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Transform or rebuild from scratch - what’s the best way to Composable Commerce?


Technology Strategy: Emporix discusses approaches to shift from Monolithic to Composable Commerce - transformation vs. rebuild

Many e-commerce businesses recognise that today's market conditions have changed dramatically and they can no longer continue to operate as they have in the past. They lack the ability to adapt quickly and flexibly to new market demands and struggle to bring new products, services and innovations to market on time and at low risk.

Composable commerce platforms like Emporix enable companies to adapt their commerce ecosystems more flexibly to new business requirements and react faster to market changes. No wonder that monolithic all-in-one platforms are on the decline. But how do you get from your aged custom monolith to a future-proof composable architecture?

Transform or rebuild your legacy system?

A digital commerce system that has grown organically over decades and has seen countless customisations sooner or later gets rigid and rotten. Any further changes in the architecture or functionality come with lots of effort and risk. The rigidity of your legacy system can paralyse your e-commerce instead of boosting it. Then it is time for a change.

How can you tell it's time for a technological realignment?

  • Maintenance and servicing of your legacy system get increasingly costly
  • Customization of front-end and back-end functionality gets risky
  • System performance and user experience worsen, sales decline, customers leave 

If developing and maintaining your legacy system over a three-year period costs more money, resources (and nerves) than investing in a new system, then you should consider switching to Composable Commerce.” - Udo Rauch, CSO at Emporix

Shutting down a legacy system and replacing it with a new composable is one approach. Another is to incrementally transform the existing system into a service-oriented architecture. Both have pros and cons to consider when setting the strategic course for digital commerce. We want to support you in this decision by briefly comparing both ways.

Rebuilding your commerce ecosystem: characteristics, requirements, pros & cons

When the pain and damage caused by an inflexible, complex and unstable system gets to the point where the downsides can no longer be ignored, you may decide to tear the whole system down and restart from scratch. By this time, in many cases, a lot of money and time has already gone into working around fundamental problems instead of solving them.

Benefits of building a new system from scratch

  • Get rid of all legacy burdens and technology dept of the legacy system
  • Move into composable commerce fast and without any detours
  • Limit risk and effort due to adapting and deconstructing the legacy system
  • Meet top management's request for rapid overall business transformation

Challenges in rebuilding from scratch

  • Allocate and coordinate massive resources for a tight project timeframe
  • Switch from legacy to new composable system without affecting operations
  • Teams, responsibilities and workflows to be adapted to new architecture
  • Requirements catalog often overloaded with "trendy" technology features

When to go for rebuilding your existing system

Composable commerce platforms such as Emporix allow technologies to be built incrementally guided by what adds maximum business value at minimum risk. However, the modular architecture of Emporix also allows you to replace your legacy system in one go, for example, if almost all functions in your legacy system are required right from the restart, or to simplify integration into a company's existing technology landscape.

Seize opportunities: Rebuilding does not necessarily mean simply translating your old system 1:1 into a new technology and architecture. Rather, you should use this strategic realignment to consistently refocus your digital commerce on value added to your business. Ditch the unnecessary and focus on the essentials needed for rapid and sustainable growth. The challenge is to find out which technologies, processes and resources are important for the success of your digital commerce today and in the future.

Transforming your existing system: characteristics, requirements, pros & cons

Moving from the era of monolithic all-in-one solutions to a modular composable future where commerce systems grow with new requirements is a technological paradigm shift. It is no longer your system that determines how your business runs, but your system must follow the ever-changing business requirements.

Since the change from a monolithic to a service-oriented architecture not only affects technologies, but also tends to influence structures, people, processes and even the corporate culture, it may be advisable in specific cases to transform step by step, for example using the Strangler Pattern method.

Strangler pattern describes a common approach to migrating a legacy system step by step by gradually replacing specific pieces of functionality with new applications and services. Finally, the new system replaces all functionality of the old system, thus "strangling" the old system and allowing it to be retired.

Benefits of transforming incrementally

  • System transformed at low risk and with maximum control
  • Allocate and coordinate small dedicated teams for lean iterations
  • Keep existing functionality in play while refactoring to updated versions
  • Focus on "low hanging fruits", adding maximum value at minimum risk

Challenges in transforming incrementally

  • May take longer than rebuilding, depending on complexity, planning and resources
  • Manage legacy burdens and technology dept of the legacy system while transforming
  • Risk and effort due to adapting and deconstructing the legacy system
  • Requires a lot of ongoing attention to routing and network management

When to go for transforming your existing system

Incremental transformation, e.g. using the strangler pattern principle, is the preferred way when the risk of a redesign is high due to the high complexity of the legacy system or specific requirements in the company's technology landscape. An incremental approach helps to break down risks into manageable chunks. This is crucial when new resources and competencies for Composable Commerce need to be built up in the company first.

Conclusion: Both ways, transforming and rebuilding, lead to Composable Commerce

The change from a monolithic to an API-first commerce architecture is a paradigm shift that affects not only technology but also the entire organization. The decision on how to transform, in one go or incrementally, should not be made in the heat of anger and frustration about the legacy system. Rather, strategic goals, costs and benefits must be analyzed and balanced very carefully within the specific context of the company.

To find out more about how Composable E-Commerce can help grow your business, get in touch with Emporix today by clicking here.