Homebase details new agile software development approach

DIY retailer Homebase has revealed details of its new agile software development methodology, which is supporting the roll-out of new technology used by its staff and customers.

The business, which is in turnaround mode under the ownership of restructuring private equity group Hilco, following a difficult era under the stewardship of Australian firm Wesfarmers, is working with Neptune Software. The tie-up is to help the retailer develop, integrate and manage enterprise-grade apps in what it describes as a fraction of the time taken using traditional coding.

Using the Neptune DX Platform, Homebase has launched a mobile app that can live on an employee’s own device and give them access to an accurate product look-up functionality.

Next on the agenda is a digital application to help employees and customers specify and order complex products – such as bathrooms and kitchens – much more easily, incorporating delivery scheduling, warehousing and stock integration.

With the new approach to retail technology, Homebase can now draw on more generalist developers to build a wide range of digital functionality in a matter of weeks, rather than the months or years it previously took to integrate data from legacy systems. Neptune’s platform connects legacy apps using APIs and frees Homebase from a reliance on highly specialised developers that code in languages like ABAP, which is specific to SAP.

Paul Cannon, director of IT at Homebase, talked up the importance of moving quickly with new technology deployments.

“We want to empower our teams with the right, cutting edge technology which allows them to deliver the best possible customer service,” he said.

“Gone are the days of complex integration projects that take years to complete. Now we build a new experience, roll it out to a single store, and if it works it can be live across the business in weeks.”

Homebase said the new agile development approach is a key aspect of the company’s turnaround strategy, and it indicated this route will give the business a better chance to compete digitally in an increasingly competitive market.

Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers sold Homebase for a nominal fee in 2018, ending a disastrous period that began with a £340 million acquisition of the business in 2016. It had started to rebrand the chain Bunnings in line with its DIY operations down under, but that has been reversed under new ownership.

Poor management and a misunderstanding of the UK market led to spiralling losses under Wesfarmers' guidance. New owner Hilco secured a company voluntary arrangement in August 2018, kickstarting a process to close around 50 stores with the aim of returning a more streamline retailer to profitability within three years.