COMPUTER BUSINESS REVIEW

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TECHNEWS

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Issue Date: May 2007

Dell builds basis for highly-reliable service oriented architectures for retailers

May 2007

Enterprise-wide, integrated IT systems have become an absolute necessity in the enterprise space for driving cost-effective, more customer-oriented environments – essential for remaining competitive in our modern, fast-paced business word. Traditionally this has remained true for some retailers who have utilised IT systems to gain strategic advantage for their businesses while others have not realised the business advantage of an all-encompassing IT solution. With technology becoming more cost-effective, the retail sector playing field has been levelled with all retailers having access to an array of solutions designed specifically to meet their needs, thereby enabling them to compete for the consumer’s attention in the market.

Today, the modern retailer is under pressure from a number of fronts. Smaller, specialist stores are available in every large shopping centre and the business of the e-tailer has grown dramatically. Meanwhile, after having drummed it into the average customer to choose a retail outlet largely on price, through seemingly never-ending price wars and 'Sale' advertising, margins are low forcing the retailer to focus on process optimisation and the maximisation of every available resource in the name of increased profit.
IT holds the key to this business realignment, but as with many service oriented architecture (SOA) business models, integrated systems using open platform standards are essential for the success of any such implementation. This is where Dell SA offers its prominent customers in the competitive retail industry true business benefits.
Begins Sabine Dedering, large corporate accounts manager in charge of regional sales for Dell SA: “I believe that the key element of our value proposition to retail customers, comes down to our very direct approach to each and every account. It is the Dell business model, and it means that all customer engagements with us as the supplier go through a single point of contact, making it very easy to deal with your entire IT infrastructure with a single call.”
“It is not just the hardware going in either,” continues Steven Carter, regional enterprise systems consultant: “It also has to do with how we look after the infrastructure after the installation. Just like we do with our corporate customers, we offer comprehensive, pro-active support for our retail clients involved in retail. We do the entire support plan for them, and when they call their dedicated account manager, our support team knows the business model and architecture intimately. This ensures that the all-important, back-end never causes crippling revenue loss through hardware-related downtime.”
Dedering continues “The retail IT requirements are different from those of the corporate world, in that the invaluable knowledge which their IT systems must gather and collate changes very quickly.  To meet their business objectives, retailers are using IT infrastructure to gather data at the point of sale (POS) and process it at critical speeds, enabling them to meet customer demand by providing products that they want. This is achieved by IT systems that enable retailers to track purchasing patterns and evaluate sales successes in realtime. Retailers are able to order more stock immediately or shift stock between stores according to customer demand, ultimately using the technology as a business tool and giving them the competitive edge. Here, a Dell solution is beneficial as our offerings are all based on field-proven, standards-based technology. Proprietary systems which lock customers in to a single vendor are a hindrance in this kind of environment!”
This approach provides the retail customer with a number of benefits in addition to easier integration across the entire architecture. Using standards-based systems allows the retail customer to scale his IT infrastructure out rather than just up. By deploying in this manner, Dell SA is a true enabler of business benefits. Dell provides its retail customers with technology and as the vendor collaborates with the customer to fully understand the end-goal, designing the IT framework towards this objective.
“Traditionally IT implementations in the retail sector have been carried out in a piecemeal fashion, but today we are seeing many of our retail-focused customers regarding IT as a business driver and enabler. This approach is essential for gaining competitive advantage through technology, and we are seeing it happen today in a few cases where IT is being used to track and identify fast-moving products from POS data, allowing the retail outlet to customise its offerings based on recorded customer needs. This delivers a faster product turnaround, allowing the outlets to sell stock faster, which inevitably means more revenue. Going one step further, we are also seeing retailers experimenting more with innovative ways of doing in-store promotions and driving high customer satisfaction through technologies like streaming video and dedicated, in-store radio broadcasts.”
Continues Carter; “Here Dell SA provides extensive experience in building the necessary architecture to support these very effective retail mechanisms. We do not need to get involved in the applications. They choose to deploy these concepts and services, and we simply provide the most reliable, dependable and widely-certified infrastructure to allow them to deploy whatever solutions they want without having to worry about interoperability or system failures.”
Other advantages that IT plays in the retail sector include streaming video for in-store promotions that can be changed spontaneously as changes take place in the store. More recently stores have begun to provide kiosk systems that provide customers with additional product information and enables them to understand how merchandise works in the home environment. Internationally, retailers are already showing customers what merchandise is in the pipeline in an effort to get their feedback and thereby increase overall customer satisfaction.
Concludes Dedering: “IT is a key differentiator in the success of a retail store. We have identified that retailers are using technology to move merchandise at a faster pace, to lower the inventory, improve cash-flow and ultimately provide a business advantage. IT has become a strategic tool that is integral to business planning and development. Our customers have definitely seen the advantages of this manner of solution and want to capitalise on what IT can offer. With our standards-based implementations and enterprise-class proactive support structures, we are able to provide the perfect backbone upon which retail customers can build highly effective, customer-centric environments without the fear of massive revenue losses due to implementation or operating failures.”


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