169 superstores, three high street locations, and more than a hundred in-store coffee cafes are all part of the billion-dollar British home furnishings chain Dunelm. It is a significant home goods store in the nation and is listed on the LSE (London Stock Exchange).
Like many other physical stores, Dunelm has difficulties in addressing the needs of today’s tech-savvy customers with its outdated infrastructure. In 2017, the business began its journey toward digital transformation after thorough planning and execution. By October 2019, the entire platform had been completely rebuilt and redesigned to provide all of its customers with a faster digital experience in a more effective way.
October 2018: The Awakening Phase
Dunelm was still operating at this time on a rigid IBM WebSphere commerce platform. Even in terms of how Dunelm was set up at the time as teams, it didn’t really give them what they needed to proceed. Only a small portion of those teams concentrated on using Agile and Scrum, and they were having trouble implementing systemic change.
Stuart acknowledges that their codebase was flawed. Things were moving too slowly because of releases, and deployments took too lengthy. They might be able to release one every two to four weeks, if they were lucky. Production deployments took longer than two hours, while test deployments took one to two hours. And everything was done by hand. Taking everything into account, the quality standard was far above average, but they were just not releasing very frequently.
It was believed that only QAs handled quality. They were supposed to have laser-like focus and be on the lookout for bugs everywhere. This wasn’t a huge expectation, but from a monitoring standpoint, it wasn’t going so well. Customers and website visitors were reporting their own set of issues rather than the QA team finding and fixing them.
2019’s : The Initiation Phase
In 2019, Dunelm began preparing for its transition to a new architecture. To support it, they were moving toward API-driven architecture, Microservices, and cloud-based technology. After giving it some thought, they chose AWS serverless architecture. Since no one in the organisation had ever done this before, making the decision was simpler than actually putting it into practise. This was a little bit of a leap of faith, according to Stuart. Although it was a significant choice, Dunelm was willing to take a chance.
He proudly states that Dunelm, only after Nike, is currently the second-largest global customer of AWS serverless technology. This demonstrates that all of the preparation, money spent, innovations made, and team restructuring was totally worthwhile. To create an incredible front-end website, they had to completely rewrite everything in Node.JS and React. However, several of the key elements of their website, such as the basket checkout, were still in PHP.
They were able to launch the initial iteration of the updated dunelm.com platform in 2019. Despite the fact that a portion of the website was still using a vintage tech stack, this was the case. But a significant portion of the change came from this. The benefits outweighed the risks for Dunelm. It made it possible for the tech staff to start updating their customers more often. With the crew being so delivery-focused, they were now releasing on average 20 times each week.
The tech crew felt a feeling of semblance in the production environment, and problems were tolerated. However, Dunelm didn’t want its team to develop a poor habit of being careless, so they made the best use of Agile, Scrum, and Kanban. They divided into tribes and squads using the Spotify approach for scaling agile. The teams were split up into component-facing teams so they could concentrate on particular components.
Dunelm was changing quickly, but Stuart, the head of quality, thought it wasn’t happening quickly enough. Even though they were releasing 20 times per week, manual deployment and testing made their releases remain slow and laborious.
2020 : The Finality Phase
The Dunelm platform was developing quickly and gaining ground. The group was now exploring for methods to enhance their technology foundation. In April 2020, Dunelm and LambdaTest collaborated, marking a positive milestone (more about this later). Additionally, they worked along with Fastly and Datadog (from a monitoring viewpoint) (from a CDN perspective). All of these technologies have aided Dunelm in fortifying its digital transformation process and improving its platform.
The speed of change Dunelm aims to deliver has been supported by integrating these external tools. Everyone, from quality engineers to product managers, is much more in agreement with the expectations of their customers for product quality and delivery. They are currently releasing on some important pipelines up to 40 times per week and about 200 times per month. With some of them using Continuous Deployment and others using Continuous Delivery, the average production deployment time across their CI/CD pipeline is about 30 minutes.
Stuart continues by describing how the team has continued to work together and improve the quality despite differences in maturity. There was a moment when they began to see some cracks forming as a result of all the change. But they have persisted in their efforts to continuously bring about change. The entire Dunelm team has made care to periodically look back and consider how they may improve those areas rather than letting their guard down. The team as a whole now owns quality, which is the most remarkable paradigm shift around quality.
Current Dunelm Phase
1- Has a noticeably faster page load time on the website.
2- Can handle almost 150 percent more traffic when it is busy.
3- Has a platform-wide average speed improvement of over 472%.
4- Over 90% more speed has been added to the homepage.
5- Has improved security and the capacity to feature-flag new upgrades.