Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Simplified Retail Reference Architecture (version 1.0)

I have been writing about the concept of Reference Architecture, it’s purpose, benefits on this blog. I have also posted illustrative examples of how leading IT industry vendors are shaping their portfolio based on this construct. Specifically I shared the Microsoft, IBM and Cisco Retail Reference Architectures in my previous blog post. In this blog post, I will propose the concept of Simplified Retail Reference Architecture. 

The purpose of this Reference Architecture Model (illustrated below) is to classify various technology constructs required to run the Retail business. More importantly, this model proposes touch points between underlying technology and the originating Retail Consumer Business Processes. While this model focuses on key technology constructs, it is important to note that key driving factors which influence it’s behaviour are the Retail Business Processes, Retail Consumer Touch-points and related Business Rules. 


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Simplified Retail Reference Architecture


The core model comprises of four primary domains; Retail Touch Points, Retail Business Processes and Work Flows, Retail Business and Application Services and Technology Systems, Platforms and Interfaces. They are briefly described below;

Retail Touch Points – In this domain the consumption touch point from B2B and B2C consumers are modelled. This contains a good mix of conventional and modern technology constructs ranging from traditional retail outlets to modern mobile computing touch points. This can also be termed as the”Multi-Channel” access for the core Retail Business Processes. The key concept to understand here is that while access touch points may vary the Customer Experience needs to be consistent and seamless across these channels.

Retail Business Processes and Work Flows – The purpose of Retail Technology and Tools are to enable Retail Business Process and Work Flows to run smoothly. The business processes should drive the technology selection though in some instances technology innovation can influence business process changes e.g. Self Service Tools. This domain contains key business processes and will be highly specific to particular business models and organisations. It can be claimed that real differentiator between competitors are efficiency, effectiveness and success of business processes.

Retail Business and Application Services – The Retail Business Applications (known popularly as Apps these days) essentially connect the  Retail Business Processes with underlying Technology platforms. In true sense this is the face of technology which System users and in some instances customers see. This domain contains both custom built as well as COTS Retail Applications which will be expected to be agnostic of underlying technology platforms.

Technology Systems, Platforms and Interfaces – This domain models all aspects of technology systems such as software, hardware, network, Point of Sale systems which drive the Retail Applications and Business processes. Given the increasingly integrated nature of modern Retail systems I also recommend to include the integration interfaces for connecting internal systems as well as partner and supplier systems. Example of such interfaces are Web Services interfaces or APIs which enable functions such as Shopping Basket sharing / integration and Reference Data exchange.

Application and Benefits of this Reference Architecture Model – A tip which I would like to share with Enterprise Architects, CTOs and CIOs who will use above model is to extend and internalise this framework to suit your respective businesses and enterprises. Also it is important to derive practical implications of this model and use it to develop your strategic technology roadmap. This model can also be used to map and develop the investment portfolio as it can easily show the business processes and associated revenue / profit aspects of business expansion resulting from strategic IT investments.

It is easy to fall in the trap of academic and theoretical exercise of “modelling till cows come home” but the real value of such modelling is to help your strategic planning and strategy development activities. It can also be used as effective Business-IT alignment tool to showcase business relevance of IT.

Happy Modelling!

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