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Moving from monolith to composable retail IT architectures

By James Hodges, Simply Commerce Director of Client E | Tuesday March 26 2024 | UPDATED 25.03.24

James Hodges, Director of Client Engagement for Simply Commerce, shares his top tips to make sure retailers attract, hire and retain the right talent to capitalise on the latest tech trend

Over the past five years Simply Commerce has seen more and more end customers, regardless of sector, look to break down their monolithic platform with composability in mind.

Cost, flexibility, scalability, innovation, and speed are some of the key benefits of doing this. However, what often goes unspoken are the challenges of undergoing such a transformation and how these can be overcome.

The Simply Commerce podcast, The FOD, has focused on this exact topic over the last two seasons with insightful conversation that spotlights the experience of guest speakers, who are at the top of their game including digital commerce leaders with end customers, agencies and software vendors that have all been at the very heart of said transformations.

Benefits and pitfalls

There’s no denying there are many benefits to a part, or fully, decomposed architecture. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right thing for your business. First and foremost, it’s vital to understand your business requirements and goals before deciding on the technology you want to proceed with.

There are currently a handful of options; from part-build/buy components for a bespoke architecture (we’ve been seeing this for some time already) to a fully decomposed ecosystem. There are also new platforms being released, built on micro services, application programming interface (APR) first, cloud native and headless (MACH) principles as their foundation, as well as individual vendors with pre-built connectors to ensure a quick go-to-market timeframe.

Should you decide on moving forward with a part or fully composable architecture, here’s a summary of some of the top tips to ensure a successful implementation and delivery, taken from our podcast guests who have lived, breathed, and worked through them:

  • Understand your business goals before doing anything.
  • Speak to industry peers who have undergone the transformation. Ask them, what didn’t go to plan and what would they do differently next time.
  • Make sure the entire business understands how their roles will be impacted and ensure they are all bought in.
  • Be meticulous when picking your third parties, delivery partners, and vendors. They are going to be key to your success.
  • If you aren’t technology mature then consider hiring an experienced Business Analyst and Solution Architect to ensure the business demands are at the forefront.
  • Start small to see ROI quickly. This will help ensure continued buy-in. Composable transformations aren’t designed to be a big bang, but it is likely business leaders will want to see some short-term gains from the investment.
  • Ensure communication is a constant throughout the business. Success stories are key to keep everyone engaged but managing expectations will also be vital at key milestones in the project.

Attracting the right talent

With 30% of new projects in 2024 having composability in mind, we are already seeing a direct impact on changes to hiring strategies and the search for the right talent and skill set across the whole of the digital commerce ecosystem as businesses review and strengthen their technology teams.

Since the start of 2023, we’ve already assisted several end-customers with a complete review (and re-shape) of their teams as part of their composable journey, including new hires across testing, engineering, leadership, and change management. We’ve also seen a surge in demand for those working on a contract basis.

Moving to composable will almost certainly require different skill sets and technical capabilities. So, the business must be fully aware of the impact this will have on future needs, as well as on the incumbent team, and the part they will have to play in the transformation.

Even outside of the traditional tech teams, other parts of the business will be impacted too, particularly where new processes or technologies are introduced, so considering the holistic view of your people strategy here is key.

Broader organisational impact

Recognising the broader organisational impact beyond just the technical teams is key, as is selecting any external partners – including those best placed to help with the recruitment of new hires.

Ultimately, proactive planning and investment in talent development are essential for businesses to thrive – although that can be said for those moving to Composable, or indeed sticking with their monolithic approach as well.

What we do know is that companies who have decided to embark on a composable transformation are more likely to require a strong internal technology capability, even if they initially seek external help with delivery or project management.

Simply Commerce is a specialist recruiter in the digital commerce space. Listen to The Simply Commerce podcast, The FOD, on Spotify or Apple.

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