Of all the industries my company works with, the Retail industry is the most unique. No other industry behaves the way retail does. Perhaps its the seasonal nature of the business, or the fact that it is run by a lot of creative types, or maybe its because the customers are so finicky and unpredictable. Whatever the reason, as a software developer it makes for an adventurous ride when trying to build something that will last.

The industry is a fractured one, there's no question about that. Any given retailer will typically have numerous systems that they need to piece together and make them talk to each other. From warehouse management to order entry to CRM (Customer Relationship Managment) and POS (Point of Sale) and EDI systems. Then there's all the stuff around the edges, and there's a lot, that goes on, whether it is in the form of Excel reports, Access databases, Quick Books software, 3rd party planning tools, Data Warehousing, and on and on. Much of this will even be coming from separate companies, many retailers outsource their warehousing or their POS systems (for ex.) to third parties, thereby making integrations even more complex.

To the retailer who wants one system to rule them all, I haven't seen it yet. SAP probably comes closest, but its mainly for large retailers with deep pockets, and even still it doesn't cover everything. Many retailers have their own development teams, writing custom software to run different parts of the business. For me, as a software developer with a love for retail, these are exciting times. Having an intimate knowledge of the retail industry enables me to give something back, and try to make something so fractured come together in a way that is better and more efficient.

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