Most retail companies today have built their technology infrastructure over a long time with multiple teams only to have it virtually unchangeable where it takes forever to update or change anything. This is similar to a cruise ship where it takes a mile to change course.
With retailers needing to change course on a dime, they need a model more like a speed boat. This model is a Unified Commerce Architecture. There is a self-paced course explaining the details at https://www.converselink.com/collections/all/products/retail-technology-architecture
Here is a very brief discussion of the components of this Unified Commerce Architecture. The end goal is to allow your customers to shop in whatever way they wish, in store or mobile. This puts the customer in charge of their own retail experience anytime, anyplace.
To make a wholesale change would be way too expensive and probably end up in bankruptcy. So how does a retailer start the move?
First a retailer needs to understand exactly what part of their world needs changing. This would be their value chain(s) that is related to their business strategy. To identify their value chain(s) the retailer needs a business process model.
Having identified their value chain(s), the retailer needs an infrastructure flexible enough to support the addition of a new microservices architecture. Special attention should be paid to security, privacy and cloud computing. Retailers need to Identify what parts of their value chain are appropriate to put into a secure cloud and what parts they wish to keep local and private.
Once the retailer has a plug-n-play architecture in place, they need to break their monolithic application into sets of micro-services. Simply speaking, a micro-service is a small piece of functionality that can be maintained separately from the entire application. It can be modified and re-installed without impacting the entire application. This give the retailer the ability to change course on a dime or to quickly fix problems before they seriously impact the retailer.
A key micro-service is a retail database. When retailer A buys retailer B, the people at the top need to understand how their new company is doing. Having a common retail database gives them that knowledge.
In today’s world, data comes from all over the place. This leads to another key component – the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things allows the retailer to cross-correlate information that hasn’t been available before. This is going to lead to all kinds of new opportunities for the retailer while optimizing operations.
Every vendor thinks their communication messages are correct. For them they probably are. However a vendor can call something an item and another can call it a product. Both are referring to the same thing. To solve this the retailer needs a canonical message model to communicate this information to everyone who needs it.
Now one has common data and common messages, the retailer needs a way to send this information around the company. This is where the choreography architecture comes into play. Without going into detail, there are basically two styles, either a request/response model or a publication/subscription model. Whatever is chosen enables the value chain applications across the enterprise to easily communicate.
In total this leads the retailer to a Unified Commerce Architecture that is easy to update, easy to extend and respond quickly to whatever the customer desires.
There is a retail technology architecture self-paced course that lays out the foundation for creating this retail architecture. It doesn’t provide a single architecture but identifies and discusses alternatives in short 15 to 20 minute presentations. In a couple of hours, the student will have a firm grasp of the variables involved in creating a modern retail unified commerce architecture.
By: Richard Halter
President, Global Retail Technology Advisors, llc