Guide to the MSDN Retail Industry Center


Tim Gruver, Director of Technology Strategy and Solutions
Nick Lewis, Industry Technology Strategist
Microsoft Retail & Hospitality

May 2006

Applies to:
   Enterprise Architecture

Summary: As part of our commitment to customers and partners, The Microsoft Retail and Hospitality team is assembling a wide array of Retail industry technical information for developers, architects, and IT operations professionals. This FAQ addresses common questions regarding the intent, content, scope, and long term plans for the Retail Industry Center. (5 printed pages)

Why did Microsoft build the Retail Industry Center?

The Microsoft approach to the Retail industry is to provide a robust OS and services platform based on interoperable technology standards such as (XML, USB, and so on), and vertical industry standards such as (ARTS, IXRetail, EPC Global, and so on). With this foundation in place, we focus on providing tools and guidance so customers and partners can easily build solutions. While we're extending the platform with Retail specific products such as Commerce Server 2006, we also have over 60 Smarter Retailing partners, and 300 industry partners building great vertical solutions.

Vertical markets are increasingly complex, and each industry segment faces particular software architecture and operations challenges. Not surprisingly, we've gathered significant experience and shared guidance with a wide range of retailers, analysts, standards bodies, system integrators, and partners. Up until now, we haven't had a single forum for sharing this with the retail technical community. So the primary goals of the Retail Industry Center are to:

  • Illuminate industry solutions and architectures for a range of technical audiences.
  • Profile emerging technologies and demonstrate how they apply to the retail industry.
  • Increase awareness and technical understanding of partner solutions.
  • Create a channel to share technical guidance with retailers considering Microsoft products and services.
  • Provide technical guidance to our customers, partners, and system integrators.
  • Encourage experimentation and innovative thinking.
  • Increase awareness of retail industry standards bodies.

How is the Retail Industry Center different from the other developer centers on MSDN?

Most of the other developer centers on MSDN are focused on Microsoft products and technologies. On the other hand, this site focuses exclusively on Retail industry scenarios and solutions. Of course, when applicable, we'll provide links to product guidance elsewhere on MSDN. However, our primary intent is to ensure retail industry technologists know how Microsoft, partners, and their peers are building vertical solutions.

Why are you organized under the MSDN Architecture center?

Architects and developers working in vertical industries face challenges that require specific, scenario-focused guidance. Solutions in vertical industries often must perform under severe operational constraints while providing unparalleled stability, regulatory compliance, and ease of use. Accordingly, we've expanded the Solution Architecture Center to provide specific guidance for addressing these industry challenges.

What is a Retail industry "scenario"?

One of the most exciting aspects of the developer center will be our orientation around actual retail scenarios. Instead of providing random assortments of technical articles, we intend to cluster material around solution architectures and best practices for retail scenarios. These "clusters" provide rich content targeted towards a range of technical audiences (developer, solution architect, enterprise architect, operations, and technical decision makers). Moreover, these scenarios will evolve over time to meet the changing demands of retail, incorporate emerging technologies, and others. In the near term, we're focusing on the following areas:

  • Improving Point of Sale/Service
  • Improving Customer servicing and experience
  • Controlling Inventory and Order Management
  • Merchandise Management using Supply Chain Systems
  • Improving Enterprise Collaboration and Information distribution
  • Improving Employee Training
  • Improving Human Resources access for Employees
  • Improving Store financial reporting
  • Providing information to store managers
  • Providing improved enterprise business intelligence services
  • Providing timely business information to retailers
  • Content management for Multi-channel retailing solutions
  • Commerce management for Multi-channel retailing
  • Payment processing in Multi-channel retailing scenarios
  • Catalog management in Multi-channel retailing scenarios
  • Improving Multi channel integration and customer experience

Some of these scenarios apply only to particular retail segments, and others require markedly different implementations from retailer to retailer. Where applicable, we'll provide segment and market specific guidance. Our goal is to make recommendations practical and relevant to a wide range of retail audiences.

I see you mention "Smarter Retailing" several places. What is it?

At Microsoft, Retail & Hospitality doesn't just focus on the traditional store, casino, or hotel. Instead, we help customers build solutions that address three core areas:

  • Smarter Operations—Enables management to drive costs out of the organization, react to market conditions in real time, and maximize the value of new business opportunities
  • Smarter Shopping—Customer experiences that allow a company/partner to differentiate themselves.
  • Smarter Selling—Empower associates to increase their time on the floor, provide the latest product availability, and offer other services in real time.

For more information on the Microsoft Smarter Retailing initiative please see the overview.

How are you categorizing and organizing content on the Retail Industry Center?

There are four core classifications we're using to collect and create content for the industry center. This serves two purposes. First, it ensures we're building the material and guidance that appeals to a wide set of audiences across the retail industry. More importantly, however, this classification technique makes it easy for you quickly determine if a particular topic is of interest. We'll be using this approach throughout the site when sharing content.

Table 1

Company Size (Yearly Revenue)Audience TypeAudience RoleMaterial
<$100M (Small)CustomerEnterprise ArchitectWhitepaper
$100M–$1B (Medium)Partner / ISVSolution ArchitectDemo/Solution
>$1B (Large)System IntegratorIT ProfessionalReference Architecture
  DeveloperCode sample
  • We recognize technical guidance, solution architectures, and operational guidelines vary by the size of the organization. For example, smaller retailers may seek information on Microsoft Dynamics while large retails seek advice on custom development.
  • Organizations have widely varying requirements when building software. Some retail segments and business scenarios require making tradeoffs in scalability, interoperability, and manageability to achieve appropriate ROI.
  • We are going to focus on providing materials for all levels of the IT organization and not just the development audience.
  • We will provide a range of guidance from whitepapers/reference architectures to source code snippets, and complete demos.

For each retail business scenario we profile on the industry center, we'll provide related guidance to address needs of various project stakeholders:


Figure 1. Guidance for Retail Business Scenarios on MSDN Retail Industry Center

  • Enterprise Implications—Guidance to help enterprise architects understand, influence, and manage integration of retail solutions into their organization.
  • Relevant Standards—Guidance to help architects and developers build interoperable and standards compliant solutions that solve business needs.
  • Solution Architectures—Segment specific reference architectures, solution guidance, and partner solutions that address the retail business scenario.
  • Developer Tips—Code, development practices, and guidance for solving software construction challenges associated with the retail business scenario.
  • Operational Guidance—Whitepapers, scripts, and guidance to help IT Professionals deploy, manage, maintain, and monitor solutions associated with the retail business scenario.

Each member of the software development team has different responsibilities. By grouping guidance around retail business scenarios, each stakeholder can easily find role specific guidelines to help them build or support solutions addressing business needs.

Microsoft relies on a rich ecosystem to provide many vertical industry solutions. How are you going to provide technical details for those?

You will find content we publish is not only produced by Microsoft professionals with years of retail industry experience, but we're also leveraging the experience of key Microsoft partners and system integrators. Our strategy is to bring together a broad ecosystem of Microsoft professionals, partners, and system integrators to share relevant, proven guidance and information. As such, you'll see partner solution drilldowns, system integrator whitepapers, and customer experiences profiled throughout the Retail Industry Center.

What about Emerging Technologies?

While we intend for the industry center to focus primarily on existing technologies, many retailers have requested Microsoft offer guidance to help them understand emerging technologies and how they should implement them. Part of the Microsoft Retail & Hospitality team focuses exclusively on emerging technologies such as digital media, biometrics, digital consumer, RFID, and so on. We're committed to bring them to market in relevant, manageable solutions that retailers can implement in cost effective ways. As such, we'll continuously profile emerging retail technologies with practical guidance to help you understand whether you will see exciting content coming from us in the near future.

How are we handling feedback?

We've provided two ways for you to offer feedback on your experience using the Industry Center. First, we encourage everyone to rate the articles you read. This will help us understand what content is popular and what isn't quite meeting your needs. Each article provides a rating/comment feedback control at the end of the piece. The other way you can offer feedback is via the discussion forums. As you'll see throughout the site, we're leveraging the Solution Architecture Center discussion forums to provide a place to discuss articles, offer feedback on the site, and connect with your retail industry peers. If interest is sufficient, we'll create a separate forum exclusively for retail technologists in the coming weeks!

Is there going to be a Hospitality Industry Center too?

Yes, we will be integrating in Hospitality content to the industry center in the near future.