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Retail information technology systems are currently poised at a crossroads as organisations consider the sheer complexity of the task ahead of them, according to a new study by the Aberdeen Group. Information Technology in the Retail Sector: The Integration Imperative, argues that companies who were pioneers with their earlier generations of point of sale networks now have to deal with multiple issues, not least of them being a higher degree of heterogeneity than found in other sectors, and the need to integrate their POS systems with their corporate networks. "Retailers have invested in point of sale networks and other examples of what was advanced technology at the time," says Donald Bellomy, Aberdeen Industry services senior consultant: "Retail, in fact, was arguably the first 'wired' segment of the economy. Retailers will fund IT expenditures when it makes good business sense." Bridging incompatible HQ and in-store systems is one challenge, others being the extension of the supply chain back towards suppliers and forward towards customers. Aberdeen says that there is currently no singler solution that can be used to achieve implementation, and the report analyses three major alternatives: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), inter-application linkage, and operating system interfaces. ®

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