Will Roles Replace Applications?
July 2012 Integrated Solutions For Retailers
By Matt Pillar, Editor In Chief
At RedShift this spring, RedPrairie company men Prashant Bhatia (VP of strategy) and Dave Bruno (director of strategic messaging) gave a general session presentation titled “Five Big Ideas That Will Transform Commerce.” It was an informative and entertaining talk; the two certainly did their homework. To me though, their list, which included augmented reality, NFC, big data, the circular economy, and crowd sourcing, missed an opportunity to plug the very concept that RedPrairie hinted at in terms of its vision for retail systems architecture. It’s a concept that’s even more transformative. Yes, Bruno and Bhatia’s chosen technologies and ideas present interesting and important tactical considerations that hold great potential. I’m not so sure they’re wholly transformative though. At least, not all of them.
Ditching siloed, integrated applications for roles-based access to a comprehensive retail management solution? Now that’s transformative. And daunting. And it’s what RedPrairie appears to be moving toward.
The roles-based concept has been around for a while, but it’s mostly remained trapped in application silos, which is the first apparent step on RedPrairie’s road map. Advanced inventory management application providers, for instance, tailor the user interface dependent on whether that user is identified at login as a buyer, a planner, a manager, etc. But business intelligence derived from access to big, cross-disciplinary data has led us to a period of enlightenment in retail operations, one where traditional silos of functionality are being integrated — if not dismantled — as the lines blur between applications and their users.
As businesses realize the benefits of tearing down the walls separating disciplinespecific data, it only follows that the walls separating departments and operations must come down as well. Only then will the power enabled by unbridled access to the applications and data that help users execute their roles be fully realized.
RedPrairie currently offers a suite of retail enterprise applications, many of them fresh on the heels of an acquisition spree. What it proposes to do — albeit the proposal comes in no specific terms — would flip its current approach on its ear, centralizing this suite into some seemingly enigmatic architecture that allows users in any capacity, access to the tools and information they need to do their job most efficiently and effectively.
The concept sounds at once like opportunity and systems anarchy, which is why I suspect the company has plenty more work to do before it begins weeding out apps that it just spent millions to acquire.
Still, as she so often does, RSR analyst Paula Rosenblum put the power of the concept succinctly when she said, “most merchandising executives would glaze over at the term transportation management system, but their ears will perk up at improving inventory turn.” A paradigm shift that allows software users to see through the walls of applications and simply interface with the information they need is well on its way.
It’s not as sexy and exciting as augmented reality, but this so-called “marketecture” concept that vendors like RedPrairie are plotting behind a thin veil could be more transformative than any of the buzz technologies you’ll see at trade shows and conferences this year.