The GlobalSTORE in-store system is the lead product in Fujitsu's retail business. Its development is based on an international base product that is then tailored to the needs of different market areas. Nordic users of the system include the Swedish consumer goods chain Coop and The Body Shop cosmetics chain in Finland.
International co-operation is a natural everyday thing at Invia. "Time differences sometimes hinder communication, but we nevertheless exchange views by e-mail or telephone almost on a daily basis," says Timo Tuuliniemi, System Architect, who is one of the Nordic contact persons for the American counter parties. He participates in the in-store system's Nordic development work. Fujitsu's main development centre for the retail sector, Fujitsu Transaction Solutions Inc. (FTXS), is located in Wake Forest, North Carolina, USA.
Common information storage, seminars and telephone conferences
One of Timo Tuuliniemi's contact points in America is Antti Virtaranta, who is responsible for the development environment of the base application. "FTXS develops and maintains the base product. Apart from Wake Forest, we have remote units in San Diego and Santa Clara. Our product development unit employs a total of 60 people," says Antti Virtaranta, who is originally from Finland and has been living in the USA since 1997.
FTXS has maintenance and support contracts with Fujitsu's Retail units in Japan, Australia, the Nordic countries, Great Britain and elsewhere in the EMEA region.
"We are in contact with different Fujitsu units every day. We maintain an online information storage system, from where the units can retrieve, for example, new versions and updates. We also assemble biannually at the Retail Strategy Board, where we address both the international and local product strategies together. In addition, we have telephone conferences on a regular basis, in which we discuss current topics and monitor the implementation of our common plans," Virtaranta says.
"We pick and utilise the parts of the base product, which, in our opinion, are interesting to our Nordic customers," Timo Tuuliniemi says. "My role as a contact person has its roots back in the three years that I worked in Wake Forest, participating in tool creation for the base product. Consequently, I am well familiar with the office and have useful contacts."
Discussing and specifying the local needs of the in-store system often causes mutual astonishment. "We currently have two big customer projects ongoing in the Nordic countries and thus are in touch with the Invia people almost daily. From our point of view, the Nordic countries play a key role as utilisers of new technology. The will and ability to make investments are significantly greater there than in the USA, and the customers have a better vision of the competitive edge they can gain through new technology. On the other hand, American retail chains are vastly greater in size and operate on significantly lower sales margins than Finnish chains. Furthermore, American retail chains have a rather short time-span for cost-benefit analysis," Virtaranta says, comparing the two environments.
"We Finns find American alcohol politics somewhat curious; it is a common belief that alcohol sales are relatively unregulated in the USA. However, there are a lot of different rules and restrictions, and even zones where alcohol sales are banned," Timo Tuuliniemi says. "On the other hand, the Scandinavian taxation systems and different currencies are problematic for the Americans. Furthermore, discounts and regular customer benefits include features that may seem exotic to people unfamiliar with the system."
"In the USA, the sales price is always marked excluding taxes, and the tax is added to the price on the counter when paying. There may be different layers of taxes: those of the state, county and city. In addition, a luxury tax may be charged. The use of discount coupons and different customer cards is also an essential feature of the American shopping culture," Antti Virtaranta notes. "Furthermore, the approach to handling money is more old-fashioned than in Finland; for instance, cheques are still commonly used."
Product responsibility for the chain management maintenance system lies with the Nordic countries
Nordic expertise is highly valued in retail product development: Fujitsu has placed the product responsibility for the international development of the StoreCENTER chain management maintenance system with the Nordic countries.
"The initial idea for the system came from Finland, where the organisation of stores into chains and the outsourcing of IT functions has proceeded at the fastest pace. Individual stores want to concentrate on their core function - selling products - and prefer to centralise such functions as receipt archives, reporting and peripheral applications," says Timo Hulkkonen, who is responsible for scoping the features of the chain management maintenance system in the upcoming versions. He is also a member of the team whose task it is to pack the system to suit small and medium-sized retail chains.
"The Wake Forest site actively monitors the development of the chain management maintenance system. Fujitsu plans to expand its global product selection with the StoreCENTER system and utilise the related .net-based product development in other ways, as well," says Antti Virtaranta. "The chain management maintenance system is a tool for the centralised handling of all the functions that used to be done in the back rooms of individual stores. Now, the storekeeper no longer needs to tamper with back-up tapes after closing," Hulkkonen explains.
"We are currently about to launch the product around the world. Thus, there are plenty of challenges and things to learn and wonder about. However, everything is looking good. The product has a solid technical basis and is being developed by experienced, talented professionals," Hulkkonen concludes.
Date: 14 May, 2003
Company: Fujitsu Invia, , , , ,
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