Sweetwater Sound retunes in-house tech for expansion

SVP of IT Jason Johnson sings the praises of in-house development as the musical instrument retailer rebuilds homegrown CRM and warehouse management systems for microservices.

Sweetwater Sound retunes in-house tech for expansion
Sweetwater Sound

Business expansion plans often pose IT leaders a thorny question: Can the software at the heart of the enterprise support our business ambitions?

For Sweetwater Sound, an online retailer of musical instruments and audio equipment, this crossroads came in the wake of an October 2018 decision to build a new distribution center — nearly four times the size of its existing facility — next to its Fort Wayne, Indiana, headquarters.

In-house software development had been a way of life at Sweetwater since the beginning: Founder and CEO Chuck Surack built the company’s CRM, ordering and inventory management system himself.

“Until the late nineties our CRM server used to sit underneath his desk,” says Jason Johnson, senior vice president of IT.

One consequence of that do-it-yourself approach, Johnson says, was that Sweetwater’s distribution logic was tightly coupled to its CRM platform — logic that, until 2006, was essentially a print job: Staff would grab the printout and run down to the warehouse to fulfill the order, checking it off on the computer once it shipped.

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