Technology: the difficulty of creating a seamless experience

Programming team

Our way of life depends on technology. Most of us can’t live without it (myself included). But the complexities involved in making systems work should remain invisible…if done correctly. And one of the best examples of this cloak of invisibility is with the technology behind Configurable Product Selling at The Home Depot.

At the September meeting for the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), Ganesh Ramakrishnan, Senior Software Engineering Manager at The Home Depot, pulled back the curtain to show the mechanism behind the retailer’s feats of technical wizardry. Here are a few highlights from the conversation.

A 20-year professional, Ganesh Ramakrishnan started his career as a programmer, steadily advancing his career to his current position. As Senior Software Engineering Manager, he and his team tackle a range of challenges. These include creating the optimal experience for their customers and ease of operation for internal store associates.

Ganesh and his team are responsible for Configurable Product Selling, which includes countertops, cabinets, paints, flooring – anything that requires adjusting the products to a specific consumer’s requirements. Delivering quality and efficiency is their primary mission. But with great responsibility, comes even greater challenges.

As the largest home improvement retail store worldwide, managing the software engineering team that drives Configurable Product solutions at The Home Depot provides a variety of challenges. Some of these include:

  • A wide range of products
  • Different configurators for those products
  • Findability/usability
  • Systems/device integration
  • Interconnected selling – in-store/online/virtual
  • DIY/PRO customer expectations
  • Resiliency

All these challenges – and more – are hurdles that need to be overcome daily. But imagine that these hurdles need to be overcome while also ensuring they can be duplicated in more than 2,300 stores, seamless for associates and customers and easy to manage.

Creating systems that can be leveraged for multiple Configurable Products enables his team to achieve a high level of efficiency. Platform as a Service (PAAS) tools like Pivotal CF as well as Google Cloud Platform, and others, contribute to these repeatable solutions.

In addition to these complex technical challenges, Ganesh has the same issues that many companies face in the market today – the Talent Wars also referred to in 2021 as the “Great Resignation.” Utilizing the pair programming methodology, an agile software development technique, Ganesh rotates his developers from one pair programming team to another. This allows everyone to work on a variety of solutions while learning new technologies from other subject matter experts on the team.

As continuing education is a clear advantage for any software engineer, this approach creates diversification and strengthens the abilities of every member of his team. This allows Ganesh to focus on providing a seamless experience for all.

As Ganesh stated, “delivering exceptional performance also creates a competitive edge.” But how is this measured? His team utilizes DORA (DevOps Research & Assessments) Metrics in addition to four key KPIs that include:

  1. Lead-time change
  2. Deployment frequencies
  3. Mean time to repair
  4. Change failure rate

To correctly measure each KPI, questions must also be asked. How frequent are these deployments? How many deployments are going to production? How quickly can problems be repaired? And what is being rolled back? These questions enable Ganesh and his team to effectively measure their goals and focus on what works best, ultimately resulting in a positive business outcome.

Beyond creating a seamless experience for both associates and customers, Ganesh focuses on creating a warm and welcoming environment for his team. He believes that you must maintain a healthy team structure for them to provide their best efforts. This is especially true with the combined challenges of COVID-19 and “The Great Resignation.”

Creating complex, detailed platforms are already difficult. Creating these platforms for the largest worldwide retailer is incredibly difficult. But for Ganesh, utilizing repeatable systems to create efficiencies while focusing on his most important asset – his team – the impossible can become reality!

 

About the author

Steven Wright serves as a Senior Account Executive for Synergis and volunteers his time as President of the Atlanta chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals. Steve has had a career in technology, spanning more than 25 years. He has always served in an advisory, and relationship development capacity, working within sales and business development groups for healthcare technology outsourcing, manufacturing, professional service, and, most recently, the staffing industry. In his free time, Steve enjoys learning about new and emerging technologies. This love of tech has helped him aid clients and candidates alike in their career and talent journeys.