The next step for House of Fraser: win control of test automation
Prior to its major investment in its new E-commerce platform, starting in 2016, House of Fraser faced similar challenges to many other major retailers. The Chinese-owned company found that change was slow, partly because it did not have the in-house resources to maintain control of its own software development and quality assurance processes.
House of Fraser was too dependent on its external partners – major software integrators (SI) – and that was holding back the adoption of new technologies, in test automation in particular.
The build of the new E-commerce platform was a complex endeavour and there were multiple challenges. In addition to the new SI partner contracted for the website build, House of Fraser has another SI partner that looks after legacy elements in the end to end E-commerce process. So a number of project streams required shared-ownership.
“It was sometimes a painful process to get there,” Mason said. “During the first few months we weren’t always moving in the same direction and there was some nervousness. But you’ve got to hold your nerve.”
While it was delivered quickly and on time earlier this year, the new platform still leaves House of Fraser looking to make the big leap from manual to automated testing. That is now a priority for the IT team, said Mason. “A key lesson we learned from the process is that we should have made sure that our SI would leave us in a position to do a great deal more automated testing.”
“The base target we have now agreed is that we will move from close to zero to more than 50% automation of scripts over the next 12 months. We are using a new partner to help accelerate this and develop our in-house capability to do the rest by getting them to up-skill our team. E-commerce is the fastest growing part of our business and by taking back that control we will be managing that growth.”
One of the next major steps in House of Fraser’s digital transformation will be omni-channel retailing; engineering different sales channels to interact with their customers, both online and in-store. “At the moment those two channels don’t talk to each other,” said Mason. “We want to understand the customer and their shopping behaviour across all channels, so that when they come into a store, for example, we already know what they are interested in.” Work is underway on a new point-of-sale system that will be ready in autumn 2018.
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