Drum roll….this is our first ever re:platform podcast!
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James: Hello and welcome to re:platform, a biweekly podcast dedicated to all things about replatforming. Before we get stuck into this welcome session, something that made us laugh the other day was the we’re having a Groundhog day with the recording. This is the second time we’ve recorded this episode. We did it a few days ago, then the recording disappeared, no idea where. So we thought we’d nailed it and now we’re hoping we won’t be thwarted by tech again. It’s kind of apt that we’ve been affected by technology given that’s what we’re talking about in this podcast!
Let’s first introduce ourselves and then we can explain what re:platform is and what you can get from it. So I’m delighted to have Paul Rogers as my cohost. He’s one of the sharpest guys in the industry in terms of solution consultancy around ecommerce platforms. Incredibly knowledgeable and a specialist on key platforms like Shopify and Magento, so great to have someone with hands on implementation experience. Over to you Paul to tell people who you are and what you do.
Paul: Great. Thanks James. So yeah, my name is Paul Rogers. I’ve been working in ecommerce for about 12 years across a few different areas, so mostly digital marketing and then more recently the technology side as well. I run a company called Vervaunt, which is split between paid media and ecommerce consultancy. Most of the projects I work on like James are round replatforming. So these days I tend to do a lot more hands on solutions work. As James said, we have Magento and Shopify Plus, but we have other platforms as well. This podcast is a little bit outside of my comfort zone, but when James asked me if I wanted to do it, I thought it would be a good thing because it’s a little bit different and out of my comfort zone. This podcast gives us a really good opportunity to talk about some topics that we often discuss but maybe we don’t talk about publicly. So yeah, I think it’d be a really good opportunity.
James: Thanks Paul. I think that’s what replatforming is all about because it’s a steep learning curve. It’s a complex project and actually sometimes you have to push yourself in areas that you’re not so comfortable with. Cool. So, my name’s James Gurd. I’m an independent consultant. I come from a head of ecommerce in retail background. So I’ve actually done replatforming when I was client side and have had the full P&L responsibility. I made mistakes and did things well in equal measure back in those days. And then I’ve been an independent consultant for 10 years focused primarily around ecommerce strategy and replatforming. I’ve helped lots of client project teams through this process and I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. One of the reasons why I wanted to launch this podcast is, as Paul said, we talk about this loads behind the scenes and have a lot of experience and insights, but actually it would be useful to share that publicly because there are common challenges.
James: And it’s quite nice to debunk some of the myths around what replatforming is and how you can do it. So there’s hopefully a balance between our skills, from solution consultancy to the business process and project management. We’re hoping to clarify things for people.
So that’s who we are. Now let’s try and explain in a nutshell what re:platform acrtually is. So I’ll explain what I think it is and then Paul, let’s see if we actually agree! So for me the aim of this is to provide a podcast that delivers actionable insights into all things replatforming. Not just about the technology, but also the process, the people, common challenges, how you manage them, how to do things and what you need to do. And the goal of that is, and we talked about this a bit, is to help people better understand what replatforming is, how you approach complex projects like this and some of the nuances that determine whether or not you can make a project successful. So hopefully people get better prepared and can make smarter decisions. So that’s in my head what this podcast is. How would you describe it Paul?
Paul: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I agree with all of that really. And you mentioned about actionable. So I think one thing that I rarely want to do is try and focus on specific areas where people might be struggling, where we can talk about our experience and how we might resolve certain issues and overcome barriers. We have different platforms and technology experience, so I think it will be kind of a combination of hands on problem solving, problems that we’ve faced and overcome. And then maybe a little bit more on the strategy side as well, covering some of the business side, which James has a lot of experience. We have insights on managing expectations around TCO, managing stakeholder teams, all of that kind of stuff. So yeah, end to end replatforming really,
James: I think that’s quite nice way of encapsulating it: end-to-end because it’s a long process, involves lots of different phases and people. And what we’re going to try and do throughout the course of re:platform is go through those different areas, whether it’s technical, commercial, financial, et cetera. So that’s the what question answered, hopefully that’s as clear as mud for everyone! So now “why are we doing this?” It’s always the key question. People will say, well, what’s the point of the podcast? Why should I listen? So from our point of view, replatforming is such a common transformation that organizations of all sizes undergo and I say transformation because changing platforms is not always a straightforward decision of let’s just put new technology in; it often involve changes to business processes, new integrations into other business tools and systems involved. Sometimes changing data structures or data flows.
James: And that is transformational. Getting people used to those new tools is often a challenge in itself. So it can seem at the outset, highly complex, but the challenges are actually similar, whether you’re a small startup through to a huge global multinational corporation. The challenge is the same, it’s just the degree and extent to which it impacts the business that will change. So what we want to do is help people understand those challenges so they can make better decisions in the context of their organisations. And we’re not going to sit here and say we are the experts and know everything. Nobody knows everything, but what we are is specialists with a lot of experience. So we’ve seen what works, what doesn’t work and we’ve learned from that experience. So hopefully through our experience, we can distil key knowledge and help people understand a bit better and approach projects and structure in a better way. So that I guess for me is the why. It’s that we’d like to be able to help people make smarter decisions and if that’s the one thing people get from it then I would consider it a success. So Paul, how would you pitch the “why?”, why we did it and why would people be interested?
Paul: I do quite a lot of blogging and I have done for a few years and I think podcasts are a great medium to have a conversation which might be, which could arguably be more valuable than a blog post, which is quite specific. And I think one of the things that we’ve talked about is bringing in different types of third parties and other experts. And those kinds of open discussions I think can bring up some really good topics. And it’s a good opportunity to talk about things that maybe we wouldn’t talk about publicly otherwise. Yeah, that’s how I see it.
James: I think that that’s a good point – getting other people in who are thought leaders and specialists in certain areas who can add expertise that we don’t have, they are there at the coalface. So actually bringing that insight is really useful. And I think that’s one of the reasons we hope people listen to this podcast is it’s not just us banging on about how good we are and how much we know. That’s not the point of it. It’s to share knowledge and insights. And there are a lot of amazing people out there who’ve worked on replatforming who have specialist knowledge that you can learn from. So we’ll certainly be bringing those people in over the course of the next hopefully few years. I think the other thing as well is that we’ve worked on such a wide variety of replatforming projects. As I said from startups, who are at zero revenue or even those who are less than a million online, who wants to grow rapidly, through to those that are hundreds of millions plus. So there’s a huge amount of learning. Of course all these different businesses have different challenges and needs, so the art is to relate the project challenges to a business based on its size, its, its product set, it’s infrastructure etc., that’s really useful to people. So Paul can you share examples of the types of brands or projects that you’ve worked on?
Paul: Absolutely. So it’s been a bit of a mixture. I mostly work Shopify plus and Magento and some of my recent projects have moved to Shopify Plus, which are really interesting projects. I’ve worked with the Conran Shop, The Science Museum. I’ve previously worked we’re brands like Agent Provoacteur, Paul Smith and various other ones over the years. It’s a complete mix ready across different verticals and businesses sizes with different sets of complex requirements ranging from large product catalogues to kind of custom checkout workflows.
James: Excellent. And the same story for me, I’ve worked across fashion for clients like Victoria Beckham, large high street retailers like House of Fraser, charities like the RSPB and RHS, independent membership organizations like The Wine Society. And across so many different platforms. I think that’s the key thing is you start to realize that the process for going through your platform project is the same, but how you execute things varies from platform to platform, whether you’re using Salesforce, Shopify, Big Commerce, Episerver et cetera. And one of the key things that drove us talking about this, is that no platform is perfect. So no project will ever be 100% plain sailing. And actually if you can understand the process better, you can help to avoid some of the pitfalls. So I hope you’re getting a good idea about what re:platform is, who we are, why listen to us. And as Paul alluded to earlier, we are going to bring in in third party specialists to help add value.
For example, we’ve got people from Adyen lined up to talk around things like PSD2, SCA and the latest payment directive and compliance. So we’ll be getting niche in some topics. We’ll be getting more generalist in terms of project planning such as project management as well. And we’ll also be interviewing client side ecommerce managers. So we’ll get people who are responsible for trading sites, managing projects too. So you learn from them how they’ve approached replatforming and what they’ve learned.
So that’s re:platform in a nutshell. I guess from us, two parting things is it’s going to be running every two weeks, so please keep an eye on it. We do have a newsletter you’ll see on the website if you’d like to get alerts as soon as new podcasts are ready, and to get updates to the content calendar, what’s coming up soon, please do sign up and we promise you won’t be spammed!
And the other thing is to get involved. If you want to suggest a topic or a contributor who you’d love to see featured on the podcast interview, there’s a form on the website, fill it out please. We’ll read everything. We can’t guarantee we’ll feature your every suggestion, there’s not enough time in the world, but we’d love to get people involved in sharing and tell us what they’d like to see in the future. And if you have any questions, please do hit us up on social media. You can contact us via LinkedIn, Twitter. So that’s all for me. Paul, any closing comments you’d like to leave people with?
Paul: I don’t think so. I think as James says, if there’s any topics you want us to discuss, feel free to share them by social or by the website. I think we’re always looking for inspiration and yeah, I know often I think people have different problems and it’d be good for us to get additional inspiration for that.