Old News is Good News from ARTS at NRF
By Bill Bittner
Retailers and vendors who are aware of ARTS and have made use of their standards have benefited, but getting the message out has been a challenge. The Association for Retail
Technology Standards, sponsored by NRF, was established to work on platform independent, vendor neutral standards. The objective: lower the cost and increase the speed of retail
technology deployment by reducing the complexity of integration efforts.
ARTS began many years ago with the development of a standard item and supplier data model for the retail industry. The data model provides the foundation for all the various
retail applications that require data. A standard data model allows applications from multiple software vendors to share a common data structure.
Last year, ARTS introduced a plan to produce standard RFP’s for retail technology. The POS RFP was available at last year’s NRF and now RFP’s for Work Force Management, Loss
Prevention, and Signature and Online/Offline Debit capture have been added.
The “Request for Proposal” or RFP is a document that is prepared when a business user is evaluating multiple technology vendors for a particular project. It is a huge challenge
to begin an RFP with nothing but a blank piece of paper. First, you have to make sure you capture all your own business requirements; then you have to express them in such a way
that the solution provider also understands them. Retailers often begin internally with their own business and technical staff. Business users and technical personnel approach
the problem from completely different directions. Neither has a full appreciation of the other’s requirements nor what are reasonable expectations for fulfillment.
The ARTS RFP provides a baseline that gives both parties a starting point. Working with their technical staff, the business user can review each feature that has been specified
and rate its importance in their business model. They can eliminate the features and functions that do not apply and add those they feel are missing. In the end, the adjusted
RFP is shared with ARTS so that updates to the standard can be considered.
This year, ARTS has announced new item and price data models. But the big news for standards acceptance is the reception of last year’s RFP initiative. The success of the RFP
model and the introduction of new software initiatives to support RFID have encouraged retailers and software vendors to use other offerings from ARTS, such as the data model.
Moderator’s Comment: Could the popularity of the ARTS RFP be the breakthrough that leads to greater standardization at other levels?
When vendors receive the standard ARTS RFP, they’ll find the baseline requirements to be familiar, so they should be able to focus on the unique requirements
of a particular retailer. If they see capabilities in the baseline that they don’t have, it should be clear what their development department should be working on…because the
baseline requirements are likely to be in future RFPs.
In talking with the folks from ARTS, it appears that they are really excited about the response they have gotten to the RFP’s and the “fallout” from it
that has led to more requests for the standard data model. Hopefully this will lead to more use for the standard.
In the past, I have discussed some of the challenges associated with standards. I am hopeful that the RFP’s are the beginning of a breakthrough. It makes
sense that standards can be established at this level, where adjustments are still possible and final results are not set in stone. –
Bill Bittner – Moderator