ARTS focuses on retail technology issues, including service-oriented architecture, cloud computing and mobile commerce, and Verizon took its stand by calling for an open-standards approach to IT that would enable rapid integration of disparate applications and technology platforms. In short, it would help retailers lower operating costs, better manage inventory and work forces, and more effectively support multiple sales channels.
Senior editor Katherine Field talked with Ravi Bagal, VP retail and distribution for Verizon Business, about IT challenges in today’s retail workplace and how Verizon is positioned to foster a more effective, efficient IT environment.
What do you see as the biggest IT challenge facing retailers today?
The most pressing issue in retail is interoperability between solutions, functions and companies.
What do you mean by that?
Retail is plagued by “point-solution pollution”—the product of decades of legacy systems, small software vendors and ad hoc integration. Compounding the issue is the failure to adhere to open standards governing the integration of systems and enterprises. This is partly a reflection of the fact that standards rely on consensus, and innovation is generally faster than building consensus.
What is Verizon’s vision for retail?
Retailers need a more agile way to innovate and change. We must find ways to leapfrog decades of legacy solutions that have stifled our ability to respond to consumer needs. We think that the key to innovation is a willingness on the part of the retailer to try new things, and that by using the framework we are enabling retailers to try new approaches, while limiting their risk.
Verizon recently launched the Verizon Framework for Retail. What exactly is this framework, and how does it help retailers address business issues?
The Verizon Framework for Retail is an integration approach based upon industry and technology standards that actually support IT simplification and standardization. It leverages our established global IT network and data centers to host and securely connect disparate applications and technology platforms—both internally and across vendors.
Verizon believes that hosted solutions using service-oriented architecture (SOA) offer the best remedy to point-solution pollution. The Verizon Framework for Retail was designed to transcend the maze of legacy solutions and provide retailers with real choices to deploy and manage new technologies more quickly and efficiently. The framework will help to reduce the burdens of system and enterprise integration, while improving the agility and flexibility associated with deploying new solutions and services. Verizon’s retail clients will be able to embrace innovation, and ultimately be better able to serve their consumers.
In what other ways is Verizon supporting the retail segment?
Verizon believes that organizations like the Association of Retail Technology Standards are critical to the evolution of new ways to deploy systems that reduce cost and provide a compelling customer experience. We are committed to the growth and adoption of standards in retail.
We also introduced our vertical practice at the National Retail Federation (NRF) show in January. The goal of the practice is to deliver retail-specific IT solutions to spur on innovation among retailers so they can ultimately serve their customers better through the use of technology. And, to do so, we’ve assembled a world-class retail IT consultancy with an average tenure of 20 years at top consulting firms, retail software/hardware vendors, and of course leading retailers.
What’s on the horizon for retail?
Consumers are everywhere—online, at stores and, increasingly, on mobile devices. Retailers need to be everywhere that consumers go, and Verizon is dedicated to making it possible for retailers to meet their customers across all channels—whenever and wherever they are.