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Tom Robertshaw, Head of Engineering, Space 48

 

Hi, I am Tom Robertshaw – formerly a Magento Master and MD of an e-commerce agency.  After being acquired by Space 48, I joined the team as Head of Engineering.

This most recent change sees me working with the Space 48 team to define how we deliver value early to our clients. We help our customers by advising on the best platform for them based on their commercial objectives, these include: Magento, BigCommerce or Shopify. We take a platform agnostic approach, so my job includes making sure each platform best serves our customers. My day ranges from being involved in customer discovery meetings to upgrading our tech processes to automate as much of our testing as possible.

This is a story about our work with Betty and Taylors of Harrogate. The project that made me.

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We started working with Betty’s about four years ago, after they requested Space 48 take over their Magento 1 platform management.

More specifically, we were approached about the re-platforming from Magento 1 to Magento 2, and it became clear that the opportunity with Bettys was to build something quite special in time for their centenary and to really unlock the potential within the business.

We’d been growing our reputation in Magento for some time by this point, and it felt like this was a moment it paid off. I was still relatively new to Space 48, and Betty’s was my first big project. Having a relationship with Betty’s, and knowing they trusted us as their development agency was a defining moment for the company, and for me personally.

Betty and Taylor’s of Harrogate is a cherished and beloved British treasure with a 100-year-old history. As with all thriving businesses, Betty’s have plunged into the world of e-commerce, selling their products across the UK to further satisfy the appetites of the public.

However, because Betty’s products are often perishable with differing life spans and expiry dates, delivery scheduling can be significantly more complicated than straight-forward products. So complicated that, beneath the surface of what might appear to be a simple enough interface, Betty’s needed to apply complex rules and logic. Whatever was ordered and in whatever combination, every product needed to be delivered fresh.

That’s where we came in.

 

We agreed to split the budget into three discrete projects. The Magento 2 platform, the ATP engine (Available to Promise) and the integration layer to manage dataflow between these two systems and their ERP. All totalled the initial budget was agreed at approx. £250k.

From an ATP perspective, we had multiple sessions where the Betty’s team came to the Space 48 office for discovery sessions. Some post-it note sessions later, we’d mapped the processes and events that occur within the business.

Our project team came up with a lot of ideas of how we could use technology to support the people within the business, particularly around automation and process optimisation to eliminate overheads.

Naturally, we had to prioritise and so some areas, e.g. customer service and corporate gifting, we had to leave as they were. A year after this project we were able to continue working on the product. Most recently this included a new customer service portal that streamlines order management for this team.

The Available to Promise system (ATP) was steeped in domain and technical complexity. One aspect of this is the complex business logic that was implemented in both the website and the ERP.  Unfortunately, sometimes the two systems didn’t match, and orders needed to be manually processed causing an additional workload for the customer services team. The worst-case scenario being that customers had to phone to cancel their order or re-arrange for another day. It wasn’t an ideal CX (Commerce Experience).

Together, with the Betty’s IT team, we designed a micro-service that housed this business logic in one place and surfaced it through an API that both the new website and the ERP could integrate with. This resulted in a single source of truth for availability of their cakes, reducing software maintenance costs as well as reducing opportunity cost of staff working on the wrong tasks.

As the incumbent agency we were the only agency in a position to build what was required but Betty’s had a process set up where we would need to pitch to all different areas of the business that would affected. Marketing, Corporate and IT all had a say.

As is the agency way, a win is quickly followed by work. It’s all systems go! Although, in this instance I think we were rewarded with a hamper full of cakes and teas. We also make a conscious effort to reward those who were involved in the process. We can recognise the win in a team meeting, or over a round of drinks – hard work never goes unnoticed. It is surprising how far a pat on the back can go for morale.

Once the solution had been reviewed and approved by Betty’s it went straight to our development team. The greatest challenge was certainly the ATP technical complexity. We had to be sure that we had 100% comprehension of the logic and that it was implemented in a maintainable way to ensure that we could confidently make changes in the future (e.g. tests).

There were also changes going on to the ERP data model whilst we were planning and implementing our solution. There was certainly an element of luck where we hoped that the two ends of the channel tunnel would meet in the middle. Thankfully, it did!

Timescale wise, the project took a full year to complete. We had a lot to get through.  Working closely with Betty’s IT team was pivotal to the success of the project. Without their clear understanding of the system and regular input we could easily have built a “great system” that wasn’t fit for purpose.

 

Once the site was launched, I think the client’s long-term reaction speaks louder than the initial one. Long-term happiness is a real signifier of success for us. There is always that feeling of relief and success when a site goes live but you never really know success until the numbers roll in. In terms of our relationship with Betty’s, we can only now confidently say we’ve done a good job as they’ve trusted us for 4 years as their e-commerce agency.

After we go live, there’s real sense of satisfaction knowing that after months of hard work it had finally all come together. It is bittersweet though. You always hope to continue to work with a brand that you once worked so closely with. But It doesn’t always happen that way. Waiting for that thumbs up to say “let’s carry on” is always at the back of your mind. When it does, you know you’ve done a good job.

In the case of Betty’s, the new website was extremely well received by all parties. Let’s just say that wherever you are in the world now, Betty’s can make sure that their product will arrive fresh. And that means happiness for everyone.

While we can’t go into the numbers…Betty’s had this to say:

“With the old website even when we did the most basic of changes it would break everything. Even the simplest of updates was a major project. I’ve been in the business nearly three years and until six months ago we’d implemented two or three releases of new functionality. In the last six months, we’ve applied more than thirty.”

-Samantha Sarginson – Ecommerce Manager at Bettys

 

And the team at Space 48 take that as a job well done.