The Journey to K3|imagine

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Three years ago, we set out on a mission to advance on the great work already being done through our own-IP products such as K3|fashion and K3|pebblestone. There were two things that we knew we wanted to achieve when we set out on this journey: leverage our existing customer base and create a solution that allowed us to write modern technology on established, or even old ERP systems. With this in mind, Andy (CTO) and Gaukur (R&D Director) sat down to identify what we could do to enable those who wanted to use new technology at an affordable price, on their existing setups.

When you choose an ERP system, you choose it for the long term

Gaukur’s background proved incredibly useful in the project. With his vast knowledge of ERP systems, his expertise was crucial to the success of this project. Understanding that the relationship between a customer and their ERP system isn’t a short-term was one of the main drivers for this project. With many customers have a plethora of systems all intertwined, making a change to one can have a knock-on effect to the entire ecosystem of a business – this is something known as monolithic architecture.

Naturally, this makes upgrades to technology an incredibly concerning topic, do businesses upgrade their entire system? Or stagger their upgrades to keep costs down but live with the out of date systems along the newest addition?

More often than not, it comes down to upgrading the entire system. Changing your ERP system completely is an expensive luxury for a businesses – but in terms of money and time. There are even cases where upgrades can take 3-4 years, and by the time the system has been updated – it’s outdated once again. So, businesses can find themselves in a constant game of ‘catch-up’ with their technology.

Always looking into the future

The challenge was to find a way to extend an ERP system, without actually touching it.

On March 2016, the team got together for a workshop focused on explored the possibilities of creating exactly this. It was clear that if they began development with current technologies, by the time they launched the system, like mentioned before, it’d be outdated before it’s even ready for production.

The rest of the year was spent researching newer and upcoming technologies, talking to companies like Microsoft and Netflix to see what the future of computing looked like to them. We wanted to choose something cutting edge that came with as small a risk as possible for the customer.

After a host of research with both end users and creators of software solutions, work on what would become K3|imagine began in November 2017, and by the first of April 2018, we had a very small working prototype. As the vision started to evolve into its own solution, the team realized the potential that was at their fingertips so decided that K3|imagine would be much more than just a retail system.

More than just a cloud native solution

What exactly is K3|imagine? Well, it is a cloud native solution, one which comes with many advantages.

The main advantage would be scalability. Having the same application for one, or many users as well as having it on any device, regardless of its operating system. The promise of the cloud is the scalability – with very low risk. You can experiment rapidly and implement in small steps. This is also the best way towards democratizing new technology, so it’s available for the big enterprises, but also for companies of any size.

However, K3|imagine is packed with a lot more benefits than that of just the cloud. Our Head of K3|imagine Technology, Matthew Warr, shared the highlights of the technology behind K3|imagine including the use of Dot Net Core, Angular, Kubernetes and Docker. One of the most powerful benefits of using Docker containers is that, because they are standardised units, you can replicate them instantly which can provide limitless scalability.

As mentioned earlier, most systems run as monolithic applications, which can lead to the over-load of one server, to distress the entire system. In order to prevent this – for example for a Black Friday Sale, or something out of the usual order of business – a scaling would have to be done manually, and the entire system would need to be scaled to adjust to the scenario, even if only one part of the system needs to be scaled. With K3|imagine, you can move at an agility that on-premise solutions simply can’t compete with! The scaling is all done automatically and in real time. Furthermore, through the technology available through the Kubernetes based on the number of requests or response time, it can load a replica and split the work between two Kubernetes. When there is a problem, it will either re-start or continually search for a solution, either way fixing the problem. Kubernetes is designed to always seek to recovery to its desired state. Data is not directly stored in the containers, if re-booted – it will be as if there was never a problem to begin with.

Bringing it all to life

When asked about how the team handled the change in skillset, Gaukur said, “At the time that we started developing with this scalable architecture, we didn’t recognize how much skill we would need in the early days. We underestimated how much experience we needed. Some of the technologies we were working with didn’t even exist yet, so we had to train our people to ensure we had the knowledge we needed in-house”

The team shared that the limitations and obstacles were not really a bother to them, as they found themselves working with exciting new technology, for a truly innovate and exciting project – and that’s what makes working at K3 Business Technologies fun for them.

Bringing K3|imagine to life was a process which involved all of our teams from across the business, with teams all over Europe having a part to play. The team in Denmark made up of the core retail suite functionality team, in Didcot (UK) a team for service delivery and a team working on the platform technology development, in Iceland the center of excellence and R&D, and more! Andy often compared the work-ethos similar to that of a start-up but within an existing business, with a team born in the cloud.

What to look forward to, with K3|imagine

A platform packed with opportunity, and as mentioned by Matt, one that is being continually improved. K3|imagine brings a way of working to customers that was not possible before, with plenty of value for money. A product that will help businesses innovate and stand above their competitors. As put by Andy, “K3|imagine will prepare customers to embrace whatever is to come their way, through the use of different UI experiments done with bots and augmented reality. K3|imagine is all about using technology to help the business grow, evolve and reach their limitless potential”.

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