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Quick guide for successful legacy system transformation

From Monolith to Composable Commerce

Running a dynamic business and surviving in fast-moving markets with static technology has never been a successful strategy. Today, as digital commerce continues to evolve to meet the demands of customers, this is more true than ever.

The good news is that unlike 10 or 20 years ago, today you have the technologies you need to build digital commerce that can flexibly adapt to new requirements at any time and that grows with new challenges.

The technical concepts behind this are not new, but they are gaining new momentum with the rise of Composable Commerce.

Service-oriented architectures, headless commerce, API-first development, best-of-breed, and especially Composable Commerce platforms are driving a shift and rethinking in enterprise technology design.

Many companies recognize this as a historic opportunity to break out of technological deadlocks and set the course for future-proof digital commerce.

No wonder that "replatforming" is being discussed in many organizations. A paradigm shift in digital commerce is long overdue, since too many businesses still try to win Formula 1 with horse-drawn carriages.

 
Reasons for change

Why now is the time to redefine your digital architecture

Your business needs to act now. According to Gartner, businesses that adopt a ‘composable’ approach to digital commerce will outpace monolithic competitors by more than 80% when it comes to rolling out new features and meeting customer expectations. This shift to an agile, scalable, and future-proofed composable solution is already the default for the world’s largest technology companies. It’s time to break free from the vendor lock-in of older generation monolith models and instead enjoy the exponential benefits of taking control of your own platform. Your business will then not only keep pace but have the opportunity to lead the market.

Even today, there are vendors fiercely guarding their monolithic proprietary commerce platforms and expecting businesses to buy into long-term contracts. But the moment the platform is customized and deployed, it’s already beginning to become outdated. And when the contract is up, businesses are either just renewing to avoid complication and upheaval or looking to switch to another similar vendor for another few years. It’s a cycle that will quickly prevent your business from fulfilling its potential to compete at the top.

When even regular system updates become an entire project, then the time has come for a fundamental change.

If jumping from monolith to monolith is like renting property, having to make the best of whatever your landlord decides, composable commerce is more like building your own home with limitless possibilities - it’s a way to make your business unique. So which would you choose - a value investment or a recurring expense?

“Digital commerce initiatives are often delayed due to indecision when selecting an appropriate solution to support digital commerce. In a quickly changing market, organizationsstruggle to remain competitive due to archaic platform design and architecture.”
- Gartner research 2021

The last time you’ll ever need to replatform

It’s easy to see why CFOs and CTOs commonly view replatforming as an expensive revolving door, throwing good money after bad. Until recently, this was the only way for a business to evolve, but in today’s rapidly changing landscape that approach is no longer viable or sustainable.

Your digital roadmap has to be about more than simply hopping from one monolith to the next. You need the ability to adapt and innovate at your own pace, control the total cost of ownership, and allow your in-house experts to roll out new features in lockstep with your customers’ changing needs.

By migrating to a composable solution you'll be able to ‘compose’ your own solution using best-of-breed services without any of the restrictions associated with vendor lock-in. In that regard, transitioning to a composable platform that embraces APIs and microservices will be the last time your business ever needs to have the ‘replatforming conversation’. Instead, you will have a platform that is not an expense but actively creates value by facilitating the onward growth of your business.

According to Forrester Research, nearly three-quarters (74%) of businesses are concerned that their current platforms won’t allow them to scale properly, and nearly 8 in 10 (78%) say theirlegacy solution can’t adequately support cross-channel order management.

 
Mindset of forward thinking

A checklist before you start

The ambition to create a technology and innovation-led business culture is as important to innovation as technology. Your business leaders need to be able to instill a mindset of forward-thinking ambition at every level of the organization.

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Technology infiltrates every single modern business in some way or another, so it needs to be central in strategic thinking too.

Turning a commerce proposition into a world-beater will rely on understanding and then implementing the very best technology available.

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The in-house expertise in composable architecture

The decision to migrate to a composable platform is a strategic business decision and requires leadership at the board level. It relies on having in-house experts, architects, with both the vision and the technological know-how to make it happen. Your business will need talent that understands how to build a technology platform from scratch and has experience in API development; either they are going to build it themselves, or they are going to need to be able to specify to any third-party partners. A digital commerce platform will provide you with all the tools that you require to create a successful online business, but there need to be people within your company that know how to use these tools and, most importantly, know how to tailor them for your given market.

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Taking an API-first approach to app development

Your business needs to be fluent in API-first development. APIs are the cornerstone of the modern user experience, but there’s a big difference between using APIs and taking an API-first approach to development. Rather than taking an API onto the end of an app to make it compatible with another service or ecosystem, an API-first approach will prioritize integration and interoperability above all else when it comes to developing new services. People that understand API-first know that this opens up a world of endless possibilities for introducing best of breed functionality to your digital proposition through microservices.

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Already using microservices architecture

Microservices have made the traditional monolithic platform completely redundant. A microservice is a small piece of individual software that is designed to perform a very specific function, such as updating a product catalog or processing a payment. These services can be connected using APIs to create an overall experience that can be heavily customized and tailored to suit your needs. One microservice can be updated or replaced without impacting other areas of your business because it manages its own data, getting the information it needs from other services via APIs. This eliminates downtime and allows your business to evolve infinitely. Today, for instance, Amazon updates its storefront roughly once every 11 seconds, made possible by a microservices architecture.

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Ready to embrace cloud-native

You may think your business is embracing cloud-native technology if it uses Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications from day to day, but that’s only half true. Cloud-native development is different from cloud productivity. It’s more of a development philosophy that empowers organizations to build scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments that are agile by their very nature. Cloud-native development makes your business more adaptable, resilient, and able to push out high-impact changes with minimal disruption. Cloud-native is essential for using composable commerce to its fullest potential.

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Ready to take a best-of-breed approach to your tech stack

The user experiences we’re now accustomed to are so dynamic and engaging that no single vendor has the resources to create an all-encompassing static solution for your business. Smarter vendors have started to narrow their focus, becoming absolute specialists at whatever it is they do best, with the 10 expectation that their solution will be adopted as part of a composable solution via an agency or even directly with your company. The best-of-breed approach creates competition in the market, and lack of vendor lock-in means these vendors are constantly innovating to make themselves indispensable to your business. You can therefore expect to work with multiple vendors, seamlessly replacing service components as better ones become available.

So, now you know whether or not composable commerce is within reach, how do you make the leap?
 
Approaches to change

The four-step transition to
composable

Making sure your migration is handled in an orderly and strategic way that ties in with your overall business objectives is the best way to mitigate any disruption from moving to composable architecture. Let’s take a look at some of the top-level strategic considerations you need to face as you embark on your journey toward a truly futureproofed composable solution.

Step 1

Discover

Outline your current processes

Before you begin any kind of migration, you first need to look at the features you’re currently depending on. How important are they? Are they truly fit for purpose, or are you simply leaning on them because you’ve become accustomed to using them?

At this stage, it’s a good idea to start listing all of your business processes and functions, including edge use cases and rank them in order of how valuable they are to your business. Not only will this help you uncover processes you no longer need, it will also be useful in terms of knowing what to prioritize when your phased migration begins. You should approach this phase purely objectively, knowing that even those processes you think your business cannot survive without might be usurped by something better soon.

 

Define your future needs

Whether it’s buying a new phone or moving into a new home, nobody surveys the market looking for the status quo. They want added value, new features, more convenience. Your approach to replatforming should be exactly the same. Don’t let your future goals be constrained by the limitations of legacy systems. Highlight pain points such as arduous manual processes or things that inhibit the user or customer experience. Think about some of the more menial tasks your staff currently undertake and how much value they could add to other areas of your business if such tasks were automated or more streamlined.

Step 2

Migration

Start planning your migration

Now that you have a greater understanding of where you are and where you need to be, you can start to properly evaluate potential composable platforms and technology partners. Be realistic about your launch window for getting up and running on a new platform, but don’t be afraid to be ambitious either. Build a minimum viable product so that you can not only see the benefits within your team but prove them to stakeholders in order to pave the way for innovation. With the right combination of partners and technology, your businesses can undergo a considerable transformation in a matter of months. We’ll call this your migration roadmap.

This is when you’ll need to think carefully about your data, including product catalogs, categories, products, and SKUs, as well as customer accounts, carts, orders, and shipping methods. You’ll also need to think about the business logic that ties everything together, as well as the kind of user experience you’d like to maintain during the transition. You don’t want customers to receive notifications when importing historical orders, for instance. There will also be orders coming in during the migration process itself, so a so-called ‘delta’ migration will be a necessary final step to ensure nothing is left on the legacy platform you’re about to abandon.

Step 3

Create, customize and compose

This is where your developers, solution architects, and deployment specialists can start selecting and implementing features that help your business achieve its goals. This is a good time to start building additional partnerships with vendors and third-party specialists that can supplement what you’re doing in-house.

Want to implement a new checkout feature or live chat option that integrates seamlessly with customer records in your CRM? Start building the services to make it happen or tap into a third party that specializes in creating that particular feature. The great thing about composable commerce is that your business is never limited to one vendor, supplier, or specialist when it comes to making things happen and improving your customer experience.

Step 4

Test and roll-out

If you’re coming from a monolithic legacy platform, you’ll know how arduous the testing phase can be. In traditional setups, making a small change to a relatively trivial function could have untold repercussions across the entire ecosystem, forcing you to repeatedly test the entire platform over and over again. With composable commerce, you can simply test each service as it’s rolled out, safe in the knowledge that if something isn’t working the way it should, it won’t have any serious impact on the rest of your services.

Create a ‘test pool’ environment where each service can be thoroughly tested before it’s rolled out, perhaps in one of your smaller markets first, streamlining deployments and keeping your business moving forward.

 
Benefit from experts

Finding the right partner

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API-first development to key services

Sooner or later, to make the most of a composable commerce solution, you’re going to need to tap into partner relationships that can help with the API-first development of key services. Before that happens, you need a composable digital commerce platform on which to lay the foundations for your business to evolve, one that is compatible with your own API-first and cloud-native approach. When the time is right, you’ll have your pick of vendors and will need to be able to discern which ones are worth pursuing.One piece of advice is to always check whether a vendor is offering a free trial that lets you experience their service without limitations using well-described API endpoints. If a service is cloud-native and multi-tenant, it will have an easy way to spin up new tenants within seconds. Vendors that only pretend to be cloud-native and API-first have a hard time letting you test the service without a lot of complex effort.

Emporix specializes in helping businesses transition to composable commerce through its groundbreaking Digital Commerce Platform. Our Digital Commerce Platform is designed to easily manage advanced commerce in B2B and B2C, with a fully composable and future-proofed architecture. An open modular API-first ecosystem will allow you to continuously improve your digital commerce presence and get all the cloud-native capabilities and microservices you need to ensure scalability across your entire digital ecosystem.

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