Every Retail CIO is facing a mounting backlog of integration projects. These projects are taking on more importance as retailers push to define the company’s digital future, expand customer touch-points, develop their human capital, and revitalize their supply chain. Yet, as we’ve explained in the 4 part series — Why Retail Data Integration is So Hard? — retail data integration needs help!
The truth is that the entire retail enterprise stands on a shaky foundation when it comes to data integration. How it is approached means everything. It’s the bridge we all must cross to get to the other side. And it is what we will explore in this 5-part series.
IT ALL STARTS WITH THE RIGHT STRATEGY
Every retail IT organization should have a data integration strategy that involves the key enterprise tables: products, prices, locations, employees and sales. Look at the current data transformations that exist for these tables in your information flows. This will reveal your vulnerabilities across your information when data in one system is modified, cancelled, reinstated, or restructured. Does the information change transparently across the enterprise, in near real time? If not, it’s time to take stock and develop an integration road map that will, in time, address these shortcomings.
Let’s take sales, for example. Transformation of Daily sales information affects dozens of downstream applications: from sales reporting to labor productivity to inventory control to bank reconciliation to liability accounting to vendor exchange to loss prevention and general ledger. In your systems flow, do changes at the source flow seamlessly to all the destinations? The answer for most retailers is “NO”.
On more than one occasion, you have heard us say that the typical point to point approach for every data integration project is at the heart of this problem. Key tables/data should be maintained centrally as a data integration hub housing all of the attributes with downstream value.
This is typically called a hub and spoke architecture. In the blog posts that follow in this series, we’ll dive into the advantages of this approach. If data integration is at the heart of your retail information system, it’s time to give it the attention it deserves.