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18 Mar

Solving Retail Pain Points – Connecting Old to New – Part II


Author: Tim Linsell

How much would it cost to replace all your legacy systems? Depending on the size of your business, it could be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds.

For most organisations, costly, high-risk, time-consuming replatforming programmes are out of the question. Connecting old systems to new offers a superior alternative that allows operations to continue unabated and enables your business to innovate and keep up with the pace of change.

In the second article in this series, we take a look at:

  • The risks associated with legacy systems
  • Why legacy systems pose a major risk for retailers
  • What API technology is and the benefits it brings
  • The skills and expertise you need for a successful project

Why Lethargic Legacy Systems Are Lethal for Retailers

Omnichannel shopping continues to place an even bigger burden on already stressed legacy systems. Trying to connect old platforms to new apps or upgrading existing systems is an ongoing challenge.

It can be extremely expensive if managed via an outsourced arrangement with a third party. And it can be frightening to change mission-critical systems that are poorly understood or fragile.

It’s common for major retailers to have a range of asset integrity issues. These often include outdated POS systems, failing hardware and payment terminals and payment gateways that are reaching the end of their life.

The temptation to keep things as they are is there. But you only need to look at the number of high street casualties to know that you can’t afford to stand still.

Lady looking in a memory mirrorThe knock-on effects are mainly experienced by customers who become frustrated by in-store service levels. But ageing infrastructure is also annoying for staff who want to deliver the best for customers but are limited by the tools they’ve been provided with.

In an old tech double whammy, poor staff engagement directly impacts customer experience. Making ageing infrastructure a concern that goes beyond the technical department.

With expensive long-term replatforming projects out, a better, more advanced alternative is marrying old to new using API technology.

Taking Away Age Related Pain With API

Tim Linsell, REPL’s integration partner, explains: “API networks provide a point of interaction between old and new systems, like POS or CRMs for example. They’re interchangeable and agnostic about the system or language calling them. This means the API network only needs to be built once but can be consumed by different devices.”

In an omnichannel world, this is an essential ingredient for technology that needs to be more accessible by more devices and people than ever before. Not only is this incredibly important for customers but it also gives retailers added freedom to change the technology that’s used within the business.

Using a platform like Mulesoft enables technical experts to build systems in a standardised way making them more stable and able to link to any app from any platform. With reusable APIs that can be brought together in a network and extended for future use cases, this solution is also scalable so it can grow with the organisation.

While this approach takes a bit more work up front, the set up is faster, cheaper, more reliable and ready to take your organisation wherever it wants to go.

Building the Right Team for Integration Success

integration 05If your business has experienced the insourcing-outsourcing-insourcing cycle, it’s likely that detailed in-house knowledge of your legacy systems is low. Many retailers seek specialist retail technology expertise to reduce risk and provide workable solutions, fast.

By bringing in experts who’ve seen it all before, you’ll be right on the front foot. But what else should you look for in a integration partner? We recommend a provider who:

  • Starts with a complete systems health check
  • Deep dives into your technology, pain points, challenges and budgets
  • Identifies the most effective off-the-shelf solutions and how they should be adapted to meet your needs
  • Partners with a range of trusted providers like Microsoft and uses tried and tested software like Mulesoft API technology
  • Produces solutions that will future proof your business
  • Extends help, advice and direction around your approach, team structure, members and stakeholders
  • Provides coaching and workshops to advance your in-house teams

If speed is a major consideration for your retail business, it’s important to find a provider who can deliver integration projects fast while minimising risk. Most technology consultancies will apply a traditional waterfall approach to system development projects. But there is a better way.

Minimise Integration Risk by Rejecting Waterfall Methodology

“Rather than trying to do all the design, configuration and integration at the same time, it’s better to borrow from agile methodology to break your retail systems’ issues down into user stories”, explains Tim. “For example, there could be ten different ways customers return items. These are combined to create an epic around customer returns that we then build from end to end.”

Instead of working in silos, this approach enables the build to take place in a fully integrated way and also mitigates risks by:

  • Shifting problems left so integration issues are discovered and solved early
  • Adjusting the approach taken early on reducing the number of errors later in the programme

It also drives continuous improvement and gets everyone on the team working collaboratively and talking about the right issues. By bringing in other elements of the agile methodology, like retrospectives and business reviews, this fresh approach improves the speed and success of what were once considered to be tricky projects.

 Tim says: “By taking a joined-up, feature-led approach, we have found ways to go faster with a better risk profile. Yes, it’s challenging, but also very beneficial to us and our customers.”

Legacy systems contain the lifeblood of any retail organisation: data. Being able to use the valuable information contained in these systems is a must, but tolerating the slow, fragile technology it’s housed in is a risk to operations and innovation.

Leading retailers are already taking steps to hit fast forward on their systems development with powerful API technology. Join them by contacting our expert integration team by clicking here or on +44 (0) 808 200 7375.

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