How a Product-Oriented IT Organization Helps Retailers Deliver Amazing Omnichannel Experiences
Retail businesses face an unprecedented level of competition in today’s omnichannel marketplace. Consumers desire increasingly personalized experiences and convenience, leaving retailers scrambling to build a robust IT infrastructure capable of providing customer-centric solutions. But not all approaches to IT organization can manage omnichannel demands.
Many retailers currently find themselves struggling with outdated systems, limited resources, and a lack of agility. The time has come to switch to a product-oriented IT organization and architecture to stay competitive in the fast-paced, increasingly demanding omnichannel retail landscape.
A product-focused architecture
A product-oriented IT organization requires a shift in thinking to move retailers from a monolithic architecture to a microservices one. While a monolithic order management system (OMS) has long been the standard, this framework doesn’t lend itself to examining the many moving parts of order management in isolation. A microservices architecture does. Because today’s OMS represents so many different functional components, the improvements are typically done as coordinated projects, which slows the pace any specific functional area within the OMS domain can move.
A microservices architecture represents an OMS built as the sum of individual product-focused parts. Organizing each function of order management into its own pod gives retailers the ability to fine-tune not only each function but also the ways those functions interact with one another to deliver an agile, flexible, customer-focused shopping experience — one capable of setting and meeting customer-centric service promises.
Consider, for example, the many service promises retailers must keep: product availability, fulfillment timelines, user experience, and others. To set and manage these expectations, retailers need to rely on different facets of their OMS for inventory, sourcing, picking, customer experience, customer care, and more. Drilling down into each specific operational function requires a product-oriented IT organization, not a project-oriented one.
The pros and cons of product-oriented architecture
Retailers who are serious about moving from a project-oriented architecture must clear a significant hurdle: breaking their monolithic OMS into microservices. But before making this type of pivot, you should understand the pros and cons:
Pro: Product-focused architectures have a well-defined scope and goals (KPIs).
Pro: A product-oriented IT organization offers improved speed of delivery and innovation without competing priorities.
Pro: Microservices for product development shield against external dependencies.
Pro: Product-focused architectures empower independent technology choices (within reason).
Con: A product-oriented IT organization may lead to data duplication. Teams must be mindful not to replicate services.
Con: Microservices require orchestration and maintenance as opposed to a legacy monolith OMS.
Although transitioning away from a monolithic, project-focused IT infrastructure might be a tough pill for retailers to swallow, the advantages become evident when you stack the benefits of a product-focused microservices architecture against the evolving marketplace. Retailers need the ability to drill down into individual areas of operation to ensure they can make and meet service promises.
Building with a mind for the future
As the e-commerce landscape continues to evolve, retailers must adapt quickly. A product-oriented IT organization affords them much-needed speed in developing, deploying, and monitoring critical business segments — particularly in an omnichannel environment. What customers expect today may change tomorrow. A retailer’s ability to keep up stems from being able to isolate and improve specific operations aligned with customer-facing service promises.
How will a retailer adapt their inventory management if ship-to-store displaces in-store traffic? What if same-day delivery becomes a new standard? What needs to change operationally if digital app payments overtake credit cards? These variables all impact the customer experience, and they all affect different facets of operations.
The bottom line is a product-oriented IT organization is better equipped to address individual service promises, even as they evolve. Microservices lead to delineated development opportunities, helping retailers not only respond to individual customer expectations but also adapt to them as they change.
Omnichannel sets the standard for architecture
The omnichannel landscape demands agility. A product-oriented IT organization puts retailers in control over their value stream and gives them the ability to adapt and change at the speed of the market. It’s a competitive edge becoming apparent in everything from inventory to fulfillment and beyond.
Nextuple’s microservices-based approach to omnichannel fulfillment lends itself well to the product-based organization and culture.