Myer fail displays appalling IT, business incompetency

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myer

opinion The week-long outage of Myer’s website starkly displays the fact that the company and its outsourcing partner IBM had failed to properly develop and test their infrastructure or put in place the most basic disaster recovery and business continuity plan, as well as highlighting the incredible immaturity of online retailing in Australia.

If you are involved in IT infrastructure work at all, you will be aware that this field has very steadily evolved from something of an art back in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, to something much more akin to a precise, exacting and increasingly standardised science in 2014.

I am sure many of us remember the cowboy days of the ‘Wild West’ when it seemed only the personal skill of a handful of systems administrators, programmers and database experts could keep any major or minor IT system running on a sustainable basis at all — especially websites prone to traffic spikes. Many minor patch upgrades to operating systems or applications would knock services offline; tiny network routing problems unexpectedly became major headaches, and hard disks would fail on a regular basis and need to be physically replaced.

However, it’s safe to say that for most organisations, and for most important applications, those days are long gone.

The onset of virtualisation technologies, especially, has changed the game in terms of application uptime for almost every organisation. Did your application fail after a series of seemingly innocuous setting changes? Boot up an instance you copied five minutes ago, before you made those critical changes which took the live instance down. Has a physical server failed? No problem. Shift the instance onto another server. Instance needs a couple of extra CPUs and some more RAM? No worries. Re-configure and reboot. No problem. Hell, banks such as ING can even deploy whole new banking IT stacks in a matter of hours these days.

In 2014, many disaster recovery and business continuity strategies are built almost wholly on virtualisation. Most major organisations have at least two major datacentres, replicating data between each other continuously. If an earthquake takes out one, the other one goes live. This key concept of disaggregating applications and data from the hardware they run on has solved a billion billion headaches for IT professionals. Many consider VMware’s software manna from Heaven. It should be — it costs enough.

Versioning has also solved a heap of problems. No major change should be made to any major piece of code these days without versions being maintained for every step of the way. When something goes live, if it doesn’t work even after having been tested in practice, it is normally a cinch to roll back to the previous code and restart.

Cisco executives used to be fond of stating during the 2000’s that consistently, in their measurements of the uptime of their network routers, it was the human factor, not system errors, which caused almost all of the downtime. The minute a live human makes a change to a live system, so the saying went, up to a percentage point of annual uptime would be lost. I can’t quite remember the precise wording, but you get the picture: Machines work better by themselves. If humans get involved, they always eventually screw things up.

All of this systemisation and mechanisation of the IT process has caused many IT professionals to come to be relatively sanguine about the downtime of important systems. When every application or platform now comes with a giant “undo” button attached to roll back any problematic changes, life starts to feel a lot more predictable; the CEO isn’t breathing down your neck every few weeks because important systems are now much more stable. Hell, even Australia’s major banks have drastically cut down their number of Severity 1 incidents, an outcome which I think many of their IT staffers used to believe was an impossible dream.

It’s for precisely all of these reasons that your writer found the week-long outage of Myer’s online retailing site over the Christmas and New Year period so remarkable.

The fact that the website went down at all is hardly surprising. Australians are jumping on online retail with a massive passion right now. The combination of post-Christmas sales with that trend always places strains on such sites, and I’m sure many online retailers in Australia are locked into a cycle of regularly upgrading their web infrastructure to handle growing demand. Every website has its outages, and a few hours here or there, even when there is a great deal of money to be made, isn’t a huge deal.

But the fact that Myer’s website went down for a week is simply stunning.

If you read the dozens of online articles about the subject, there is very little technical detail available about why this happened or how. IBM has constrained itself to telling ZDNet that there was a “communication breakdown between Internet servers and a software application” (pre-school language if I ever saw it), while Myer itself has actually praised IBM’s behaviour during the crisis, telling the Sydney Morning Herald that Big Blue allocated a “critical situation team” to finding the “bug” which caused the issue.

Myer chief executive Bernie Brooks made the extraordinary statement that resolving the technical difficulties was not as simple as “running an automatic clean-up process on a personal computer, or turning a device off and on again”.

The problem for any competent IT team is … it damn well should have been.

In 2014, the technology underpinning public-facing websites is very standardised. The relationship between database servers, application servers, webservers, caching systems and the networks and physical servers they run on is very well understood. Over the past decade, the success of a million online retail sites, including very large ones, has meant that keeping such platforms up is very much the bread and butter of IT departments.

Reading between the lines, it appears that one component of Myer’s setup had buckled under the unexpected load of the Boxing Day sales, taking down the rest of the site’s interlinked systems in a graphic demonstration of the concept that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

But what is puzzling is why this problem kept Myer’s site offline for a week. One would have thought that the retailer would have been using a standardised setup that would have avoided such a headache; with components that had been extensively load-tested in production environments at other major sites. If the ‘bug’ had been recently introduced, Myer should have rolled back its platform to a prior version. If it was a problem of resourcing, Myer should have dialled up the virtual power available to each component. This isn’t rocket science, people — it’s basic IT practice. Bog boring.

In the worst case scenario, you might expect that Myer would have kept its website offline for a maximum of 24 hours. By that stage the Boxing Day load would have been drastically reduced, additional resources could have been deployed, and the ‘bug’ issue could have been eliminated. Certainly the retailer had extensive resources available to it — the extensive media coverage alone would have guaranteed that IBM would throw some of its top web experts at the issue, as it apparently did.

The fact that the outage was allowed to continue for a week, during Myer’s busiest annual period, indicates that what IBM’s crack team found was much more than a software bug. They must have found a nest of non-standard systems which lacked basic business continuity and disaster recovery functionality. Not just one issue, but many cascading issues. Not just a system which was failing under load, but a system which had never been comprehensively tested for the load that a major retailer like Myer could expect.

And probably, worst of all, a system with many links to legacy Myer infrastructure dating back decades. It only takes five minutes at the checkout counter of a traditonal retailer like Myer checking out their archaic point of sale equipment to know that such companies don’t like investing in their IT platforms. I should know. A decade ago I used to work as a systems administrator for David Jones.

The other aspect to this situation was how it dramatically highlighted the incredible immaturity of the online retailing scene in Australia.

In the US, online retailing is the absolute norm in many categories. Companies like Amazon have mastered the art of selling products online to such an extent that they now own whole spin-off companies which sell cloud computing platforms to others so that they can build their own mammoth websites.

The offhand comment by Myer chief executive Bernie Brookes during the website outage that Myer only made “less than one percent” of its annual sales from its website was extremely revealing. With the company’s annual revenues being about $2.8 billion, this would put Myer’s online sales at around $28 million.

Not only does this comment suggest that Myer was not overly discomforted by the fact that it would likely lose millions due to its post-Christmas outage, but it sent a huge signal to consumers that the retailer was not taking the online delivery mechanism seriously.

In many ways this is sheer business lunacy. Not only is the online retail category in Australia booming (consumer electronics retailer Kogan, for example, sold $1 million of stock in just one day on 31 July 2012), but taking orders online allows retailers such as Myer the ability to drastically cut costs out of their expensive retail outlets in prime locations. It doesn’t cost much to ship a new Van Heusen business shirt to a customer via Australia Post’s new specialised e-parcel delivery platform. I bet it costs a lot more to operate Myer’s menswear departments in-store.

Right now, Myer should be using its premium brand and its reputation for customer service to take tiny rivals like Kogan to town. Myer’s website should be a pillar of shining excellence, with a 100 percent uptime guarantee and a dazzling array of products in every category, delivered overnight on a crystal plate with complimentary caviar.

Instead, companies like Kogan are constantly eating Myer’s lunch. I remember regularly browing books, consumer electronics and clothes in Myer. Now I shop exclusively at the online stores of Amazon, Kogan, Apple or AusPCMarket and The Iconic. It’s quicker, easier and if I don’t like what I receive, I just send it back.

There is absolutely no doubt that online retail is the future. There is also absolutely no doubt that no major Australian corporation should allow a situation where its website — let alone one that also acted as a point of sale platform — to stay offline for more than a few hours.

Myer’s actions over the past week speak to deep technical incompetency within the organisation. It’s not clear to what degree its partner IBM is to blame, but I suggest Big Blue should take a close look in the mirror to determine what its part in the debacle was. But beyond that, the scenario also speaks further to the sheer ignorance which Myer’s business leadership has when it comes to the massively growing online retail sector.

Myer’s corporate jingle, which I can hear echoing in my well-trained gray matter right now due to the stellar efforts of the company’s marketing department, is that “Myer is my store”. Well, I can tell the company conclusively that there are thousands of Australians, perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands of Australians, who probably feel right now that that is no longer true, due to the events of last week. Myer doesn’t make products, after all — it just sells them. And what digital-savvy consumer wants to buy products through a company whose website is plainly closed for business?

Image credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer, Creative Commons

30 COMMENTS

  1. Having had experience over a decade ago with another major retailers online platform (which was closed down) it requires a major paradigm shift to operate in that world. Crazy stuff like increasing the prices of the top charting CDs are one example. I also remember being on call to babysit the Christmas Hamper ordering functions which needed to be rebooted every few hours or so.

  2. Interesting to note that in recent days, Myer have advertised for a “Test Analyst” and an “Oracle DBA”. Clearly changes are afoot internally in the aftermath.

  3. The wife smashed the online sales during the break, I do recall hearing some noises coming from the office about Myers website being down and screw you i’ll shop somewhere else.
    Guess they must have lost a lot of sales then.

  4. My mum told me the other day about her experience with Myer online. When Myer finally came back online she bought some shoes. When they arrived she opened the box to find 2 left shoes. She called them up and after about an hour they sorted something out. She had to pay for another pair and return the 2 lefts to a local store. They patched her through to the store with the shoes in stock so they could sort out shipping them to her. When they answered her she could hear them, but they could not hear her. They hung up and didn’t call back.

    She had to call them again and go through the same process, paying yet again. Really quite poor.

    With incompetency with their online store, quality control, IT systems and customer service. Myer is probably an online store to stay clear of for the foreseeable future, unless you think its worth the potential hassle.

    • If they told me I had to buy a second pair of shoes to fix THEIR mistake, I would bluntly complain, and then either:

      * Demand they fix it at THEIR expense.
      * Demand a full refund.
      * Complain to consumer affairs.

      That they asked her to buy another pair of shoes to fix the problem goes far beyond a technical problem – it’s just customer service ‘dickheadery’.

      • Another evolution of becoming a leader in the Online retail environment (maturity process) is understanding how Australian Consumer Law applies in the online world.

  5. While it is possible to find decent leadership in Australian business, you do have to scratch pretty hard to find it. What we are good at is deluding ourselves that mates networks, political affiliation and family connections aren’t extremely important to doing business in Australia (just ask Malcolm how it works).

    Unless you can stitch up the market with barriers to entry however, being dumb/lazy/ignorant can only go on for so long. So when you get a market that was previously stitched up through property deals that now has to compete with the lowest cost businesses, you get Myer. Won’t miss you when you’re gone – but unfortunately the same directors will end up in other companies being stupid all over again.

  6. Have you ever looked at the Myer online store? I have and I wouldn’t bother again. The online store lists a fraction of their stock and the search tools are just awful. The lack of sales via the website says a lot more for the website than for the internet sales channel. Last year I was attracted back to the store with online offer codes only to find that they wont work. Their “flagship” Bourke Street store is appalling from a customer service perspective. Christmas 2012 I stood at a counter will handfuls of goods worth hundred of dollars I wanted to purchase and had two staff ignore me for 15 mins until I gave up. Do you know how memorable it is to go from the elation of buying, to the rage of walking out the store to find something else? The fact I’ve actually tried to buy stuff at Myer online and over the counter and failed is extraordinary – they just don’t care about service or sales. Finally their “Myer One” loyalty program should be some sort of CRM system that knows me, but it doesn’t even realise I’m a man. It sends me the same offers for “fashions on the field” and other stuff I have no interest in whatsoever. I’ve not had one positive (or even neutral) interaction with Myer in 2-3 years. It’s sad to see Myer failing so badly.

  7. Whoever’s to blame, and given Bernie’s offhanded response, you can bet your bottom dollar, it’ll boil down to paying peanuts and getting moneys.

    • I don’t think Myer pays peanuts. IBM is not a cheap partner, and their systems are expensive. I think IBM engineers cost a lot more for a day than your typical digital agency ecommerce dev (at least in my time they did!).

      The top end of town (Myer, DJs etc) pay large agencies and top tier IT companies like Accenture/IBM etc to build their systems.

      This is what amazes me the most. They probably paid TOP dollar, and look at what they got? If they paid peanuts, well, then you could *nearly* understand…

  8. These are the same people who are *CONVINCED* that if only the Government would repeal the $1000 GST free threshold for foreign Internet sales we would all come running back to them to do our shopping again. I bet you they wont be mentioning this fiasco of their own making the next time they are lobbying the Government.

    • They have apparently ‘successfully’ lobbied the LNP Government – I read some weeks ago the government has confirmed they will be scrapping the threshold, despite it costing far more to administrate and enforce than they will make from the endeavour. It used to be a $250 threshold – it was increased because of the diminishing returns of administration and enforcement on low value goods.

      • That is interesting. I know they were holding some sort of inquiry but I wasn´t aware they had made any decision. I don´t suppose you have a link, please?

  9. I like where i work, the boss will throw whatever is necessary at the online presence to ensure it works, we have a set up that apparently exceeds any other business (be it a bank or much larger organisation than us) in the data centre that we use in Perth.

    When the system goes down, it is down for at most an hour because i check logfiles to see where the issue actually was.

    When we put a critical system in place (like invoicing), we get all our staff members to stay behind after 5pm and starting hammering the system with purchases to see how it will handle things.

    There’s not much in our system that is capable of breaking down. And i’m just 1 person working for the company, i am the sole developer, i am the sole keeper of the POS keys in regards to fixing what gets broken.

    It amazes me when there is a team of 20 or so developers for a business that take forever to fix an issue. But then, it all comes down to bureaucratic process that a lot of these business have too, thankfully i have none, the boss says what he wants, i make it happen, version 1 goes into live, if it breaks, it gets fixed, if it causes issues with data, they get fixed along with the program, total fix time, under 1hr.

  10. Interesting that IBM were also responsible for the Qld Health payroll system that also failed spectacularly and cost the Qld taxpayers millions of dollars to fix.

  11. Reality of Australian marketers/marketing and other areas too:
    Australia is a country that has lost out in many areas and will continue to do so due to 3 main reasons-innovation, technical skills and education (all way behind). Retail and manufacturing aren’t the only industries that have faced challenges due to these 3 reasons; other sectors too. Add the niche strategy that Australia has used for decades via agriculture, mining, etc and that would be the 4th failure-putting all its eggs into 1 basket for decades instead of using the diversification strategy.

    Let’s start with the tertiary education sector which few years back was Australia’s 3rd largest export sector (now 4th). How does it survive? Foreign students especially from China and India though lately South Americans, North Americans and Europeans too. How many Australians have a university qualification? Australia population represents 0.3% of the world population and just 25% of that have a university qualification. How many have a Masters qualification? Not many. Some to most firms in Australia consider Masters overqualified. Well, sad news for 90 to 99% of the businesses in Australia that represent small to medium sized ones – rest of the world have people who have either 2 Master qualifications or PhDs and professional certifications. Unless, good at entrepreneurship, not needed to study. Sadly, for Australia, that has gone behind especially when it’s niche strategy also got busted because Australia has been behind with innovations and technologies since World War 2. Also, how many foreign exchange students from Australia land in Asia? Not many compared to ones from US, Canada, UK, etc. So, those countries are learning about Asian cultures where as most Australian foreign students land in US, UK, etc (psychically close countries instead of the psychically distant countries as well). US, UK universities are still the best in the world and most are cheaper than the Australian ones nowadays as Australia’s become expensive for that so the universities that are on the same level as Australia are now the challengers. Which are those countries? Canada, Germany, Japan, Singapore, China (mainland and HK), etc. Addition to those, there are the blended learning (online) and MOOCs that are challenging the educational landscape, starting from primary education right unto tertiary one.

    Where is Australia for innovations and technologies? The country doesn’t encourage much of both including funding which is the reason why Australian startups end up in USA. Australia gets 75% of its GDP through services as it’s a developed nation though it has come out with some innovations but not that many compared to the rest of the world even with the basic innovations. Others have gone for coopetition like Apple,Samsung,Google,etc;Netflix and Amazon;Tesla and various automobile firms and so many others where rivals don’t just work together but innovate as well. Australia has zilch there. Then there is the blue ocean strategy as well where not only low cost innovations occur but a whole new market segment comes up. Rest of the world so many while Australia hardly any. . Even New Zealand is above Australia when it comes to innovation.

    Taking marketing technology/digital marketing as the industry, here are some weaknesses including reasons why Australia has failed (they’re all genuine articles that have come up in the last few weeks to couple of months):
    In Australia, what would be the reality for Marketing Technology or Digital Marketing? The answer to that question could be seen from a number of genuine sources including articles ranging from the last few weeks to about a year, some of which are (same for other sectors too and not just marketers as shown under 7th and other points):
    1) Marketer study warns of skills shortages in digital marketing in Australia
    2) Two-thirds of Aus marketers ‘aren’t effective at digital’
    3) Aussie brands failing to embrace digital real-time customer service
    4) Lack of skills a threat to projects
    5) Is Australia That Far Behind in the Digital Market?
    6) Big data policies lacking in Australian and New Zealand organisations: survey
    7) Australian firms lagging behind
    8 ) Australian retailers are digital-relationship laggards: Capgemini & Sydney University study reveals
    9) Australian SMEs not meeting consumers on social media: statistics from Yellow Pages report
    10) PayPal: Only 14 Percent of Australian SMEs Are Taking Advantage of Online
    11) Latest ABS statistics: many Australian businesses still not engaging online
    12) Australian businesses struggling with cross-channel marketing
    13) Australian manufacturers are failing to invest in productivity raising IT: study
    14) Average of 44 small businesses closing their doors each day, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data
    15) Experts say Australian business being left behind
    16) Small Business Left Behind As Australian Business Confidence Lifts: NAB
    17) Australian small businesses are late to the online marketing party
    18) Too little, too late: Is Australia losing the online retail game?

    Some of the reasons for the above could be seen from the following:
    1) Can Australia’s education system meet demand for digital marketers? (Even top universities of Australia are way behind compared to counterparts from US, UK, Canada, etc where students can take subjects from different schools like Arts, Engineering, Business, etc. Additionally, some Australian universities still teach traditional subjects at universities [The two university comparison examples can be University of Sydney via Commerce degree and WUSTL of US both via Marketing major]).
    2) Aussie women lag behind men in numeracy skills
    3) Aussies spend big on technology, but don’t know how to use it
    4) Small Business Nation 2013 – Around 90 to 99% of the businesses in Australia are small to medium sized ones though most are neither innovative nor have much of technology (not tech savvy)
    5) Australia is Well Behind Other OECD Countries in Pre-School Education
    6) University rankings show Asian rise and Australian slip
    7) Australian students slipping behind in maths, reading: OECD report
    8 ) If Australia Could Get Over Its ‘Fear of Failure’ Tech Startup Firms Could Contribute $109B to Economy by 2033, Create 540,000 New Jobs – Google Study
    9) Australia is no innovation leader: GE (connected to Australia lifts ranking in Global Innovation Index, but still lags behind New Zealand).
    10) Australia at risk of squandering expat expertise as brain drain hits reverse
    11) Is Australia Less Tech-Savvy than We Thought?

    (More of the marketing weaknesses in last 1 year and a bit on the logistics and supply chain in relation to Australia can be found under http://loveroftechnologyandbusiness.blogspot.com.au/2013/12/reality-of-australian-marketers-and.html . It also has the components or landscapes of Marketing Technology and Digital Marketing). As mentioned under that, Brand valuation could be seen via BrandZ of WPP as well as Interbrand of Omnicom and brandirectory.com that is part of Brand Finance. The top brand from Australia would be Woolworths ranked in the 100s way behind the ones from US, UK, Canada, India, China, etc. Woolworths and Coles duopoly in the supermarket sector though IGA, Aldi and Costco are 3 other players there ( https://theconversation.com/factcheck-is-our-grocery-market-one-of-the-most-concentrated-in-the-world-16520). Zara as well as others are knocking DJ and Myer ( http://www.fool.com.au/2013/08/14/clothing-retailers-be-afraid-very-afraid/ ). All of them have failed with innovation and technology (just like most Australian industrial sector) which can be seen under http://www.afr.com/p/australian_retailers_stumped_by_meuCL7di6LxiZG4VotdITL .

    US at least did something with 3D and 4D printing-part of disruptive innovation that could challenge emerging and developing nations;what has Australia come out with.US manufacturing also fell into recession 30 years back but came out 10 years later with innovation-Intel is 1 proof of that and that video is ‘Made in USA’ under America Revealed under PBS.org. Innovation took over 30 years back from customer centric approach started by P&G,IBM,etc that went on to Google,FB,etc and that’s world’s top firms and ones that survive depend on innovation and technologies. Also, if going to say robotics, well most jobs that exist today won’t exist in 10 years time thanks to technologies-need to adapt and change. China, Japan, etc have robot chefs. Self service revolution has existed for more than a century-ATMs, kiosks at airports, etc as well as retail sector are proof of that+3D and 4D printing +blended learning that has gone online as well as MOOCs which includes Coursera and Udacity are changing educational landscape from primary to tertiary education [US,UK and Australian top unis have their courses there and it can be done for free without certificates but if want certificates, they are cheaper than traditional education though not all courses are under the MOOCs] and so on including hybrid trade shows. DVD rentals are backward technologies that rest of the world came up with a decade or 2 ago as there are Netflix, Hulu,etc.Australia’s way behind in technology and innovations-both marketing and supply chain + also transportation as it’s got on to mobile payments which rest of the developed world have been on for about a decade-some of the emerging nations have been on it for 5 to 10 years also.

    • There are a couple of huge gaps in technology training in Australia caused by some gov decisions. One of the largest trainers of engineers of specialties in Australia was sold off and since sale has killed off its training program and had a stagnating effect on entire section of the economy(I will let you guess who this is). The largest training training organization in Australia has rapidly been privatizing out function that previously had training programs attached. While both these activities had positive gains for the short term budget position, Howard built a surplus on one and the other has helped reduce the defense budget, it has long term ramification for the overall economy. You know long have a surplus of skilled workers in a variety of fields which creates skill shortages. When you have skill shortages these worker have the option of chasing higher wages in established industries that desperately need their skills. Without this skill shortage you would have a much larger quantity of skilled people willing to take a punt on something new and innovative.

  12. How long have they been outsourced to IBM? Ten years? More perhaps.

    Remember the job of the outsourcer is to bid low and win the work at first, then strip the costs and service out over as many years a possible with the smallest possible investment in upgrading and maintaining the infrastructure.

    During the last few years of the ten year outsourcing deal, IBM stand there (and this is a quote from a Global Services contract negotiator) “with a net, scooping up the money that falls out of the client…”

    Not much wonder it took a week to fix – they are probably running ten year old kit, that was architechted in first generation web technologies and IBM have never updated it…

    Oh, and I don’t know what companies the author is referring to as having all this stuff running so smoothly and virtualised with automatic failover to spare datacentres etc etc, but in my experience most companies are still struggling to get even close to that IT nirvana, and are usually stuck with a hodge-podge of technologies, little in the way of real enterprise strategy, and outages are far to common. And I work in big, transactional, enterprise environments (almost 30 years now).

    Mike

  13. The term I would use is: Rabbits in headlights.

    Not only does it shine a light on the technical problem, but gives us a view into the blindingly short term / head in the sand thinking of the Myer board and management team.

    Mr Brookes talks about digital only making up 1% ($28million) of it’s $2.8b revenues, however, he (and the Myer board) clearly misses the point that the opportunity cost of not investing properly in its digital operations 5yrs ago is that the digital revenues could have been more like 5-10% (up to $280m) of overall revenues in FY14. All without cannibalising the in-store revenues. Essentially sucking money out of the digital mkt and away from other online retailers plus getting better yields from the digital revenue.

    Myer basically gambled away any brand leverage it had with its younger audience long before the Myer-online-fail over the holidays. The overall user-experience of the Myer online store is second rate at best. It has been like this for years. If Myer’s digital operations were seen as innovative by the general consumer base, more people would have shopped @ Myer instead of seeking out bargains via the major overseas brands (ASOS, Amazon, etc…) or via the new long tail of digital only storefronts that now make up the new e-High-Streets in Australia.

    Myer and DJ’s basically thumbed their noses at Australian consumers years ago. Personally, I haven’t shopped at either store in years. Neither has my wife. She buys everything (and I mean everything) online. I see Myer & DJ’s as overpriced, underwhelming, over-hyped dinosaurs from a former generation. The news over the holidays was hardly surprising and really was just a matter of time before it happened.

    Great article Renai.

  14. These are the same people (like Uncle Harvey) that are claiming overseas sales are murdering their business.

    It’s not that overseas businesses are taking local sales. It’s that local businesses are incapable of making them to begin with.

    The market exists and will spend, regardless of whether local businesses choose to engage or not; you can’t blame overseas sellers, for responding to supply said market.

    When you can order something from a US store, and have it delivered before an Australian one can even fulfil the order to begin with; there’s no excuse. :)

    • I have a rule or two about this, if I shop at a B&M Store and the staff are helpful, knowledgeable and actually help me make the decision with clear information (i,e, not try and bitch-pump me), I purchase there – and I have openly yelled in the store at Bitch-Pumpers. I spent $5k with JB HIFI in the past 12 months because they helped me with information beyond the research I had done myself. The other rule is if I want it there and then and they have it in stock, I buy.

      HN shit me blue when they want me to pay the “bought in Aus tax” AND wait 6 weeks for delivery. Taking the piss!

  15. Myer, David Jones, Coles Online, The Good Guys, and Jay Jay’s online stores all use IBM’s WebSphere Commerce (WCS) platform with solutions implemented by IBM themselves.
    The code for the WCS platform is horrific and terribly outdated, I know I’ve worked on it first hand. If you don’t believe me (and you have even a basic understanding of web application development) view the HTML source code for any of the above sites and what you’ll find is an absolute abomination of inline JavaScript and hilarious developer comments still in the production code – and no sign whatsover of any modern web application development practices.

    The maintenance of these sites is largely off-shored to IBM teams in India who have a very basic understand of the WCS product and when things go wrong, lack the deep technical knowledge to work through the spaghetti code and find the problem.
    The issues with the Myer site were troubleshooted unsuccessfully (and unsurprisingly) for days by a team in India before a local Australian resource with considerable talent resolved the issue which I know was a largely trivial bug that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.
    From my own experience, the idea that IBM had a “crack team” of experts looking into this issue is laughable. It would have been a week of finger pointing, lengthy conference calls with people in India and various managers jumping up and down.
    But I guess it works in IBM’s favour, sell retailers a cumbersome and flaky e-commerce stack and then hold them to ransom to maintain it and fix problems.

  16. The lament about Australian online websites is not well grounded. There are many great websites that handle massive volumes of sales and content and perform as expected. It is interesting that most of the failures chronicled in the press are with big IT providers who are overseas focussed with Australia being a very small part of their revenue. If you want local focus look to the better smaller providers and success can follow and disaster be avoided.

  17. This smells a lot like JC Penny 10 years ago AND we all know where JCP is now. Online retailing is here to stay and IS NOT the future it is the present. Time to get with the times Myers OR be left in the dust.

  18. Lots of negative comments so here is a positive one. Though, maybe not what you are expecting.

    My experiences with Amazon:

    1. I ordered a DVD with them when they had just opened up. The DVD got lost in the mail. They replaced it for me… it got lost again…they replaced it again.

    2. I got confused with their shopping system and used 1-click shopping when I really wanted to put an order together. By the time I had realised what I had done (about 3 minutes) and contacted their support centre to ask them to reverse the order – it had already been posted and was on its way. I explained my problem and how I had wanted to combine goods together to save on shipping costs. They paid all my shipping for the other goods.

    Exceptional service for two issues that were not even their doing. Inspiring. Every industry that Amazon has entered has either really improved their services or died off. Barnes and Noble owned the book industry until Amazon came along and they had to get smart to stay in business and they did.

    I’m fairly new to Australia and not really a Myers customer but it seems that they generally do not offer great service off-line and especially (obviously) online. This is an opportunity for others to come in and – if they do it right, and if the people of Australia really give them a chance – to make a change in the industry before the big stores can right their ship.

    Progress..

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