Re-architecting Emma's Technical Landscape

Emma is a sleep tech company that started as a direct-to-consumer mattress company and is now one of the biggest worldwide

Re-architecting Emma's Technical Landscape




Team extension

The Challenge

If you start like Emma did 5 years ago — as a startup — you are in constant ‘survival mode’. You design your IT systems with the tools and knowledge available to get the business running and growing. However, if your business remains successful, eventually you reach the next phase and become a ‘scale-up’. And now, all the decisions that made sense early as a startup come to haunt you as legacy and the technical or organizational debt you’ve deliberately built up.

In Late 2020, they were exactly at that stage: Business was thriving, yet software development was merely reacting, drowning in tickets, and becoming a bottleneck to business development. There were many reasons for that, organizational and processes are part of it but also the technical architecture and infrastructure were big factors. They used a legacy version 1 of Magento with many, many customized extensions developed.

Reviewing the status quo and anticipating Emma’s highly ambitious business goals, it became apparent that the current technical landscape would not suffice and simple, incremental improvement would not be enough to transform.

The Obstacle

They decided to take the top-down plus outside-in approach, i.e., looking at WHAT it is our business needs (outside-in) and designing the architecture before jumping to solutions (top-down). Additionally, they saw the need to develop into a product & tech organization with functioning product teams driving innovation instead of feature teams.

Coming from that, they set up a project team for re-platforming, comprised of our most senior internal engineers who have been running the business for years, and external senior experts. They wanted someone external to lead the transformation as they did not have the expertise in house and generally needed additional freelancers (architects, engineers, pms, etc) to implement this huge change

The Process

We first staffed the project lead for the project for a total of 21 months and later another product coach within 3 days for a total duration of 20 months. We set up the project team in multiple work streams covering different domains. In total there were around 55 tech people (engineers, designer, product managers) working on re-platforming out of which ~35 were external consultants, product managers, engineers & designers.

The Solution

We trained some internal team members into product managers and coached them along the way. Together with them we then analyzed & collected the current & future business requirements by talking with all users helped them to collect the business requirements.

We then define the technical landscape to support the requirements of the customers and the business. A modern & flexible (API first/headless, cloud-native, micro service based) architecture leveraging many proven SaaS tools commercetools, ContentStack, Pulpo WMS, etc. For the self-developed services, we chose modern tech stacks using VueJs and NuxtJs (typescript), with a developer-friendly CI/CD infrastructure all hosted in the cloud.

Then we build the first MVP of this tech setup. We picked a country with a limited feature set and limited customer base to limit the risk. We started with Colombia as the first pioneer country. After successfully launching the first country we created a rollout strategy & plan to bring the whole company (>30 countries) onto the new tech stack. A strategy that balances speed, risk & impact. Using multiple roll-out teams.

We rolled out the next 4 countries and since then handed over the reign to the internal team. We also build a striving product company & tech organization

Re-architecting Emma's Technical Landscape

The Impact

Without the re-platforming of Emma’s tech infrastructure the operation of the business would have broken down over the next months, or within a few years at the latest. Colance has been instrumental in preparing Emma for its future for the next 10-20 years.