Retailers presenting at a vendor hosted conference recently used the term “vanilla” as apositive or aspirational term when describing their technology implementations and/or implementation plans. I find this really an exciting prospect. Have we finally reached a point where technology vendors are providing truly configurable solutions that can support almost all retail requirements? Likewise have retailers finally embraced the idea that there can be best practice and that they are not as unique as they think? It seems the answer may be yes on both counts.

Any of us that have been in the industry for more than a couple of years can recall long and painful upgrade plans that had to navigate through a field of landmines, aka customizations.  This of course meant that unless there was an overwhelmingly undeniable requirement to do an upgrade, for example the vendor no longer supporting the current version, we lived with outdated technology. As more vendors expand and more retailers embrace this approach, we will see the business users embracing technology and driving business value in ways never before possible.

Vanilla – a classic that is always in style!

It’s important to note that vanilla has many varieties. Vanilla ice cream ranges from the $2.99 basic store brand to quality brands. The type required is full of rich flavor and comprised of quality ingredients that will satisfy every appetite. The lesson for the retailer is to embrace the idea of “vanilla” implementations while taste testing to be sure it gets the quality required. Taking the analogy a step further we are really talking about a customized experience where a retailer that requires a different approach can add more vanilla or more cream to get just the right mix.

Retailers should look for vendors that have industry expertise, offer configurable solutions built on the latest technologies, capable of modular implementations. Best practice should be a foundation for the vendor while also providing configuration via flexible workflows that will enable a good fit into the retail structure. Thankfully this seems to a real possibility.

Exert from Gartner (Robert Hetu) is the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company. They deliver the technology-related insight necessary for clients to make the right decisions, everyday.