|A Perspective on Integration|
As retailers consider opportunities to implement new application touch point solutions, the emphasis is on the benefits of using a consistent set of business logic to drive both existing and new touch points. For businesses with significant investment in IBM POS systems, it makes sense to preserve and reuse the proven POS business logic, along with the numerous custom extensions (user exits). That combined business logic embodies the retailer's internal strategies and feeds mission-critical backend applications. These new touch points will need to perform most of the same actions that traditional POS applications perform—the price lookup, total and tax calculations, discounts, credit authorization, and hundreds of other actions that execute flawlessly today.
This is an approach that is being widely used by numerous application solution providers today. Let's consider the case of a self-checkout application. This application can gain easy access to those hundreds of reusable actions simply by using enabling technology that is sometimes classified as open middleware. Meanwhile, the same application can drive peripherals that may be unique to the self-checkout process, such as the cash acceptor and dispenser. The advantage to this solution is that consumers pay the same prices in the supermarket, regardless of which lane they use. And a pricing error that is uncovered and corrected in the system only needs to be corrected once. The system maintenance burden is likewise tremendously reduced.
Open middleware enables a self-checkout application to take advantage of the retailer's existing business logic. The same middleware exists in other formats more appropriate to other situations, such as fuel pump and mobile point POS solutions.
Whether convergence with the existing POS business logic is a permanent strategy or only an interim solution for the retailer, the importance of convergence and integration cannot be overemphasized. One of the things to be learned from the Internet boom and bust is the value of merging different shopping venues. Many retailers took advantage of the same fundamental infrastructure that already existed in the brick-and-mortar world, but added new services (e.g., consumer reviews or feature comparisons for products and services) more easily delivered using the Web medium. Those retailers were able to increase sales and attract new customers without losing sight of their core business model—a strategy that works whether the economy is up or down.