Enactor Discusses the MACH Alliance at NRF 2022 | RETHINK Retail
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Webinar: Amplience & Enactor Discuss the MACH Alliance at NRF 2022

Jules Carrell, head of sales at Enactor, and Rory Dennis, co-founder of Amplience, discuss the MACH Alliance and the benefits it offers retailers during a fireside chat at the National Retail Federation’s 2022 Big Show.

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

Jules Carrell:

Hi, welcome everyone. We’re here at the Enactor stand at NRF. I’ve got with me a very, very special guest. I’m Jules Carrell, head of sales at Enactor. It’s not me, it’s Rory here. Do you want to introduce yourself please?

Rory Dennis:

Sure thing. Thanks for having me on. Rory Dennis from Amplience, also on the board of the MACH Alliance, which we’re about to get into. Thank you all for coming along to listen.

Jules Carrell:

Rory, please tell us what is MACH, what is the MACH Alliance? Where has this thing come from, and why on earth should we be interested?

Rory Dennis:

And where is it going, I guess. Yeah. Well, thanks. MACH Alliance. So MACH stands for Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native and Headless.

Rory Dennis:

And the MACH Alliance was brought together by five companies who wanted to educate the market about the shift away from monolithic technology that’s happening, and into this new world where you can free yourself from the monolith.

Rory Dennis:

You can deploy microservices and discrete microservices. You can take all the benefits of cloud native and headlessness and have a new way to build your business in technology, and not have your business be a slave to a stack that you were on.

Rory Dennis:

So that was the idea behind it.

Jules Carrell:

And how did it come around? What’s the history? How did you get together with competitors or people who weren’t in your space? How did that happen?

Rory Dennis:

Yeah, actually, like all good things it happened in a bar. It happened in a bar in Amsterdam-

Jules Carrell:

Nice. Nice. Yeah.

Rory Dennis:

… over some drinks. And just a notion that some of the folks at Commercetools, at Contentstack, at E-comm, at Valtech had, that said, look, we need to find a way to educate the market that there’s this new way of being, a new technology sector.

Rory Dennis:

And to kind of find a way to say, look, it doesn’t really matter if we’re competitive or cooperative, but we should educate the market that this is now available. Because, I think technology had gone through a bit of a down cycle where people were disappointed with the monoliths that evolved. They were disappointed with the capability that they were getting. They were disappointed with waiting for upgrades and being at the behest of their software vendor.

Rory Dennis:

So that was really the origins of it.

Jules Carrell:

Obviously, now at Enactor. We’re members now, obviously. We’ve been on board about a year, but it seems like it’s going really well, and the thing’s growing and growing, right?

Rory Dennis:

It’s going great. I mean, we’re up just over 18 months, almost 15 member companies, which is amazing, ahead of expectation. You’ll see this morning there was an announcement that AWS has come on in the enabler category, which is great to see. So we didn’t expect this level, I guess, in just 18 months, but we’re delighted with it.

Rory Dennis:

We have many more applications coming. We kind of take the applications and cohorts and try and get through them as quickly as we can. But yeah, it’s growing, and it’s really good to see it.

Jules Carrell:

We’re here at NRF, clearly a retail show, and we’re thinking to ourselves, well, what are the challenges… Forgetting MACH and all those things, what are the challenges that retailers are facing right now? And then that obviously leads on to how MACH is kind of relevant.

Jules Carrell:

I think that’s why it’s a cool conversation between you and myself. I mean, I’ve spent nearly a decade now, basically going to meeting retailers, mainly focused on what they’re doing in-store. But clearly as the world has blended, and merging of online and in-store has happened, then clearly a whole bunch of solutions that come around, then more challenges come around. Then you got the pandemic, and it’s torpedoed things.

Jules Carrell:

What are the kind of issues that you think retailers are seeing right now, and things that maybe MACH is trying to address? Although we’ll move to that in a second. But from your perspective, what do you think is happening?

Rory Dennis:

Crazy things happening out there, all right. You’ll hear, obviously, the pandemic has drove so many businesses overnight from, maybe, 70, 30 physical, electronic, to 100% E-commerce businesses, overnight.

Jules Carrell:

Right. Right.

Rory Dennis:

And one of the huge problems, of course, is that a lot of businesses were not ready for this. They didn’t have the teams, they didn’t have the technical capability, didn’t have the ability to quickly grow to being a 100% E-commerce focused business.

Rory Dennis:

So that was a challenge, probably the biggest one we’ve seen in two years.

Rory Dennis:

But there are other challenges out there for retailers. Probably one that we see the most is that the customer journey has completely dissected from where it was. It used to be a kind of linear journey that you’d put some marketing into channel, it would bring you to a prebuilt website, and you’d follow some kind of [inaudible 00:04:44] journey to your endpoint, which was a transaction. That has completely come apart.

Jules Carrell:

Right.

Rory Dennis:

So the new digital journey is, starts anywhere and continues anywhere. So that channel disruption that the retailer is facing, the fight for traffic, the fight for attention, the diversification of channels in which you get your engagement in, this is a huge problem.

Jules Carrell:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, certainly in my job where, as I say, I’m speaking to people with stores quite a lot of the time. And stores are coming back online. People are starting to go back to the stores and thinking, well, hold on, we need different types of solutions in these stores.

Jules Carrell:

But also, mainly what we’re seeing is that people recognize they need a different way of working with driving solutions to those stores. They see that they’ve been able to bring on these fantastic things in their online space, different services, individual, best of breed products, even.

Jules Carrell:

Being able to bring that into the online space and thinking, well, hold on, how can we actually drive that to our stores? And not only that, how can I have a kind of culture in my business where I can continually do that, so things can continue to be adopted?

Jules Carrell:

I’d say that’s probably the biggest common denominator I’ve seen, whether it’s 100 store chains in Europe, whether it’s 1000 store chains in Asia. Whether it’s grocery, whether it’s department stores, whether it’s fashion, whatever.

Jules Carrell:

I think, from my perspective, what we’re seeing is that the empowerment of these businesses to drive these things much faster, much [inaudible 00:06:02], is probably the biggest challenge, and probably the biggest thing that’s underpinning how they’re going to take on those challenges in the future.

Rory Dennis:

Well, it is that, of course, it’s the need for speed. It’s called MACH for a reason, right?

Jules Carrell:

Right.

Rory Dennis:

It’s MACH… The need for speed.

Jules Carrell:

Not just a digital product, right?

Rory Dennis:

And that’s what we’re trying to promise is that there’s a new world, you can do things quickly. You can test and fail, you can test and be successful. You can bring new things to market, it doesn’t have to involve the entire organization.

Rory Dennis:

You do quick agile initiatives and work in a different way. I guess that’s what we’re saying is the solution.

Jules Carrell:

I think, also, we can’t ignore the sort of, what you may say, macro or exogenous shocks out there. I know that it’s definitely the case in the U.K., probably well publicized, but I hear it’s the same in the U.S. Shortage of staff, supply chain disruption, the microchip shortage and stuff like that. That’s creating disruption for retailers. That’s making it difficult to support journeys and to support things in stores.

Jules Carrell:

And of course they’ve got to be reactive to that, right? And come up with solutions to these types of problems.

Rory Dennis:

Yeah. I think that’s what we’re seeing in the… So in our traditional setting, if you take a traditional retailer, a digital retailer, they’re now making smaller, diverse teams, they’re tackling discrete initiatives that they want to achieve.

Rory Dennis:

If they want to do that, they just have to configure their teams in different ways. And that’s the kind of realization that we’re seeing out there.

Jules Carrell:

Cool. So we believe MACH is the answer.

Rory Dennis:

We believe MACH is the answer.

Jules Carrell:

One of the answers-

Rory Dennis:

One of the answers.

Jules Carrell:

Sure, sure.

Rory Dennis:

Change of management, organizational restructure.

Jules Carrell:

I think that’s cool. Yeah.

Rory Dennis:

Truly being digital first and thinking digital first. Those are things that if you’re not willing to do those things, no technology is going to help you.

Jules Carrell:

Sure.

Rory Dennis:

You just have to change your mindset to modern approaches. If you do that and you’re willing to go on that path, then this market reliance and this MACH tech stack will really help you.

Jules Carrell:

Yeah, absolutely. And that’s one thing… We signed a customer in October, they’re a Swedish customer. And that was all about them actually reorganizing. And it does take that restructure in order to make things work. You can’t take old teams, you can’t take old structures, even old skills into this new world.

Jules Carrell:

I know we’re going to talk a bit about it at the end, but you how have you seen that work well, and sort of fail in the past?

Rory Dennis:

Well, I think one of the big things we saw, if you go back four or five years ago, there was a shift to get a chief digital officer into the business. But then the chief digital officer didn’t really have any power. It was a hire that companies thought, oh, we should have a chief digital officer because we’re beginning to think digitally first. And there was a two year period where no one really knew what the chief digital officer did.

Rory Dennis:

But I think what’s happened now is this chief digital officer is back, but empowered. So that empowerment is coming from the C-suite, and they’re saying, “Look, if we really want to be digital, be native in digital first, we need to structure teams in these new ways. We need to use agile methodologies. We need to do more of the new stuff, less of the old stuff, and just change our core working model.”

Rory Dennis:

So I think the biggest thing I’ve seen is the empowerment of digital teams, where before they might have been pushed off to the side, or not the main event.

Jules Carrell:

And how have you seen the effectiveness of these teams affected by even things like the pandemic, and remote working and all that sort of stuff? Has that helped, or has it inhibited? Because, obviously, it’s a software company. In Enactor, we’re always thinking, well, how can we have our teams better collaborate? And often it’s remote, but often a lot of things is in-person.

Jules Carrell:

How do you find the balance? And do you think those people who have maybe just gone on that journey of bringing more things in-house and doing more things themselves, they’re now all of a sudden thinking, Christ, I’m not really a software company, but now I’m doing more things myself, and all of a sudden I’ve got to try and come up with some challenges of structuring that. How’s that gone, do you think?

Jules Carrell:

I know we’re going off a tangent, but I wanted to hear your opinion on this.

Rory Dennis:

Everyone’s different. I mean, I think even the people working in teams, some people are more comfortable working remotely, others aren’t. But if you’re in charge of that team, you have to understand, or pick up on the people who like to work remotely and who don’t. Do they have the tools? Do they have the… You have a hybrid meeting, are people able to hear you?

Rory Dennis:

So it’s for each manager to have to work out, can we actually work in this way?

Jules Carrell:

And I know, clearly in the store space we were disrupted, but in the online and the E-comm space, I mean, for those guys who maybe had already gone down their MACH journey and got their structures in place, and had everything structured well, was the demand for change accelerating? Presumably, yes, right? Presumably-

Rory Dennis:

Yeah. 100%. But it’s the demand for change or the need for change, right? Business models were outdated. People were getting usurped by new D2C businesses. Because of technology, barriers to entry fall, you can get things moving much more quickly.

Rory Dennis:

So, it all kind of came to a head, it was coming to a head anyway. And then I think that the COVID era had just accelerated the whole thing.

Jules Carrell:

No, it’s definitely interesting in sort of an [inaudible 00:11:30] space and our client base, in terms of how we can bring those MACH principles, but into the store environment. Because the store environment does create a set of really unique challenges in terms of how we drive applications which are generally still relevant, and bring in new innovations and new components in kind of a MACH way.

Jules Carrell:

It is a different type of challenge than online, right? I mean-

Rory Dennis:

It is. I just did my first checkout. We had a mobile checkout, or walk out checkout at the airport on Friday. Just sensors in the ceiling. So walk in, walk out with my products. That’s where we’re headed.

Jules Carrell:

Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. That sort of frictionless checkout. And we’re constantly thinking, how can we use the MACH principles to accelerate that checkout experience if it’s not going to be for all retailers, it’s not going to be for, necessarily, furniture maybe, or for certain types of format? But at the same time, you still want to remove that friction. You still want to drive the right kind of experience for a retailer.

Rory Dennis:

Yeah. If you make it right and you make it usable for people, then they’ll adopt it.

Jules Carrell:

Absolutely.

Rory Dennis:

That’s it.

Jules Carrell:

Absolutely.

Jules Carrell:

So, yeah, that’s the kind of thing that we’ve really been looking for, trying to enable new business models which allows the retailer to add those features and functions, but into the store world.

Jules Carrell:

And actually, you might have thought, originally, that maybe the MACH principles might have only been useful in that E-commerce world, but actually we think that we’re genuinely seeing all of the real power of that in-store as well.

Jules Carrell:

And it’s going to have just as much relevance in the store space, and that still billions and trillions and trillions of all kind of retail transactions are taking place in-store.

Jules Carrell:

So we want to try and really drive those principles of in-store, by, for example, allowing retailers to deploy their own react components, something we’re doing with our customers, onto point of sale and onto point of sale applications, so that they can continually evolve part of that application with their own web development.

Jules Carrell:

And that’s purely based on MACH principles, based on driving lightweight, front-end applications and using APIs that either we provide or other people provide. And that’s how we’re starting to get that tempo, or that kind of cadence, that word that we use at MACH, jokingly, sometimes, on the front-end. Yeah.

Jules Carrell:

And we generally believe that is the future to drive functionality into complex store environments. It’s pretty cool.

Rory Dennis:

What he said.

Jules Carrell:

Yeah. But is MACH architecture always right? And how would you know? What are the markers around being right for your business, do you think?

Rory Dennis:

Yeah, definitely not always right. No. It’s about a maturity model, really. Is your business capable of adopting this? And you have to ask yourself that. People will help you with that. Vendors will help you with that, agencies will help you with that, or your own internal teams. Are we ready for it? It is an undertaking.

Jules Carrell:

Sure.

Rory Dennis:

It’s not a magic sponge you can just wash over and adopt it. But if you answer yourself honestly, if you’re mature enough to take it on, yeah, definitely go for it. But it’s not for everyone, and it has to be approached in the right way.

Jules Carrell:

Presumably, I mean, and I think one thing that we’ve seen is that, if you’ve got a whole lot of monolithic applications in your world, you really can’t go from zero to fully MACH everywhere at once, right?

Rory Dennis:

No. No. No.

Jules Carrell:

That’s just not a reasonable response-

Rory Dennis:

Yeah. And I think that era of big drop is over as well, a big cutover. It’s just discrete projects. We take little pieces over time to get to where we’re going. And that’s the kind of new way.

Jules Carrell:

And as I say, that’s kind of what we’re seeing, and that means incremental training of certain teams, and bringing certain skills to the organization as well. And maybe realizing that this could be a two, three, four year thing to get through from A to B, or even to A to Z, but you’ve got to hold those things in the middle, right?

Rory Dennis:

Well, I think it would just be continuous. And that’s the change that you’re making-

Jules Carrell:

That’s true. Yeah.

Rory Dennis:

It’s just continuous, continuous, continuous. We’re going to keep improving week on, week on, week on, week on, week on. That’s the new model.

Jules Carrell:

So how does a retailer get started? Who do they contact? Do they contact the E to X guys, and they pipe all together, get consulting? Do they reach out to vendors? Do they drive things internally-

Rory Dennis:

Great question-

Jules Carrell:

How do things go?

Rory Dennis:

What we’re trying to do on the Alliance is to have a resource center so that, A, people can educate themselves about what MACH is offering, B, they can find connections to the companies that are involved. There are articles, there is a podcast and there are brochures there. There are case studies that you can read.

Rory Dennis:

A core part of the MACH alliance is about having ambassadors, and the ambassadors on the MACH Alliance are non vendors. They’re all practitioners who’ve deployed MACH principles into their business.

Rory Dennis:

So what we wanted to be able to do was to show, look, this is not you anymore, loads of successful outcomes and projects have happened using these technologies. And these people are here talking about them.

Rory Dennis:

So you can connect with an ambassador on there. You can get literature, and you can just-

Speaker  3:

We lost the [inaudible 00:16:32].

Rory Dennis:

We can connect you with the right folk.

Jules Carrell:

Cool. There you go.

Jules Carrell:

Thank you for joining us on our stand.

Rory Dennis:

Well, thanks for having me.

Jules Carrell:

Really appreciate it.

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