Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Background to adopting ATG e-commerce platform

So many of you have written to me asking me for more information on the news that has picked ATG to provide their e-commerce software platform for our service.

First of all, you can read it here:

In a brief official announcement, Tesco and ATG have announced that "they have entered into a commercial agreement for ATG to provide Tesco its ecommerce
James McNulty, Tesco's head of group IT procurement, comments: "We are pleased to enter into a strategic partnership with ATG that will allow us to use this leading ecommerce solution in Tesco."

So what's going on?

Speaking as a 'founding father' of, for years we have differentiated ourselves from the competition by writing our own e-commerce software that fits in perfectly with our processes. We have no issue with the fact that for years this has work superbly well. We provide a great service to our customers and make a profit, what more can I say?

Competitors have tried to copy us but they have only seen the outside views of our software, such as the web site, the portable trolley computers used by our personal shoppers, and the handheld computer used by our drivers on which you sign for delivery. Their challenges have resulted from not understanding the many special algorithms that run deep below the visible surface that allow our staff to pick, pack and deliver efficiently.

However, recently we had to think about our business. What are we doing? Are we here to provide customers with a convenient home delivery service? Or are we a computer software company?

Completely: we're here to provide customers with a convenient home delivery service. Sure we write great software but wouldn't it be better to concentrate our IT staff on 'making the difference' rather than writing core systems?

ATG have been chosen because they have the e-commerce software that matches our core systems the closest. There were plenty of good competitors but with ATG we realised that we would have to re-develop our systems by the smallest amount and provide huge opportunities for growth and new ideas from our own business and IT staff going forward.

So we're about to lay off our own IT staff? Hands off! We in IT will be focussed on all the main business ideas that will make the difference. With the core already there, we can devote our people to designing and developing the 100+ pages of new business improvements and ideas that we want to pursue. For goodness sake, I am running 14 projects this year in R&D mode alone, let alone all the others that need developing!

If you think we've been successful when we've been writing core systems, imagine what we can do when we're freed from that job!

So where does Microsoft still fit in? As you may be aware our core systems have been written in Microsoft's .Net platform and we've have moved forward so very far this way. Microsoft will still continue to be our chosen partner for all the great experiences we are bringing - and wish to bring - the customer. They are fully aware of our decision and remain excited about the way we wish to use their technologies to provide a step-change in the customer experience (as I have illustrated in previous blog entries).

I'm also happy to say that excitement has come from many of our own developers - freed from the (shall I say) 'boring' core stuff, they will be able to concentrate on doing much more tech development to help customers and staff - and do it far more quickly. Yes I'll say it: once the ATG core is in place, our staff can do the 'sexy' stuff.

The has been some great analysis around this decision, by Richard Veryard of CBDI Forum.
take a look at:


  1. Hi Nick

    This is a great story, and nicely illustrates some of the things the CBDI Forum has been saying about service strategy.
    I've added some analysis on my blog.

  2. hi Nick,

    Thanks for your simplistic take on a rather complex decision.

    Would be very interested to hear how you guys have progress through this stuff.


  3. Nick,
    Glad to see that you have outsourced the core platform to a product vendor and focused on adding your differentiators on top of that.
    Whom are you using as an implementation partner?

  4. Hi Sudhir,

    We're using Infosys as our implementation partner. It just so happens that the Infosys office is not far from our own in Bangalore and we had been working with them on several other projects so this was a natural fit.

  5. Hi anonymous

    "Thanks for your simplistic take on a rather complex decision".

    Yes I wanted to distill out the essential summary facts around the decision which, as you say, was long and complex.

    It's also a psychological decision given that a an entire floor of our three-floor HQ building is devoted to IT. The argument that we are one-third a software development company is technically true but as a business we are a service company.

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. It's an interesting step, using ATG for Tesco Direct -- a classic e-commerce service. I’ll be interested to see how it goes; I hope it works well for the business. (I must admit, I would have loved to see this done with a UK company, but of course I do appreciate the international scope of this.)

    It's great that you're continuing to build on your in-house .Net technology, with ASP.Net for the grocery offering which of course has been so successful.

    I can't help but be hugely impressed by what Tesco has achieved online over the past decade, and by its continued success in the traditional bricks-and-mortar grocery business. It's a shining example of a British business. I even like to think of Tesco online as a local company as I'm born and bred in Hertfordshire, just a couple of junctions down the A414 from you guys. ;)

    I'm pretty excited about the company's expansion into online entertainment, btw!

    Good luck with the ATG project.

  12. Thanks for a great article, Nick. It will be time to think about usability again soon in that case! Now pure Javascript product finders / product selectors, fully configurable and customisable - a nice demo here:

    Best Regards

  13. One year on - it would be great to hear how the project is going.

    Has the project and ATG product set lived up to expectations?

  14. From 2009 to 2013 now, i would want to know how the collaboration with infosys went for ATG implementation and also if ATG being with Oracle made any difference.

  15. Would like to know how the process went and if ATG is still being used...


As this blog grows in readership - and because it carries the Tesco brand - I have had to become more careful about the sort of comments that are acceptable. The good news is that I'm a champion of free speech so please be as praising or as critical as you wish! The only comments I DON'T allow through are:

1. Comments which criticise an individual other than myself, or are critical of an organisation other than Tesco. This is simply because they cannot defend themselves so is unfair and possibly libellous. Comments about some aspect of Tesco being better/worse than another equivalent organisation are allowed as long as you start by saying "in my personal opinion.." or "I think that...". ... followed by a "...because.." and some reasoned argument.

2. Comments which are totally unrelated to the context of the original article. If I have written about a mobile app and you start complaining about the price of potatoes then your comment isn't going stay for long!

3. Advertising / web links / spam.

4. Insulting / obscene messages.

Ok, rules done - now it's your go: