Play.com's business strategy to compete against the might Amazon will be to bring together a community of retailers, from global toy stores to an organic egg farmer, but this requires a good deal of technology development. Heading up this initiative is the company's IT boss Francesco de Marchis.
“For 2012 we have a 100-project roadmap,” he says excitedly. “That’s good, it’s a fantastic feeling as the possibilities and challenges are so big and every project will be on time, on budget and of a high quality,” he says with a relaxed smile.
“We will be going heavy on Agile, extreme Agile. Benefits are already being seen from aligning the project more on the market need.
“People got scared with the number of projects, but the projects come from them not from me, so I told them not to be scared,” says De Marchis.
One of the largest projects on his schedule for 2012 will be the implementation of the Rakuten business model, which will put a more global perspective on Play.com.
“We have already started the work to integrate several of the IT functions and we hope to have a few of these completed by Q2.”
Play uses bespoke e-commerce and CMS platforms because they fit the business model more closely, and they are being developed to accommodate the features required for the mall strategy.
As CIO of a technology-led company De Marchis has an IT budget of £10m and reports directly to the CEO.
Putting service first
One key aspect of the IT strategy at Play has been the implementation of service oriented architecture (SOA).
“From a platform perspective the implementation of SOA was a key enabling factor to start the future migration to the next generation of the Play platform. It will allow Rakuten companies to use the same services and code that Play are building.
“It was a huge hole that we didn’t have SOA. We realised that we had to leverage the information that we had and give that information to everyone in the business. We can now build APIs that our retailers can take and build their shops with.
“SOA is an expensive exercise, but it is a mindset, it’s about re-configuring the systems into a business fashion so that information is available to everyone. So we do not have one SOA project, but a constant mindset,” he says.
As Play moves to its new model, SOA will be vital as many of the traders it deals with have already dabbled in e-commerce and may have legacy platforms that they will want to continue using.
De Marchis believes that as Generation Y becomes increasingly important as Play employees, customers and retail partners, the company will need to instantly extract information from a variety sources.