Global flower delivery company Florists' Transworld Delivery (FTD), which owns subsidiaries around the world including UK brand Interflora, has been around since 1910, when a group of retail florists across the USA decided to collaborate by fulfilling orders via telegram.
The world has come a long way since then however, and last year FTD began a radical transformation effort to better adapt to changing customer needs and halt a stock price that has been in free fall, from $36 in 2014 to just over $2 at the start of this year.
Jay Topper, chief digital officer at FTD, explained to attendees of the Dynatrace Perform conference last week in Las Vegas how the company was reliant on slow-moving - and sometime decades old - legacy technology up until January 2018, when change finally got underway.
"The company had ignored technology for a couple of decades," he said, "we decided to scrap everything and build anew - not just the ecommerce platform, but the ERP, the BI," he said.
This drive culminated in the launch of two new cloud platforms for the FTD and ProFlowers sites on the company's busiest day of the year: Mother's Day. It paid off - they recorded a 200 percent increase in conversion.
Where does Dynatrace fit in?
Monitoring software vendor Dynatrace too, was brought onboard rapidly with no proof of concepts, FTD simply launched the platform a few weeks before they went live.
Now, Topper told Computerworld UK, the company relies on Dynatrace for everything from application performance management (APM), to digital experience management and monitoring its core network and infrastructure.
"We monitor all of our microservices, all of our containers, all of our databases," he said. "We do code traceability and then all of the network side and the connectivity pieces between the different services and within the cloud."
Topper says the choice to launch Dynatrace and a collection of other microservices stemmed from the realisation, after months of intensive research, that it was actually cheaper to replace much of the company's old infrastructure. "Not only was it cheaper, but in addition to that we felt that the technology was at a point now - with microservices and some of the stack we chose, React on the front end and some other areas - that we could actually leapfrog the world," he says.
"In some cases, we're going from the worst ecommerce platforms I've ever been associated with, to the best one I've ever seen in the world."
The decision to select Dynatrace followed a frenzied period where they had just completed a sprint to select a cloud provider (Google Cloud Platform won out). "All this development we'd been doing for three months, we threw that up into Google's cloud," says Topper. "Then, monitoring came up and we knew we had to either use our existing monitoring or go new, so we did a bake-off for 30 days."
"There was no resistance; there was no emotions; we had scorecards, we did it all in several weeks," he says. The main competitors they looked at were AppDynamics and New Relic.
He said the alignment of the two companies in terms of vision and values synched it for Dynatrace. "I focus on culture and wether they understood what we were trying to do and how fast we were going," says Topper. "I was like: 'there's no proof-of-concepts here; throw it in a test environment, we're going live in 45 days with the second biggest holiday of the year. It has to work.' Everybody in the world talks about transformations; we really are doing a transformation."
He's unable to share figures, but says anecdotally that the all-important mean time to discovery metric had more than halved since. "It's much more real-time," says Topper. Conversion rate has improved too, he says.
He says the AI that is baked into Dynatrace is also working well, although he believes there are still some advances to be made.
Giving an example of a customer issue that Dynatrace helped solve, Topper says there was a problem with the 'add-to-cart' button on Mother's Day.
"Had it not been for Dynatrace, we might not have even known there was ever an issue," he remembers. "It was about 3 o'clock in the morning, we were talking to Australian support team and it was one of those things that could've just been broken for a year and we never would've known it."
The push for world-class technology and customer focus has influenced the entire business. "The whole company's changed," says Topper. "Really, it's not just technology. Marketing's going through a transformation; creative's going through a transformation; merchandising.
"We're all under one house, so it makes it easier to stimulate a culture of collaboration and being customer-first. We're all talking the same thing together, it's been incredible."