IBM announced the IBM Retail Integration Framework, an enterprise software architecture designed to help retailers accelerate the implementation of new customer focused strategies. For example, the new framework, which is based on a service oriented architecture (SOA) strategy, could help retailers rapidly introduce new product assortments and provide a unique multi-channel customer experience whether a consumer is shopping online, in a store, at a kiosk or through any other sales channel including mobile devices.
Retail companies are increasingly turning to solutions based on SOA to enable them to integrate fragmented applications and processes and increase reuse across their enterprise. IBM's Retail Integration Framework combines more than 50 years of experience with thousands of retail clients and award-winning middleware to deliver a retail blueprint that can accelerate the deployment of agile business processes. The new framework features retail-specific components, templates and patterns to improve the integration of business processes including new product introduction, cross-channel selling, point of sale (POS) integration, store-to-enterprise integration and retailing business intelligence.
Based on open standards(1), IBM's Retail Integration Framework enables retailers to take advantage of their existing capabilities along with new packaged software applications and customized capabilities. IBM's broad independent software vendor (ISV) ecosystem also enables leading software providers to participate in the framework, giving retailers full flexibility in choosing the business applications they need to address specific business processes and challenges.
With increasingly complex customer demands requiring more transparency across the enterprise, retailers are embracing an SOA strategy to use their existing technology to link various sales channels and provide a comprehensive view into their company's business activities.
"Integration is one of the biggest problems facing retailers today. We have found that many of our retail customers are successfully using a services approach to address these integration issues and increase overall business agility," said Patrick Gibney, director, distribution sector solutions, IBM Software Group. "IBM's Retail Integration Framework provides retailers with a smart and flexible infrastructure that takes advantage of existing and new technologies to support changing business operations and conditions, while providing consumers with a positive shopping experience regardless of how and where they are purchasing products."
IBM's Retail Integration Framework is designed to benefit both the consumer and the retailer. For example, through IBM's relationship with Nortel to create communications-enabled applications, a consumer can receive information from a retailer on upcoming sales or the status of an order via email, instant messaging, voicemail or virtually any other preferred method of communication. From the retailer's perspective, the information contained in the customer's alert is connected to the company's store operations, POS applications and radio frequency (RFID) inventory solutions and surveillance systems. If the consumer decides to make an additional purchase or cancel an order, the retailer is able to securely and accurately execute the request and ensure that all of the related information is instantly and consistently updated across the entire company and with its trading partners such as banks and overnight shipping services.
The Retail Integration Framework incorporates and builds on the success of the IBM Store Integration Framework, a store-ready SOA implementation for connecting store and enterprise operations. IBM currently has 75 business partners with applications and assets that integrate with the Store Integration Framework, and Store Integration Framework is installed at over 50 retailers who have committed to deploying in over 25,000 stores.
The IBM Store Integration Framework allows retailers to integrate applications from SAP, Oracle and other business partners, and IBM will extend those partnerships for the Retail Integration Framework. IBM is also expanding the ecosystem with key retail application software providers like Manhattan Associates, Sterling Commerce, TradeStone Software, Nortel, and others to link the areas where they provide world class capabilities to existing retailer application capabilities. This will allow the retailer to create a differentiated set of business processes across the enterprise to create their unique value proposition to their customers.
"Today's retailers are typically running hundreds of applications from different vendors, making it difficult to focus on managing their businesses and keeping customers satisfied," said Jeff Cashman, senior vice president of business development, Manhattan Associates. "IBM's Retail Integration Framework provides us with an opportunity to help retailers more easily and effectively use our applications to address specific needs in the retail environment."
The Retail Integration Framework incorporates several of IBM's industry-leading product portfolios including WebSphere, Tivoli, Rational and Information Management and is a critical component of IBM's Information on Demand initiative. These portfolios have been further strengthened by a series of key acquisitions such as ISS and Watch fire.
SOA is among the fastest-growing segments of the information technology industry. For more information on IBM's SOA capabilities, visit www.ibm.com/soa
For more information on IBM retail, visit: www.ibm.com/retail