With GK-in-the-Cloud, you are offering retail a new solution that is able to provide complete store software in the Cloud. What advantages do retailers have by concentrating software in the Cloud?
Michael Jaszczyk: Shifting all your store software to the Cloud is the logical consequence of an IT paradigm we at GK software started to focus on 7 years ago, when we became one of the first providers on a global basis to enable our customers to implement lean store concepts in a centralized situation. By now, this trend toward centralization has reached all store areas and presently appears to continue to accelerate. On the one hand, this is because the necessary basic technologies such as broadband, database technologies and many more are technically mature at this point.
On the other hand, cloud computing is switching more and more from being a technology topic to a business topic, since there is massive cost-cutting potential for one, while current retail topics such as omni-channel retailing can no longer be imagined without fast, centralized services and databases. If you want to accompany your customers everywhere and at high speeds – whether that’s on their mobile device, in the online store or at the store – you need the performance and data quality of central high performance data centers, meaning those available in the Cloud.
What are the major obstacles that keep retailers from introducing/using cloud services and why do you think German retailers in particular are so hesitant to capitalize on these new opportunities?
Jaszczyk: One challenge of course whose prominence is however more and more declining in the developed countries is the availability of secure broadband connections. A true cloud POS for instance needs a permanent connection to headquarters. We at GK approach this with our motto:”As much Cloud as possible, as much security as needed.“
That means that our solutions have to always protect against expected outage scenarios and that we offer hybrid solutions made up of Cloud and classic on-premise technology that can also be linked together in a system landscape. In addition, I actually don’t believe that German retailers are more hesitant than others to use innovative and efficient cloud solutions.
The debates on data security in the Cloud often forget that the private cloud dominates in the business domain, thus connecting the advantages of data ownership with the benefit of cloud computing architecture. Our cloud solutions thus create the same interest in our German partners as with all other countries we are doing business with.
Can you give us an overview of the different potential applications for cloud services in retail?
Jaszczyk: It is basically conceivable to relocate software for every store system into the control center and thus benefit from the advantages of the Cloud such as speed, data quality or simplified maintenance and troubleshooting. We should also not forget that cloud solutions are able to significantly reduce onsite hardware requirements. For quite some time now, we have already transferred all services that used to be handled by servers in the store into the Cloud.
Another logical step is POS systems that can now be much slimmer without losing functionality or speed. Quite the contrary, in the omni-channel environment, centralized services can gain significant functionality through apps provided in the Cloud. Basically I anticipate that all compute and data intensive processes are going to shift to the Cloud and that companies will use slim and low-maintenance thin clients on site – be it modern tablets, smartphones or in the future perhaps smartwatches or concepts such as Google Glass for instance.
GK Software is also already very active in this area and has developed the first retail app for Google Glass for instance, which implements customer-focused services such as shopping lists, item and store information as well as a self-scanning system in the customer’s glasses.
Do you believe these solutions will also become accepted in the long run in German retail?
Jaszczyk: Medium-term, there is no way around cloud solutions, since the advantages are enormous in the different areas. This is why I believe it is not a question of if, but rather when this is going to happen. Already from our discussions with retailers on new projects all over the world, we notice that they question the classic on-premise solutions more and more and expect innovative software architecture not to ruin the paths to the future.
Without cloud computing, integrated omni-channel solutions cannot be implemented. Yet consumers expect these solutions more and more. This is why the retail sector needs to very quickly open up to the Cloud topic on a global basis. Only cloud solutions will be able to facilitate consistent and homogeneous availability of data and business process logic in real-time and in the same quality across all channels. Over the past few years, we at GK Software have shown that we also helped in shaping this trend early on and with successful projects and that we will do so in the future.