of services of different levels (IaaS, PaaS, etc.). And these services become a “commodity IT” for you – a foundation that allows you to invest your forces and resources in competitive advantages without being distracted by secondary goals.

You simply choose the most suitable tools for solving your problems from a variety of proposed ones, including among complex cloud SaaS products such as CRM and ERP. The cloud gives us a cheap admission ticket.

At the same time, most of the services in the cloud are integrated with each other to varying degrees, which means that we will most likely immediately get the interaction tools for our microservices built on the basis of cloud PaaS and cloud SaaS (ERP, for example).

When switching from self-written monolithic systems to boxed monolithic ones, one of the problems was that some of the developments made by the IT departments were understandable only to them, after they were fired, no one understood how this system works.

Microservices architecture is less susceptible to this, because it has a lower level of granularity and increases the transparency of the organization.

In the case of boxed products, the risk is high, since the team working on the project customizes the system and after it leaves, it can be difficult to understand what has been done.

The well-coordinated work of the team that implements and supports is important for the successful functioning of any type of system. At M.Video-Eldorado, first of all, we try to make sure that employees are not limited by their knowledge and experience in one thing, in a specific system or in a specific technology.

We used to implement technologies and knew that they would stay with us for many years, but now that time has passed. We hire people not because they want to work with a specific technology / system, but because they want to solve interesting problems together with the business in product teams, using various modern tools for this.

Technologies are changing rapidly now, so the thinking of people in a team should not be determined by the technologies that they used in the past or even use now, they should in no case build their careers based on the choice of a particular technology for the long term.

We especially appreciate employees who strive for new knowledge and skills, want to develop in their field. Our company tries to actively develop connections between different people and different teams.

The company has a large number of people who have worked with different boxed products. If they express a desire to master new technologies, the management helps them in every possible way in this, we try to finance the training. If an employee does not see opportunities for himself to develop within the company, perhaps he should think about whether he has chosen a place of work for himself.

Answering the question about which KPI is the most important for the company, Alexander Sokolovsky determined the value of these indicators in the following order, starting with the most important: User Experience, Time to Market, reliability and price.

In the discussion, we managed to touch upon the topic of transition to SAP S / 4HANA. According to Alexander, at present, the SAP landscape, which has existed in the company for many years and has significantly helped it become a leader in its market segment, is already becoming a certain constraint on further business development. The group is considering different scenarios for moving forward and migration to SAP S / 4HANA is one option.

One of the decision-making criteria will be whether the new system meets the company’s expectations, whether it will be able to become a new successful product without the need for many years and complex “bloody” implementations, and be a cloud service with an easy entrance ticket.

M.Video-Eldorado is a technology retailer, more than 60% of sales occur online, while stores act as showrooms and mini-warehouses, providing personal contact using mobile technologies and quick access to goods – within 15 minutes …

We build a seamless customer experience based on the OneRetail platform, which allows customers to move freely from online to offline without compromising the level and speed of service. Therefore, if we are talking, for example, about the transition to a new version of SAP, then there should be an obvious and strong change in it, including one that will bring us value.

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