“I am a developer and I love development and technology,” says Michael Crean, CIO and CTO of MicksGarage.com. “I still spend about 50% of my time developing or designing processes.”
Michael Crean is CTO and CIO of MicksGarage.com a European award-winning e-commerce business based in Dublin 12. MicksGarage is now as much about technology as the business is about car parts – its vast platform was developed and is maintained in-house, and designed to facilitate the growth and expansion of a large e-commerce business.
Launched ten years ago, MicksGarage has grown to become a €11-million turnover company employing 48 people in a 40,000sq ft premises in Dublin’s Park West.
The website, which was also awarded a Golden Spider Award for Best Retail Website in 2007, has 5.6 million unique product listings and the company ships 18,000 orders a month to 70 countries.
In recent weeks, MicksGarage.com won the Gold Award in the Entrepreneurial category at the European E-commerce Awards which took place in Barcelona.
Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology rollout across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?
Technology is what we live and breathe, it’s what keeps our competitors at bay, all our technology was developed with scale in mind, from our order management system, fraud prevention system, data management systems, high volume imaging systems, warehouse management and dispatch systems. Our systems are the life’s blood of MicksGarage
What are the main points of your company’s IT strategy?
IT for us has to facilitate the needs of the business in an ever increasing competitive landscape, it must allow the business to scale rapidly and adapt to new processes and procedures quickly and efficiently
Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?
Our systems are capable of handling tens of millions of parts and millions of orders (we haven’t managed to test that one yet!). We run our infrastructure in conjunction with Sungard who are a large player in the market and who guarantee us 100pc uptime. This uptime is essential in any business but especially an e-commerce business. If we are down for a few minutes we can lose thousands in revenue.
In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?
We are lucky at present in that we have a small IT team comprising six developers, an infrastructure engineer and myself. Our budgets are quite easy to manage.
How complex is the infrastructure, are you taking steps to simplify it?
Although I think our technology is simple and that it serves our needs very well, it is important to note that this technology is something that other e-commerce businesses can just dream of.
Our technology has evolved over the past 10 years and is designed to solve every conceivable issue an e-commerce business will ever come across. Of course, we also look to do things differently too and have other companies looking to how MicksGarage do things.
Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?
All of our team is in-house. Some years ago we made a strategic decision to keep everything in-house, while it is more expensive it is also much more flexible for us. It’s “Horses for Courses” I suppose and this may not suit every business
What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?
I am a developer and I love development and technology. I still spend about 50pc of my time developing or designing processes. I also oversee all operations in the business, this is natural seeing as technology drives every process and procedure in our business. There has been pressure to move away from development, but it’s what I know and what led to the business existing, why change something that works?
What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?
E-commerce businesses have the ability to scale very rapidly and systems need to be able to adapt very rapidly. They need to incorporate international regulations and those regulations change on a regular basis. Systems must be flexible and reflect the business environment we live in.
What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?
At its most basic level we use revenue and ROI, we look at site speed and we look at orders, every time we manage to increase speed, we see a corresponding uplift in sales. If we implement a self-service tool we see a reduction in calls to our customer service department and this saves us money and converts more orders quicker.
Are there any areas you’ve identified where IT can improve, and what are they?
Yes, we are currently trying to build a automatic light sorting system where we sort orders for dispatch. This (if it works) will revolutionise our pick packing processes, it will involve lots of different colour lights indicating the status of an order in the warehouse. There is always room for improvement in every area of technology.
What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?
Yes, as mentioned above we have our light sorting system, we also have lots of other ideas around MicksGarage.com-related websites and technologies.