Retail Legacy Systems: We Must First Overcome Them (RAY’S POV)

Home for the holidays for me means a trip back to the low country of South Carolina. 

Where people say exactly what they mean; just in the fewest, and sometimes, longest syllables possible!   

An Atlanta friend of mine likes to tell the story about a time he asked an old man for directions down there. 

The old man paused for a while and just said, “You can’t get there from here”. My friend follows that with an incredulous look on his face as if to add, “What a jerk!”

The very first time he told it, I had laughed, knowing exactly what the old man meant. The old man had sized up my Atlanta friend, looked at what he was driving and thought about the obstacles down those island dirt roads he would have to face on his journey. The old man decided my friend needed to change more than just his direction. He would need to change his car. The old man was merely stating a fact with, no ill will intended. 

The same type of situation is happening right now with a lot of retailers I know. 

They all want a unified commerce model where all of their solutions work seamlessly together to provide a compelling customer experience across all channels.  Unfortunately, most are starting that journey with legacy, monolithic, point of sale and ecommerce solutions designed and built with 20 year old technology.  They are starting with a set of systems built for a different set of challenges and customer expectations altogether.

They have a similar problem with their platform as my friend did with his journey.  As the old man summed up -  YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE. 

With a lot of work they may get you closer to some omni-channel functionality, but more than likely will leave you stranded along the way.  You will constantly be working through brittle integrations and dependencies, never to the point of having a single stable platform.

The right journey will require more thought, preparation and a migration to a new set of tools and technology.  It is worthwhile to step back, do some research and work on a real plan.

Just like I told my Atlanta friend, “The old man was just trying to save you some pain.”