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SAP POS LOG: User Group Council – Leaders in Store

Take a moment and reflect on your last 3 shopping trips.  Bought fewer luxuries lately ?  Noticed shelves are a little less full ?  Seen an improvement in customer service on your last shopping trip ? If you are like many consumers, you’ve seen the first two, but are probably pretty happy about the third one – the people that power leading retailers are very focused on you.

I was invited to meet with about a dozen of these retail leaders two weeks ago. I’ll share a bit of what I heard over that 2 day event.

POS User Group Council – Fall 2009 meeting

The grassroots user council met September 22/23, 2009, in Toronto, Canada.  The group has expanded a bit since its SAP POS LOG: User Group and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) at Beall’s department stores in Florida.  This time around, about 25 retailers representing both store systems and store operations got together to share their experiences and insights.

The council participants range from what we at SAP call “SME” – small and medium enterprises with perhaps 90 store locations to “LE” – large enterprises with about 7000 retail stores.  It was a very diverse group, including fashion companies, hardlines operators, and value-based discount retailers.

Agenda Items

Two action-packed days included retailer and invited SAP guests sharing:

  • Retail Top Priorities – things they’d like to in the SAP store solutions
  • Retailer Roundtable – new initiatives and business updates
  • SAP Roadmap, Support, Custom Development presentations
  • Show & Tell sessions
  • Web channel and cross-channel discussion 
  • Hardware certification ideas and issues
  • PCI Update
  • New industry standards 

Interested in participating in the next one ?  Email me using contact info at top.

Retailer Roundtable

Each of the member companies shared their current initiatives, challenges, recent implementations, and future plans. 

From the business side:

  • Eco-Friendly – plastic bags are being banned or fees are being charged
  • Sustainability – meant everything from store energy usage to plastic bag fees
  • Shrink is on the rise – Fraud at the register continues, but their getting better at using the available controls
  • PCI is high visibility and impacts their thinking on what they can/can’t do in terms of marketing initiatives and payment options
  • How do I learn more about what the system can do for me ?

From the IT side:

  • POS Hardware replacement includes energy savings. One retailer shared how they helped influence the design of a new register, resulting in more than 50% electricity savings per unit
  • Desire to learn more on how to extend the solution using user exits and the transaction objects without custom coding
  • Focus on faster, better pilots and more optimized quality efforts in their own operations
  • Being better partners by trying to participate more with the business up-front
  • Finding economies around rollout, service, maintenance, updates

I was surprised to hear one specialty retailer has more Mobile POS handhelds than traditional point of sale registers.  It was something I was expecting 5 years ago, but is only bearing fruit now.

SAP Roadmap

In the Spring session, a lot of interest surrounded where SAP is headed.  This time around, SAP Solution Managers presented an update on key solutions in the SAP Retail solutions portfolio.  The common thread was SAP POS is live in most of their stores, and they are focused on improving the shopping experience.

The new SAP POS 2.2 release is pretty exciting, and is a compelling upgrade for many users, with new functionality and additional localization support. The solution now runs in more countries than ever before, and brings greater capabilities to externalize and simplify payment processing and compliance.

Show & Tell – Dashboards for Store Managers

For years now, retailers have been using tools to extend SAP Point of Sale capabilities for reporting.  Our standard for about a decade was Crystal Reports.   Simply take the data dictionary, and bring it into the tool to expand on the standard capabilities.  This has evolved a lot, with retailers using SAP Business Objects Portfolio software like Crystal Xcelsius to deliver real-time insights to store and district managers. 

A department store CIO said his business partners are thrilled – “they say its been transformational”. They’ve put the information on a mobile device for the store managers to see what is happening, as it happens.

Retailer-turned-BI-guru Russ Hill shared many of the retail-specific solutions that are being adopted right now, ranging from new applications of Business Explorer to Fuel & Fleet or Store Profitability.

PCI DSS Update

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) is getting a lot of attention.  Retailers in the USA and Canada, and around the globe are spending valuable energy and scarce capital to comply.

I heard council members say:

  • We’ve going through our second audit, and its going to be much easier this time
  • Its good SAP POS is certified; but there is a lot more we (retailer) have to do
  • We’ve got an initiative to eliminate customer payment data completely
  • We’re piloting some new technology with POS that may make our lives easier
  • The regulations are going to change again, so we are in a rush to get done

At the user group’s request, solution management folks from SAP shared:

  • We continue to meet the requirements
  • The audits are difficult and expensive, but we keep investing
  • We are tracking the industry actively, and hope to stay ahead of the curve

The dialog was two-way, which was great to see.  Good partnership, not a vendor vs customer approach.

Another interesting session was led by Herb Cline of Red Iron Technologies who shared some thoughts on PCI, some of the small applications they have built to augment SAP POS, and a bit of insight into their recent experiences.

Dinner Conversation

Two days of hard work was combined with some excellent conversation at Toronto’s famous Miller Tavern on Tuesday night.  As the evening progressed, there was a lot of chatter on:

  • Smarter Testing and faster Pilot stores – efforts to be more focused on what gets tested and not blanketing the whole system; finding out about business process problems before its committed to production
  • Data and Dashboards – what can I do with POS Data Management, what do managers really need at their fingertips ?  How did that BI project go ?  Was it really that good?
  • Green is happening at the Store – New Stores and store renovations are where Green initiatives are impacting the business.  Can IT help bring visibility to sustainability efforts ?  There are real economic benefits to going green. 
  • Can IT be a better Business partner? – how do we work together earlier, and get more benefit from technology ?

It was a productive two days, and I was pleased to be a guest of the group.  Rumor has it the next one is being planned for early spring 2010.  I’ll keep you posted.

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