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WEBINAR OVERVIEW Out with the old: how Dunelm transformed itself by rethinking its technology

In a recent InternetRetailing webinar, Out with the old: how Dunelm transformed itself by rethinking its technology held in association with Fastly, we heard from Tom Hayman, Dunelm’s head of platform engineering about how, back in 2017, the home furnishing retailer – which is ranked Elite in RetailX Top500 research – approached the task of reimagining its digital platform in order to make sure it was ready for the decade ahead. 

The webinar opened with a short presentation, continued with a conversation between Tom Hayman and Chloe Rigby, editor of InternetRetailing, and then concluded with questions from the audience. 

Here’s a bulletpoint overview of the presentation and conversation. To see the webinar in full, including the slides and the Q&A session, click here to view it again.

Tom Hayman, head of platform engineering at Dunelm, opened the webinar with a presentation.

  • Why did we replatform Ambition of becoming no 1 homewares destination in the UK, brilliant at service, experience and product, while operating responsibly.
  • Challenges: monolithic architecture, not scalable, difficult to manage. Hard to make changes, making one change in basket would take 10-15 people many hours. Not resilient at failure: “if one part failed, everything failed”. Tightly coupled with order management system at the time – linked to ecommerce platform. If one part went down, all of it would go down.
  • Couldn’t change quickly without working with partners that ran the ecommerce platform – couldn’t make the change ourselves. 
  • “For those reasons, we knew we had to rebuild and replatform.”
  • Principles, digital technologies: microservices, cloud, API.
  • Microservices: focus on core business, domain capability, shorter refresh.
  • Cloud: focus on automation, serverless approach, self-service. 
  • API: loosely coupled, encourages collaboration and reuse.
  • Technology stack: cloud and APIs from AWS, the platform features Algolia, Fastly, Datadog among others.
  • Faster new digital platform: enabled changes 200 times a month, scaled automatically, “we took seconds and seconds off the website” and can now take 150% more traffic. 
  • Fastly – gave average speed improvement of 472% while homepage was over 900% speed improvement. Ability to feature flag new improvements to a subset of customers.
  • eg new features include Live Chat – trialled initially to about 1% of customer base for customer centre training.

Chloe Rigby and Tom Hayman then discussed the following questions:

  • How did you/the digital team get board buy-in for this kind of change?
  • How important was it to have done this as Covid came?
  • Tell us about some of the new in-store digital services this enabled
  • How do you, in a practical way, organise the work and ensure everyone’s working in the right direction when there’s a large team involved.
  • How do retailers now find good people to bring into their team at a time of great competition for talent?
  • How important is the ‘blameless’ culture that you mentioned? 
  • Where do you go from here and how are you planning to build on your platform for the future?

The session ended with questions from the audience.

Watch the Fastly/Dunelm webinar in full, including the slides and the Q&A sessions. To explore the wider InternetRetailing series of webinars click here.

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