Monday, May 4, 2020

Retail at Speed: How do I make a Unified Commerce System work?

Retail at Speed: How do I make a Unified Commerce System work?

By Richard Halter

Global Retail Technology Advisors, LLC
Figure 1: Unified Commerce Business Process

We started this series ( explaining what modern Unified Commerce looks like.  In the last installment, we looked at how to focus your company on this process by defining value streams tied to your strategy.  When we have a handle on the value streams, we drilled down to the capabilities necessary to support each “value” in the stream.  Those capabilities relate to the people, processes and information necessary to run that “value”.

The next step in the process is to take it down to a lower level, all the way down to the information.  This is where the “iVURM” model helps.  iVURM stands for “interactive Virtual Unified Retail Model”.  One of the reasons retailer’s fail is not because they have a bad strategy but because they have a poor execution of that strategy. This means the people at the top and the bottom aren’t going in the same direction. iVURM helps overcome this failure by providing an inherently stable closed loop system.

Figure 2: iVURM

iVURM is a model that helps identify and direct the connection between the people at the top to the people, processes and information at the bottom of the loop.  iVURM takes advantage of a characteristic of close loop systems, that is they are inherently stable because they adjust to changes in real-time.  We would like to emulate this in our retail enterprise.

iVURM has three components.  First it is a reference model.  Rather than starting with a blank sheet of paper, you can start with the extensive iVURM model.  The second component is to model your current environment.  The beauty of the iVURM model is you can model your world by just deleting components in the iVURM model.  With a minimal effort, you can have a model of your world.  Every company is unique, so there will be something you do that is not in the model.  With this tool, it is easiest enough to add this unique information and quickly connect it into the model.  That leads to the third component, the future.  This is where you identify where you want to go.  Using the Business Architecture model (discussed in previous post), you can help focus your effort on those Value Streams that tie to your strategy.  Rather than boiling the ocean, you can focus your efforts on those Value Streams that bring you the most value.  With the current and future properly modeled, it becomes a mapping effort to understand how to go from today to tomorrow.

We’ve taken a brief look at the Business Strategy and Business Architecture areas of the iVURM model.  The next area around the circle is Business Processes.  In 2015 the Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) released the first cut at these processes.  I’ve taken that template and extensively extended it to cover more business processes both horizontally (more processes) and vertically (more depth).

Figure 3: Business Process Model

As one drills down into each area, the beauty of the model becomes apparent.  For example, when you select “Manage Sale Process” at the top of the model, you will drill down to this:

Figure 4: Manage Sales Processes

In this subset of the sales processes, you will notice two things.  First there are more detailed business processes for one to drill down.  Second there are cross connections to other areas of the model.  What this helps do is connect this area of the model to other related areas of the model.  Now you can now analyze the impact of any changes to this area of your business with the other related areas.  This saves an enormous amount of time searching for related content or as in most cases, depend on one’s knowledge of these relationships. 

Figure 5: Business Organization

Let’s move on around the model and talk about the next area, Business Organization. This is where the people part of the business come into play.  Using the people component of the Capability Maps identified in the Business Architecture, a company can focus their people on the Value Streams tied to the Strategy.  At this point you have strategy connected to value streams tied to capabilities tied to processes and people.  Mostly done with the click of a mouse and some typing!

Figure 6: Enterprise Architecture

Moving on around the circle, we come to one of the most complicated parts of the model, Enterprise Architecture.  Enterprise Architecture has all kinds of detailed design information to help manage your development effort.  Modern retail technology requires the ability to change direction on a dime.  This is the majesty of today’s agile world.  The information contained within this area is the backbone of that agile world.  In this area, there are hundreds of design examples on how to use this work to help guarantee interoperability.  Where did this come from?  Over 20-year period 1450 subject matter experts covering each of these areas came together to help create these models.  I was challenged with the task of doing the detailed work.  So, I sat on the front row and learned from this most incredible group retail technologists.  I have tried to embed that knowledge in the iVURM model.  This area goes down through a wide variety of technology models like architecture drawings, lifecycle diagrams, domain models, etc. down to the attribute level.  There are somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 attributes identified in this Enterprise Architecture area.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Retail at Speed: Unified Commerce and the Olympian Perspective

Just as a building architect’s schematic shows a common picture 
of the basic elements of a large and complex edifice, 
a business architecture enables a business to picture itself to itself. 
When everyone can agree on what the business is and does, 
the likelihood of getting people to understand their own role
 in a strategic initiative increases many-fold.

 [This is 3rd of 4 “Retail at Speed” installment on the subject of Unified Commerce. The previous installment, An Expansive Model for Unified Commerce, highlighted the blueprints, designs, device interfaces, interface standards, data models, best practices, RFPs and other frameworks to which Thematix has access via the Object Model Group.]

In this article, we will apply the core concepts of business architecture – Value, Capability, Information and Organization – to the topic of Unified Commerce, and show how these tools allow us to understand Unified Commerce as a whole, rather than as a bunch of technological piece parts.

First, recall that Unified Commerce is really an extension of the concept of omnichannel, except that the orchestration and cooperation of discrete channels (web, mobile, social, store) is now extended ‘horizontally,’ end-to-end across many different value streams: i.e., those having to do with sourcing and supply chain, distribution, warehouse, stocking, point-of-sale, delivery, installation and so forth. The power of networked computers now extends to things, and by extension to the very products that customers are being delivered. In a sense, retail will soon be a presence in the customer’s household, long after the sale.

But how do we make sense of the blooming, buzzing confusion of available and anticipated technology? How to understand the strategic significance of robots, sensors, camera, IoT devices and drones alongside the already complex and crowded array of gizmos that have become part of everydayness (such as the mobile phone)?  What is the framework in which we can understand the significance of the tools of Unified Commerce for both business vision and bottom line?

Business Architecture is this framework. It provides an “Olympian View” of the business; it is a vantage point from which a comprehensive understanding of the business can be focused on the opportunities provided by Unified Commerce. It is means of tying business strategy to even fined grained technological choices.

 Any business exists to provide value to its stakeholders – primarily, but not exclusively, the customer. For this reason, the starting place for a business architectural analysis is the Value Stream. A Value Stream is “a visual depiction of how an organization achieves value for a given stakeholder or stakeholders within the context of a given set of business activities.”[1]

A business might support many Value Streams for many different stakeholders. In retail, these Value Streams include (but are not limited to) the following:

Retail Value Streams
Figure 1: Retail Value Streams

In Unified Commerce, the effort is to connect many Value Streams in as seamless a way as possible. Thus, a Unified Commerce initiative involving robotics might seek to integrate and improve the Stock Items, Locate Items, Inventory Management and Direct Store Delivery value streams. Whereas each of these Value Streams might have been ‘disconnected’ from one another in the past, the advent of robotics and accompanying automation means that the flow of tasks among value streams can be united and continuous. For example, the very same robotic system for stocking items for sale can be used to locate the items, count the items in inventory and even deliver the items to the point of sale. Using such a value-oriented analysis, we can for the first time get a glimpse of the business benefit of adopting robotic technology across Value Streams.

 But the analysis does not end there. We have yet to fully understand what the relationship is between robotic technology and the operation of any given Value Stream. To get out this, we have to understand what the business does in order to deliver value in a Value Stream. Business architecture uses the concept of a Capability to describe the kinds of things the business must be able to do to deliver value. Capabilities are fundamental abilities, powers and potencies that the business possesses or uses, which enable it to produce value for customers and other Stakeholders. Many different Capabilities will come into play over the lifetime of a Value Stream. For example, the “Stock Items” Value Stream might rely on the retail-oriented  Capabilities depicted in Figure 2 in order to deliver value to a retail warehouse manager (the stakeholder for whom the Stock Items Value Stream exists)

The Stock Items Value Stream weaves these Capabilities into a harmonious whole. Robotics may play a role in reducing the cost of providing these Capabilities, reducing the error rate in a given Capability or enhancing the speed and volume that a given Capability might be capable of handling. It is when robotics is understood in terms of the Capabilities that a retailer already employs that we can see the business rationale for using robotics. When we assess how robotics might enhance existing Capabilities (and the Value Streams that depend on them), we can begin to understand the business criteria for technological innovation: i.e., concepts like return on investment, cost of inventory, throughput of inventory, just-in-time inventory and the like.

 A third business architecture concept – Information – now comes into play in understanding the essential business concepts that the business uses in communicating about its value streams and that Capabilities use in creating, modifying or otherwise using data about inventory.  An analysis of Information in the context of Value Streams and Capabilities gives us a picture of what Information might be deficient or lacking when discussing the functioning of Capabilities. For example, we may find upon inspection that the Stock Items Value Stream that the number of items in the warehouse at a given time is inaccurate because the Information model for the warehouse is wrong – it is perhaps counting individual components of an item when it should instead be counting the aggregation of those items that form a single sale-able product in inventory.

Finally, business architecture connects these abstractions of Value Stream, Capability and Information back to the concrete business by means of Organization mapping. Organization is concerned with identifying those Business Units that are involved in the Value Stream by virtue of their ‘owning’ the Capabilities required in order to effectuate the Value Stream. Therefore, to assess the impact of robotics on the Organization, we would identify which Business Units in the organization are responsible for delivering the Capabilities that the robotics initiative will affect. Once this is understood, we can understand the organizational implications of robotics for the human beings that work for or with the business.

Theory is great but one has to implement solutions. In Part 4 of this series, we will show a model called iVURM (interactive Virtual Unified Retail Model) that will help guide the implementation of the things discussed in this series of papers.  This will be followed up by a YouTube video showing how to use this for “Customer in a Unified Commerce World”.

 If you want to dig deeper into how business architecture can help you realize a Unified Commerce strategy, please contact us at Thematix. We offer architecture services as well as training in business architecture – virtually, for the time being.
 If you want to dig deeper into how business architecture can help you realize a Unified Commerce strategy, please contact us at Thematix. We offer architecture services as well as training in business architecture – virtually, for the time being. 

Connect at
-       Richard Halter
-       Rob Kost
-       Larry Smith

[1] A Guide to the Business Architecture Body of Knowledge (BIZBOK), Business Architecture Guild, Version 8.5, 2020, The Business Architecture Guild. (Hereinafter: BIZBOK).

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

RETAIL AT SPEED: An Expansive Model for Unified Commerce

The retail business has always been tough, but customer expectations and new technologies are changing the relationships between buyers and sellers, forever and at an increasingly rapid rate. In particular, and for example, Amazon has put technology first with easy online access, “one click” buying, a huge inventory plus 3rd party marketplace, same day delivery, and “grab and go” cashierless checkout.

While there is no foreseeable end to this technology disruption, there are a few solutions that provide a framework for continuous change. The ability for a retailer to execute change is the newest, most effective competitive advantage.

To understand change, you need to understand what you already have in place and how it is, or should be, connected. The way to do this, to ensure everyone in every department understands, is to create models of the business, customer interactions, operations, and technology.

Once created, these business models let you design, understand, and test your business strategy and assumptions. What’s more, this business model helps everyone in the company see where they fit and how their operations consume or contribute to a given capability or output such as inventory management, customer service or unified commerce.

At Thematix, we have been certified as Business Architects and believe our “business-first” approach provides the greatest value to both process and technology innovation. Business-first means understanding how value is created and what is required to create it; this goes far beyond an organization chart of duties and responsibilities and helps illuminates the “why” you are in business.

It is easier to understand how the business delivers value, now and in the future, by identifying specific capabilities that the business needs: this is the “what” you do. An example is “unified commerce” which is the capability of giving customers a singular buying experience regardless of the store, mobile, web, or other channel. Unified Commerce has consequences for the business that are both deep and wide.  It crosses and integrates virtually every aspect of the company including inventory, logistics, user interactions, payment, and display to name a few otherwise independent capabilities.

The good news is that many of capabilities on which Unified Commerce relies upon have been documented and shared in multiple models, schema, and RFP templates via the Object Management Group Retail Group ( and via our proprietary models thanks to our associate Richard Halter.

The chart below shows multiple models, schema, and RFP’s
There are 8 high level components including
-       Blueprints – including Mobile, Social and KPIs
-       Design Documents – including drawing and models for Privacy and Security
-       Technical Reports – Customer Characteristics, Transaction schemas, and Payment integration
-       Best Practices – Location, SOA, and microservices and more
-       Interface standards – POSlog schema, Video analytics, and 27 more
-       Device Interfaces – UnifiedPOS, and more
-       Data Models – Operational and Warehouse Data Models
-       Request for Proposal templates – many are free as detailed in the article.

Thank you for reading this far. This is the second of 4 articles about Unified Commerce. The first one -- Retail at Speed: Unified Commerce is Here Don’t Get Left Behind – provides foundation concepts and details about the value of Unified Commerce.

In a future post – Part 3 of 4 -- we will examine the role that business architecture plays in providing a comprehensive blueprint for the entire enterprise in its transition to Unified Commerce.  It is business architecture that ensures that the entire business acts as a cohesive system, and not just the IT department.  In the end, this is because Unified Commerce is not fundamentally about technology; it is about business strategy.

Stay tuned for more information. Contact us by phone, text or email from

Connect at
-       Richard Halter
-       Rob Kost
-       Larry Smith


Thursday, February 27, 2020

Retail at Speed: Unified Commerce is Here Don’t Get Left Behind

Retail at Speed: Unified Commerce is Here Don’t Get Left Behind

Everyone’s heard of this thing called Omnichannel where you can interact with your retailer whenever, wherever and however you prefer.  Omnichannel has been in the news quite a bit and is the foundation for BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store).  Now the industry is morphing into this thing called Unified Commerce.  Over the next few postings, I’m going to take you through the journey from the concept of Unified Commerce to the incorporation of a Unified Commerce Model in your store.
What’s the difference between Omnichannel and Unified Commerce?  Omnichannel is pretty much what it says, that is, it allows selling through almost any kind of channel to which a customer has access.  Be it a web site, a mobile application, or a physical store.  Unified Commerce extends omnichannel to the whole retail value stream.  This next generation of retail brings in new capabilities like where devices can order items using the Internet of Things devices,  adds artificial intelligence to help make mundane decisions like which milk to buy, then uses robots to execute the building of the shopping cart and delivering those items to you.
Figure 1 Unified Commerce Process Flow
This Unified Commerce model starts with a group of Internet of Things devices like Echo or a Refrigerator.  For example, the refrigerator can send a notice that milk is getting low.  In addition, a channel (website) can add an item such as bread to your shopping list.  Your shopping list can be communicated to the retailer either automatically by some business rule, i.e. send list when 3 days of milk is left or manually by you.  The list can be sent to one or more of your favorite retailers, for example whichever has the best deal for the day or if no best deal, then to the retailer at the top of your favorites list.  It could even do an inventory check to make sure the item is in stock before sending the list.
Once the shopping list arrives at the store, the store’s artificial intelligence creates a path to the items.  This path starts with the customer’s brand preference.  Next a check to see if that brand item is in stock and there is sufficient quantity available.  At which point, a route is built for the picking of those items.
This shopping list and route is then sent to the robot for actual picking. The robot follows this route, avoiding obstacles along the way, picking the items on the shopping list when it goes by them.  At the end of the route, the robot looks up your payment option and submits the total with the payment option to the payment processing system.  The payment processing system processes the payment with the bank.  When approved, the payment system splits off the taxes and sends them appropriate tax jurisdiction.
Once the payment is approved, your delivery method is evaluated.  If you wish to use a Drone, the items are packaged for delivery by this technique.  Or if you wish to have the order sent to your self-driving car, the parking location of your car is found.   Then the items are taken to that parking location.  Or maybe you want to use the retailer’s done delivery automobile to bring you the order.  At which point the drone automobile delivers your order.
This is the future Unified Commerce model. 
-  My next posting will cover “I want to convert to this model; how do I migrate to this Unified Commerce Model?” 
-  Once I know what a Unified Commerce Model is and I’ve figured out how to migrate, the next step is to figure out “How to make a Unified Commerce System work?”
-  I now have a great working Unified Commerce model; the next and final posting is about “How do I buy the Unified Commerce Services?
Final Note: Migrating from a Siloed enterprise model to a Unified Commerce model must be done carefully to avoid the potential complexity where the migration fails on its own weight.
I have created an iVURM model (interactive Virtual Unified Retail Model) to help you move from where you are to the future.
If you are interested in moving to a Unified Commerce Model or are interested in seeing the iVURM model or If you want to be added to my mail list, please let me know and I will send future postings. 
Richard Halter
(405) 376-1141

Retail at Speed: How do I make a Unified Commerce System work?

Retail at Speed: How do I make a Unified Commerce System work? By Richard Halter Global Retail Technology Advisors, LLC Figure...