“If you talk about change and your spending hasn’t changed, then you aren’t changing.” – Frank Blake, former CEO of The Home Depot
June 1, 2016 is the official birthday of Aptos, according to CEO Noel Goggin. This makes Aptos a startup, right? However, it is hard to think of a company with 600 customers and a 1,000 brands as a startup.
And yet, in many ways Aptos is like a startup, especially in its disruptive approach to engaging customers differently, a tag line Aptos has prominently adopted.
At last week’s user conference in Las Vegas, Goggin highlighted the “veneer of unified commerce” that exists in retail. This veneer refers to an appearance of unified commerce on the surface but when the “omnichannel” curtain is pulled back you find an aging mash up servers, databases, code bases, and integration schemes.
In an admission of transparency, a hallmark of Aptos and its CEO, Goggin notes that Aptos also needs to do some work behind its curtain, as do virtually all other retail technology vendors. Fortunately for Aptos, this work is well underway and ready for prime time.
Aptos One Platform
“We need to unravel legacy technology. There is so much legacy technology in retail that it is time to start over.” – Noel Goggin
Retailers have spent many years and millions of dollars building up their on-premise tech stacks, which is often referred to as legacy technology. Many elements of infrastructure, databases, hardware, middleware and software have evolved over time and each new technology has been bolted onto existing tech stacks using a variety of methods. Another name frequently used for this kind of legacy mash up is “spaghetti architecture.”
Now, however, a profound shift to the cloud is happening. The shift is threatening to disrupt the long-standing, bolt-on method of legacy tech stacks. Smart CIOs in the process of making long-range plans have begun looking beyond software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud applications. They are looking at platform-as-a-service (PaaS) models. Instead of deploying one application at a time in the cloud, PaaS can act as a layer that supports extensible suites of applications – some hosted externally, some hosted internally, and some shared.
The Aptos One platform is, according to Goggin, “a platform that supports one set of universal capabilities at any touch point. It is cloud native. It is native to omnichannel. It is a platform for integrated omnichannel solutions in the cloud, and it is ready today.”
While this is a major step forward for Aptos, it does not mean the platform is fully built out. “We are building out the richness and breadth of the services,” says Goggin. “We will start with commerce. Inventory is core and linkage into PLM and loyalty and CRM. We are accelerating order management and also unraveling our own merchandising solutions.”
From a technology perspective, the Aptos One platform has been “designed to leverage the public cloud and be agnostic, having started out on AWS and Azure but expanding from there,” said Goggin.
Here are some other key highlights about the Aptos One platform:
- The Paper Source is a pilot partner using the platform in its stores.
- The Aptos Platform was built from ground zero up as cloud native.
- It is also built from a mobile-first approach so that it is well suited for use in store and out of store, online or off line.
- It is built with well defined, standard-based APIs, as well as adapters for traditional applications.
- Retailers can use Aptos micro-services or build their own micro-services on top of the platform.
- Partners can also build micro-services on the platform.
The Aptos Way
With the launch of the Aptos One platform, it seems appropriate to consider Aptos as growing one step beyond its startup phase, even though it is only three years old. In its next phase of maturation, Aptos plans to count on the strength of its “pioneering spirit, sense of community, and authenticity,” says Goggin, referring to what he calls the Aptos Way. “This is our enduring differentiator in the marketplace. Our strength is not just in the software we are building, but in the people we have in our organization.”
That said, Aptos will also have to count on the successful roll out and continuing development of the Aptos One platform, as well as the unraveling of legacy technology from within its many retail clients and from within its own four walls. In other words, the transformation journey so often recommended to retailers as a way to ensure a successful future must also occur within Aptos.
“You can say it, but the magic is in the doing,” observed the conferences keynote presenter, Frank Blake, former chairman and CEO of The Home Depot.
Blake is an inspiring speaker. He has been a player on retail’s biggest stage for a long time and led The Home Depot through a massive turnaround, a feat that placed the retail giant at a pinnacle of success measured by any yardstick.
Blake’s message fit well into the Aptos Way message as articulated by Goggin and other Aptos executives. The inspiring stories Blake told focused on solving a clash of cultures at The Home Depot caused by the previous CEO, following a servant leadership philosophy where the CEO is at the bottom of a hierarchical pyramid rather than on top, and the power of “aggressive listening.”
Blake also said, “If you talk about change and your spending hasn’t changed, then you aren’t changing.”
Goggin pointed out that Amazon spends $22.6 billion on research and development, Home Depot spends $5.4 billion, and Walgreens spends $4.1 billion. Most companies cannot match these amounts to support their plans for “change,” but they must spend something on transformation otherwise it’s just “talk.”
According to Goggin, Aptos is accelerating its plan to support disruptive innovation with a 70% increase in the research and development budget for the Aptos One platform and the maturation of its software.
The word “journey” was used frequently at the Aptos conference. It was used in the context of a retailer’s journey out of the legacy tech-stack world and into the brave, new world of cloud-native transformation. It was also used to describe the Aptos journey out of its own legacy applications into the brave, new world of the Aptos One platform. In both cases, doors have opened and big steps forward have begun.