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MACH THREE: End users seek out best of need

By Miya Knights, Publisher | Monday June 17 2024 | UPDATED 17.06.24

Open systems advocacy group members gather to share latest approach to best-of-breed tech integration, Miya Knights, Retail Technology magazine publisher, reports

The days of monolithic, inflexible architectures are numbered, according to the global retail leaders and brands advocating for the latest composable approach to business technology systems integration.

Global companies including Kraft Heinz, Clarks and Mars Wrigley gathered in New York today to discuss the benefits and advantages of taking a best-of-breed approach to enterprise tech implementations.

Their representatives were all on hand to deliver keynote presentations at the third annual conference of the non-profit, open tech systems advocacy group, the MACH Alliance.

Justin Thomas, Kraft Heinz head of digital experience summed up the value of a microservices, application programming interface (API) first, cloud native and headless (MACH) approach. “It’s about best of breed, best of need,” he stated during his opening keynote.

Enabling creativity and innovation

Thomas’s presentation shared how the multinational brand manufacturer had improved what he described as a “horrendous user experience” using a MACH-based approach to enable creativity and innovation.

He outlined a rapid, two-year timeline of change for the global organisation that introduced an Atomic design system, generative artificial intelligence (AI) based asset production and personalisation.

“[MACH] is truly an approach that is a sword and a shield for our business,” he added. “It’s a sword to cut through bureaucracy and become more competitive; and then a shield, allowing us to shed legacy and to build more security and governance into what we do.”

In fact, working with IT and marketing to update the Kraft Heinz marketing technology stack using MACH principles had, to date, increased customer engagement by +30% and conversion rate by +78%.

Future proofing technology agility

Meriel Neighbour, Clarks head of digital product delivery and transformation, had a similar experience to share as she told delegates how the retailer had overhauled its entire ageing tech stack within two years.

She explained how the 200-year-old UK shoe retailer set a go-live date for its new tech infrastructure on the first day she joined the company in 2022 out of necessity. “If we didn't, the answer was stop trading,” she said.

The project involved overhauling an ageing point of sale (POS), alongside the implementation of a new product information management (PIM), content and search, commerce, content management and fulfilment systems.

“In order to future proof our technology and enable the business in achieving its strategy, we chose our MACH technology components,” said Neighbour.

“We looked at and assessed the components that fitted well with each other, and that would deliver on our expectations and allow that flexibility to evolve and grow over time.”

One single source of truth

Clarks delivered its POS upgrade to 170 stores 10 weeks early and a new ecommerce platform for its US, Canada, UK, Republic of Ireland and outlet stores by September 2023, and across a further 40 European sites by Easter of this year.

The project also delivered “a single source of truth, real-time inventory visibility and data reporting at our fingertips, and not one single moment of downtime since go live,” according to Neighbour.

Headline results of the project also included a 28% improvement in site speed, 79% growth of its add-to-basket metric and 17% uplift in conversion rate.

However, the opening event session also demonstrated how MACH principles could not only help end-user organisations achieve agility in customer-facing operations. It was also tackling monolithic enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Decomposing the supply chain

Kyle Barz, Mars Wrigley global retail and ecommerce technology director, said the pending end-of-life for the SAP system, S/4, had pushed the multinational brand owner to overhaul its ERP capabilities.

He said during an onstage interview that the work Mars Wrigley has done to update its ecommerce platform using a MACH approach was now helping it transform its supply chain operations too.

“Throughout that journey, we also had a confluence of a few other factors that were introduced from our back-end business systems,” he explained. “SAP, ERP and composable are not often found together in the same sentence.”

While the work to update its ERP is still in its early phase, Barz said a key phase has been to decompose all ERP-related business processes and identify those that could be managed elsewhere.

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