Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Sunday "Browsing Only": 11:30am to 12:00pm

It turns out that the UK's "Browsing Only" policy that certain large London based departmental store retailers seem to think is an unbeliavably successful sales strategy, must be enforced by the Sales Assistants on the floor! There is no simple little business rule implemented in software that is uploaded to the cash registers and credit card processing systems!

Talk about inviting disaster! It occurs to me that if there is no software system that enforces simple business rules such as this, then just how much fraud are these retailers "swallowing" and not reporting? A couple of months ago I heard of a scam where £10000's refunds were made between just 2 partners in crime, and it took the retailer a while to discover the anomaly and a while then to investigate and discover the root cause. This implies that there is no business rule being implemented that says "look up original transaction in system", "confirm purchaser/refunder id", "confirm credit card details identical", "have unrelated completely trusted 3rd person verify the transaction".

Aish! Don't people realise software should be implemented to support business processes, and enforce important business rules. Makes me wonder exactly what people are really investing their IT budgets in, and does not surprise me that there is so much scepticism from business managers when it comes to supportive [inhouse] IT projects/products.


Anonymous said...

It is really scary how banking systems work. I've worked with all of the major South African banks. The South African banking systems are similar to those found in Europe. To initiate a refund, I simply issue a single instruction. The instruction has no context to any previous transaction. It merely instructs the financial institution to take money from the businesses account and moves it to the card holders account. No questions asked!

There are checks and balances, but these are post fact. It is up to the business to ensure that all refunds are authorized.


Darren Bishop said...

I'm going to stick my neck out and say this 'scepticism from business managers' is an ignorance thing. Someone tells you you need to update your system; you look at the features on the back of the box of the system that someone is trying to flog you; each feature is a solution to a problem you may have, may not have, have not but are made to believe you have or will have. The BM becoming ever more sceptical in the process.

This 'Browsing Only' thing is perhaps a poor example as it is a matter of Law, not business. Most categories of commerce/retail are by Law limited to 6 hours trading on a Sunday - I used to think this was to protect staff on their Christian day of worship - but, I presume with staggered staffing hours, this restriction can be successfully circumnavigated.

Nonetheless your point is understood and the issue therein is not exclusive to the retail or banking sectors. I belive it is down to short-sightedness in areas where technology is not the primary business and thus innovative technology people do not help run the business; the role 'CTO' is traditionally a lot less talked about than, say, CEO or CFO, and then what kind of head does that CTO have screwed on.

One could say it is a matter of COTS Vs. Bespoke software; if the former prevails (=> short -sightedness => cheaper) where I think it does in the majority of cases in the majority of industries, it is harder to react or even realize a) a motivation to improve and b) that the improvement can be implemented in the software/technology space.

Just to throw it out there (read: haven't really explored the idea) perhaps, 'software should be implemented to support business processes', is a flawed concept given todays standards and capabilities in technology. Maybe software and technology should be in the driver's seat and not in the back seat. For example, e-Crime exists because it manages to stay ahead of the curve through exploiting technology and the holes therein. It is not a huge leap to imagine technology creates new oppurtunities for crime, rather than just simply supporting it [a matter-of/shift-in perspective, perhaps]; business could do the same, taking e-Crime as the PoC.