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.

Figure 7: Business Intelligence

“What gets measured, gets done” W. Edwards Deming.  Now we move around the circle to the Business Intelligence area.  This is where we measure our progress.  In the Business Intelligence area, there are over 150 Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to measure many aspects of retail.  What we are interested in are those KPI’s that tie to our business strategy.  We must be careful to avoid monitoring things which are typically monitored but don’t have any impact on our strategy.  These selected KPI’s are fed back to the people at the top (and any along the path who needs to know) to help make midcourse corrections in real time.


This tool gives you several things.  First you can model your existing enterprise.  I have been surprised by those who have not done this.  But I can see how starting with a blank sheet of paper can be overwhelming.  With this model, it is mostly about moving and rearranging than it is about creating.

Once you have your current model, the next step is to model what you want the future to look like.  Again, starting with this model and leveraging the Business Architecture work, it is very easy to create your vision of the future.

With these two components, you can now map how to go from where you are to where you want to be.

Third use is for “what if” analysis.  Because it is a virtual model, you can make changes and see their impact virtually.  Throughout history, it is quite easy to change things and without knowing it, break other things.  This model gives you the ability to make and evaluate those changes in the “lab” before they go live.

We’ve looked at what a future Unified Commerce model can look.  We’ve tailored the system to focus on the strategy and processes to support that model.  In this paper we looked at the enormous amount of information available for to support this model and how to focus on the appropriate subset of that information.  That only leaves us with purchasing that solution. 

In addition to this model, I have a blog at to share a wide variety of retail technical information.  Please check it out.

I work with the Business Architects at Thematix. If you are interested in moving to a Unified Commerce Model, using Business Architecture, or are interested in seeing the iVURM model, please let us know.

My next posting will be a YouTube video showing this process at work.  Stay tuned for more information. Contact us by phone, text or email from

Connect at

-       Richard Halter

-       Rob Kost

-       Larry Smith

The Unified Commerce Series:

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

Retail at Speed: An Expansive Model for Unified Commerce

Retail at Speed: Unified Commerce and the Olympian Perspective

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

(This paper)


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...