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Wannabe Geek

Topic # 94359 8-Dec-2011 23:12
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Through a friend I've been asked to come into a retail store to check out their system. Apparently the current IT guy is useless and has to be constantly called in to "fix" it. Problem is, all I know about retail systems is it's going to be some sort of database with a GUI front-end. I only have a small amount of experience with SQL and C#/Java (I mainly program in C++ and I'm self taught, so I'm confident I can pick stuff up quick). My friend isn't technically inclined so I don't know what they are using yet besides that it is a membership system with automatic emails, EFTPOS/card-reader. They only have around 4 outlets around NZ. Could anyone experienced in this field give me some tips? Good preexisting software? best to develop a custom system? I know this isn't very specific but I want to go in as prepared as possible because I could really use this.

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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 555703 8-Dec-2011 23:33
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Check out Vend - it should do everything you are after!

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Uber Geek
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  Reply # 555714 9-Dec-2011 00:06
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I haven't been involved with retail systems for many years so I'm not up with the products. Sticking a barcode reader on a system is pretty simple and a basic membership/inventory system is not very difficult. Particularly for a video store? or the like. I would say POS/EFTPOS is the most complicated. You'll probably want to give it a go but beware of underestimating the time involved.

You're walking in cold. I've done the same and found a system I couldn't get into or didn't know how to get into. I'd want to be as clear as possible about the current situation. If you're looking to take over, you should also need to find out what are supplier's contractual commitments/service levels - even 'useless' people are usually more useful than they may appear. Likewise the store may be committed contractually and may not be able to afford to pay you as well. They might just be hoping for a miracle.

Because some things never change. Here's the sort of general dimensions I'd give some thought to:
  • Hardware versus software problems. Lack of investment is a big problem for hardware. Trying to get the software to do something it wasn't designed to do is the software biggie. In other words, have they invested what they actually needed to?
  • Custom versus package. Custom can be nice but most stores don't need rocket science and you should be able to buy off the shelf. In other words, have they bought what they needed?
  • Start-up supplier/new development versus mature product. Keep away from new products with poor support. In other words, are they someone's beta site? Or will they become yours if you develop for them?
  • Standalone/single user versus network/multi-user system. Are the problems with the network? Are there configuration issues? In other words, how complex is the system?
  • Native versus ported/emulated. I've seen a few retail apps that were originally from another platform and never really ran properly with unexplained problems. In other words, have they got the platform the application was designed for?
  • Monolithic/closed versus modular/open. If it is a larger system, which doesn't sound likely, you may have a chance of replacing a troublesome module. In other words, have they less risky options to proceed with?
  • Finally, something to keep in the back of your mind: have they got an in-house fraud/theft problem or an external security problem? Occasionally systems don't work properly because someone is deliberately nobbling it.

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  Reply # 555792 9-Dec-2011 09:31
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redjet: Check out Vend - it should do everything you are after!


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Master Geek
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  Reply # 555800 9-Dec-2011 09:43
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What industry and type of retail?

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Uber Geek
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  Reply # 555816 9-Dec-2011 10:07
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Vend looks pretty good.
I like that it works across platforms and doesn't need any local 'server' hardware.
I don't see anything on their webpage about EFT integration (like DPS), I suppose it does it?


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Uber Geek
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  Reply # 555893 9-Dec-2011 13:25
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To 'fix' it you have to know what the problems are. You need to set up some kind of meeting/discussion to enumerate those problems.

It is likely that knowledge of the issues and problems resides in more than one member of the team. Some follow up will probably be required to get to that info and correlate it.

After that, analyse the system to determine if it is capable of resolving those issues.

This is a system probably responsible for several million dollars of revenue and reporting - unless it is some kind of $2 shop.

Modification of any kind requires a very clear plan which covers every contingency.

Replacement also has many implications which require clear planning.

Logging into the system will not tell you much at all.

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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 555929 9-Dec-2011 14:21
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At the moment you don't know if the problem is hardware, application, database, connectivity, power or user related. As others have stated, you need to discover and define the problem first, before you look for a solution.

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Wannabe Geek

  Reply # 555969 9-Dec-2011 15:46
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trig42: Vend looks pretty good.
I like that it works across platforms and doesn't need any local 'server' hardware.
I don't see anything on their webpage about EFT integration (like DPS), I suppose it does it?

Yup (Hi I'm the CEO of Vend) we work with DPS eftpos and next year will have some other integrations too.

Do check out Vend and let me know what you think. 

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