Case study: How Obelink builds a future-proof IT landscape

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Obelink from The Netherlands is a renowned company in the world of camping and outdoor. From the start as a small one-man business in 1959, Obelink now comprises a business of 65,000 m2 and a successful eCommerce website, with the widest range of outdoor in Europe. An extraordinary achievement, thanks to 50 years of business with vision. But how do you focus on a successful future with such a successful past? A future in which more and more depends on connected applications and the urgency to be flexible.

 

Future-proofing

Future-proofing was a reason for Obelink to switch to Magento. The modern architecture and API ensure that Magento can be modified modularly. When a component no longer meets future requirements, it can be replaced.

Moving to a new eCommerce platform also raised questions. Obelink wanted to go a step further than just renewing their eCommerce site. The transition to Magento offered the perfect opportunity to start with a clean slate. How do you connect this new eCommerce platform with the rest of the IT ecosystem? How can you make the entire landscape of applications modular? How are you prepared to connect with new applications and platforms?

 
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Starting point

These questions did not come out of the blue. Like many organisations, Obelink already had a complex setup of applications in use at the start of the project:

  • Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) via BlueRetail

  • Warehouse Management System (WMS) via RealtimeWMS

  • Point of Sale (POS) via RetailVista

  • Custom eCommerce website

 

Complexity

In addition, there was a desire to have the catalog management in a dedicated product information management (PIM) application. Obelink chose Akeneo for this purpose. This sounds somewhat manageable, but when you list which data these applications have to exchange with each other, the complexity becomes more tangible.

  • Product information from PIM to webshop, ERP and WMS

  • Product stock from WMS to ERP, from ERP to the webshop;

  • Price updates from PIM to the webshop, ERP and WMS;

  • Orders from webshop to ERP, from ERP to the WMS;

  • Customer data from webshop to ERP, from ERP to the webshop;

  • Package shipments from the WMS to the ERP, from the ERP to the webshop;

  • Savings cards and gift cards from ERP to WMS;

  • Savings card and gift card updates from ERP to webshop, from webshop to ERP.

… Where do you start, with such a large wish list?

 

Data structure

A piece of custom business logic is needed for every data stream. A full package of requirements regarding the processing and exchange of data:

  • Information must be exchanged, but at different intervals. Stock must be updated as quickly as possible. Enriched product data does not have to be constantly updated.

  • The required information is distributed across multiple applications. Data from different sources must therefore be retrieved and migrated.

  • Information must be adapted in multiple applications that in turn also exchange information. An "infinite loop" of data exchange must be prevented.

  • Data structures and fields must be converted so that another application can read them out. For example: from point-separated to comma-separated prices, from simple to configurable product and back, or adapting address structures to the requirements of the different applications.

  • Not every application can deliver data at any time.

… In one word: challenging!

 

Break through limitations

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It was clear to Obelink that the current landscape ran counter to its limits. Various applications were responsible for exchanging this important data, while none of these applications were really made for it. Every application "improvises"; with various scripts and adjustments, it does its best to exchange data with dependent applications. Consequences of this are:

  • It is difficult to gain insight into what the scripts and changes do every day. The functioning of an information exchange is a "black box". Is everything okay? We don't really know.

  • The direct dependency between applications ensures that a problem in application A can also block application B. For example: the cash register application cannot continue because the ERP cannot deliver the loyalty points.

  • The exchange is a tax on applications that are not intended for this.

  • Connecting to new applications requires more scripts and customisation. The web is becoming increasingly complex, more expensive, more dependent, opaque and overloaded.

Most organisations are in such a situation: a network of many applications where ad hoc connections are made. Understandably, keeping up with the times often requires pragmatic improvisation. But when you, like Obelink, start thinking about a robust IT landscape for the future, you have to go one step further. Data and information flows must become a first-class citizen.

 

Data centralised

With Magement we turn the previously explained situation upside down. Instead of applications that "add a bit of data" to data exchange, there will be a central hub dedicated to managing the data streams. A platform that has been developed to do this smartly and has specific tools for this on board. Well-known terms for this are iPaas, Data Integration PLatform or Enterprise Service Bus (ESB). With Magement, Obelink was able to organise the flow of data between applications as desired.

The organisation of data streams via Magement gives insights. But, centralising data flows on a dedicated platform offers more than just an overview:

  • Because applications are not directly dependent on each other, the whole is less prone to error. For example, cash register applications in the store can go offline. When they are 'up' again, Magement updates them with the required information.

  • Because applications are not responsible for exchange themselves, modular changes or additions can be made. Customer information also to a CRM? Switch to another ERP? Magement makes this possible.

  • Inventory requires more frequent updates than product attributes. These data streams are therefore configured separately to take this into account. Other applications do not have to think about this, and thus have maximum resources to perform their core tasks.

  • Where necessary, data streams can be merged within Magement. The business logic for correct merging and transformation is carried out within Magement, and the data is transferred to other applications in the landscape.

  • Magement’s dashboard provides 24/7 insight into the state and operation of data flows. No more black boxes; Immediate clarity about the state of products, orders and other critical data.

 
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Ready for the future

The new infrastructure is robust and flexible. Many of the essential data streams already run through the Magement platform. In the meantime, the landscape is increasingly connected and expanded. The way is paved to connect new platforms via Magement. It is this flexible adaptability of Magement that makes Obelink's IT landscape future-proof. Because whatever digital trends you look at: from chatbots to new social platforms and markets, from big data to social media to omni channel and Internet of Things, everything revolves around data. Everything starts with connecting your data and applications in a smart way with new applications.

In short: data is one of the most valuable assets of a modern company. It deserves a dedicated platform. Having the power to connect effectively with new platforms is a huge competitive advantage. Magement gives Obelink that possibility, so that we connect not only with today's applications, but also with the many that are yet to come.


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