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  • 28 Nov

Integrating vs Interfacing

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AlanWithin any retail business, the IT solutions used on a day to day basis require integration. This is very different to interfacing, for example within retail stock management an interfaced solution may include product files in two separate locations being used by different systems. Once an item has been purchased in store, the shop’s product file will recognise that this has happened immediately. However, this information will not be fed back to the central solution until polling occurs overnight. This can obviously lead to difficulties if for example a customer attempts to purchase the same product online before the central database recognises that it is no longer in stock.

By contrast, an integrated solution will have a single database, utilised by a number of IT systems. This ‘single view’ of stock is invaluable for any retailer. Building links between different applications always presents a challenge, but if it is carefully thought through, well designed and well implemented there is no reason why there should be any major problems.

All retailers should be striving for improved products, better locations, more customers and higher net margins. Therefore, all systems suppliers and IT professionals should be using their resources in order to help the retailer find what they are looking for. These four factors should be the underpinning corner stones for any IT strategy.

I have already alluded to the fact that multichannel retailers require significant integration across their various routes to market. The ultimate desire of all good retailers is to have the right products at the right prices available in the right channel to meet their customers’ needs. They also want to be able to link that customer into a standard ‘promise’ which ensures that the customer receives the same high level of service regardless of whether they are visiting a store or a transactional website.

I believe that in order for any project to be successful there has to be a lot of togetherness – the retailer and the supplier must work as one in defining the requirements, designing the integration, planning the implementation and then dealing with the subsequent issues which may arise. If there is not a pulling together of the human resources then systems resources will never integrate – at best they might interface.

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