Data is the lifeline of any retail organization. As the volume of this electronic information continues to multiply, however, many chains are challenged by how to synthesize this data into actionable information. During a discussion with Chain Store Age senior editor Deena M. Amato- McCoy, Eric Offenberg, product marketing manager for Princeton Softech, Princeton, N.J., explained how retailers can use a tiered approach to manage information, secure data and better service shoppers.
Chain Store Age: What issues plague retailers when it comes to collecting data and managing repositories?
Eric Offenberg: The biggest issue is data growth. Due to the high volume of data used to fuel their environment, many retailers are noticing a degradation of performance across solutions, including customer-relationship-management systems, enterprise resource planning and supply chain applications.
These applications need to sort through all of this data, and it is affecting performance. We are also starting to see data-storage repositories getting filled up too quickly.
CSA: How did retailers solve these issues previously?
Offenberg: In the past, retailers bought more repositories and filled them with data. This included clones of production data, as well.
These clones are located in-house, stored across the country, or even internationally. Now, data is growing exponentially and retailers are inundated with this “multiplicity of data.”
CSA: What trends are surrounding data archiving?
Offenberg: Other segments, such as banking and finance, have jumped into information life-cycle management, which encompasses the management of data throughout its life cycle. Some of our retail clients have also begun to address the issue, and more are beginning to recognize its importance.
Companies don’t need 10 years worth of data immediately available. Chains need to determine which data is most important for current activity, and segregate that from less important or less active data. Older information can be put in a less expensive storage environment.
Finance, insurance, even health care are early adopters of this strategy, but retailers are starting to take notice and experiment. It is also gaining attention due to data-privacy issues.
Retailers need to determine what they have, understand what data they need for day-to- day operations, and what needs to be retained fore-discovery laws, or those mandates that require database records to be subject to a search during a civil case. Retailers need to ensure this information is indexed and available, if it is required.
CSA: How is this a new or different strategy for retailers?
Offenberg: As business grows, retailers need new alternatives to store data. What they did in the past is just not good enough, and it is taking its toll on performance. Chains are challenged to meet the growing demands of enterprise data management.
CSA: Data-privacy issues are also spurring more attention around data storage. Correct?
Offenberg: Data privacy could be the No. 1 issue that keeps retail executives awake at night. The recent TJX Cos. data breach is an excellent example of a company that stored so much data that it became difficult to streamline or protect it. And it is still discovering additional areas of stored data that was subject to tampering. It is very scary.
CSA: So what point are retailers at, and what should be their next step?
Offenberg: There is a lot of attention right now being paid to data storage, based on the simple fact that retailers need to better manage their data. Database archiving makes sense for any environment that stores 100 gigabytes of data or greater.
Some of the benefits can be seen immediately. These include improved performance, reduced costs and mitigated risks in retail IT environments.