IBM and enterprise solutions vendor Epicor Software are collaborating on an integrated retail system management product for specialty and department store retailers.
Announced June 30, the partnership includes an application for managing POS (point of sale) hardware and software via the IBM RMA (remote management agent).
"Not only will it provide energy savings and a lower total cost of ownership, but the ability to communicate information directly back to the application provides a more intelligent dashboard to control what's going on in the store," said Greg Donnelly, vice president of sales for Epicor's retail unit. "The hardware has never sent binary communications back to the software to help retailers manage the store better until now. It gives you an understanding of where problems exist and what may become a problem so you can be proactive in solving it."
Donnelly said the joint POS management solution is a step toward artificial intelligence, and the store data it can collect in real time could be used to enhance the capabilities of other Epicor solutions, such as e-learning, CRM, sales auditing, labor management and loss prevention.
"Bisynchronous communication will add value to our applications," Donnelly said. "It will grow into more down the road."
Juhi Jotwani, vice president of marketing and strategy for IBM Retail Store Solutions, said the partnership provides retailers with one common tool for consolidating different data views.
"We're investing to differentiate our hardware and our capabilities," Jotwani said. "It makes sense to seamlessly integrate hardware with software and services. It's an area that has left a lot to be desired until this point."
She said because retail stores are often distributed while the IT staff is not, the ability to remotely configure and monitor in-store hardware and applications is critical.
"You can remotely push out software and distribute it while the store is closed through a central console," she said. "You could do it while sitting on vacation in Hawaii. Also, retailers often don't know what machines are in what stores, and you can perform a systems inventory for the entire set of stores from a corporate office."
Greg Buzek, president and founder of IHL Consulting Group, said IBM has previously offered remote POS management capabilities using its own terminals and software.
"It's an interesting thing IBM is doing," he said. "By opening [remote POS management] up to partners, IBM is giving its partners a big opportunity. In the long term, this will help IBM sell more services."
Buzek also said remote POS management can help retailers greatly reduce operational costs.
Epicor will provide the joint solution as both a managed application and an application that can run on a retailer's own servers.
Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out eWEEK.com's Retail Site.