Ranjan Moses

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Better Inventory Management With MongoDB Atlas, Atlas Device Sync, and WeKan

Mobile technologies can be powerful enablers of an improved retail experience, both for customers and for employees. Using mobile devices, staffers can check in on an app rather than physically signing into their workplace. Order management and order tracking can be greatly improved with mobile technologies, offering customers increased assurance and predictability. One of the largest challenges faced by retailers — and one where mobile technologies are ideally suited to help — is inventory management. Poor inventory management leads directly to lost revenues, because retailers cannot fulfill orders if they don’t know what they have. Some 70% of store associates are unable to fulfill an order that is out of stock at their location. In this article, we’ll look at how mobile technology, connected to a central database, can improve inventory management and provide key functionality throughout an organization. Inventory challenges Inventory management is exceptionally complicated, especially for retailers that have roots in brick and mortar. Even a medium-size retailer may have dozens of physical locations and multiple warehouses. When an order comes in, the information must be sent to the appropriate warehouses, and the warehouse managers need to know which items should go to which stores. When e-commerce is layered on top of that, workers pick and pack items directly from the warehouse, in addition to managing returns. Worse, more than 16% of online orders are typically canceled . If a store manager orders a particular style of shoe, for example, they want to be able to see when those shoes are going to arrive. However, this information is typically compiled in batch mode at the end of the day, which can result in lags and inaccuracies. Additionally, if the various inventory systems aren’t communicating well, a store manager may not see that an order has been returned or canceled. They may think the item is out of stock — even though it could be sitting on a shelf. Such difficulties can be the result of fragmented technologies. Warehouses may have their own systems, point-of-sale systems may be a separate technology, and inventory management may be completely independent. This fragmentation doesn’t even begin to take into account the systems that help the store managers with operations and the delivery infrastructure. Some of these systems may be modern, some may be legacy, but without being connected to a central data layer, the information contained within them remains siloed and therefore of limited value. Mobile technology, connected to a central database, can unlock that information and provide important new functionality to employees throughout an organization. It can tell the shop manager that their shoes will arrive in the next hour. And it can tell them that, based on data from the point-of-sale system, they’re running out of women’s socks in size small, for example, and need to replenish their stock. Central data layer Conceptually, the solution is simple: A central data layer that is able to talk to all these different components on a real-time basis and then cascade the information to different applications using mobile devices to feed off of the database. The data layer and the local clients must be interoperable and available regardless of network availability and other challenges. The data required for the mobile app should be on-device and should be synced with the database server. The data layer is the backbone of this entire system. It needs to be flexible, because it will be asked to ingest wildly different forms of data. A retailer may have millions of SKUs that need to be managed, along with prices and special promotions. This information changes frequently, so the data layer must be able to manage a very high volume of data, and the data must be easily transformed to work in one central system that other devices can easily access. According to research from Incisiv, 70% of workers do not sit at a desk, and 79% of the retail workforce are digital natives, meaning that the data layer must be interoperable with any number and type of mobile devices. MongoDB and WeKan , working together, use MongoDB Atlas as that central data layer with Atlas Device Sync to connect data between mobile devices and the cloud. WeKan — an IT consulting company offering end-to-end transformation and technology innovation services — has been building mobile solutions since 2015, and has deep experience with Atlas and Atlas Device Sync. MongoDB has partnered with WeKan because of its consistent success in helping customers in industries such as retail, manufacturing, and automotive modernize their tech stacks and their business ecosystems, paving the way for valuable innovations. The combination of MongoDB Atlas and Atlas Device Sync provides significant advantages to joint customers, including: Out-of-the-box, robust sync protocol: When a sale is made, data from the point-of-sale system is synchronized to the cloud and then sent to all the other devices that need the information in real time. No matter how an employee is accessing the data, they can be assured that it is the most up-to-date. Efficient data consumption from the mobile client: It’s important that any solution be specifically tailored for mobile devices. A generic cloud-based solution is not necessarily mobile-friendly, which means that it may not be efficient in terms of data consumption, battery-life or storage optimization. Flexible schema: A flexible data structure allows businesses to ingest data quickly, innovate, and be free from the rigidity of relational systems. Warehouse teams may need one view of the data, while delivery teams need a completely different view. A flexible schema allows for fluid processes and helps each team get the data access it needs. GraphQL and auto-generation of endpoints: Endpoints talk to the data layer so that an API can fetch data from it. Most developers have to build those endpoints, but with Atlas Device Sync clusters, the endpoints are generated automatically. Triggers and functions: Certain aspects of MongoDB Atlas and Atlas Device Sync can be set up to be serverless. If you want to move data between Atlas and another system, you can use triggers to send the data and then send notifications based on the changes. Data access permissions and user authentication: This functionality is available out of the box with Atlas and Atlas Device Sync, which saves developers valuable time. Because MongoDB Atlas and Atlas Device Sync provide a fully managed, out-of-the-box implementation of device-to-cloud data synchronization, creating and maintaining a high-quality, reliable application fit for business-critical use cases is simple. Below, we illustrate how updates from client and server are handled automatically: Enabling e-commerce at a leading retail chain In one successful use case, a massively complex retail organization that operates, franchises, and licenses thousands of stores globally used MongoDB Atlas with Atlas Device Sync to build innovative functionality for its e-commerce application. The application allows customers to browse a product catalog connected to their local store’s inventory, make purchases on their mobile devices, and schedule in-store pickup or delivery. To provide the best customer experience, the mobile app obviously requires accurate, timely, and granular inventory data. As part of their technology modernization initiative, this retailer also brought custom mobile devices into 10,000 stores across the United States and Canada to better scan and manage inventory. With the new functionality, store employees can now call customers directly about order statuses and clarifications. The result is a better customer experience, increased mobile sales, and extensive data analytics capabilities that can foster further improvements. Inventory management is exceptionally complicated and frequently made worse with separate, fragmented technologies. Could improved inventory management bring in more revenue for your business? Learn more about WeKan or contact MongoDB at bd@mongodb.com .

August 16, 2022

How Legacy Modernization with WeKan and MongoDB Atlas Helps Meet Evolving Consumer Demands

COVID-19 has accelerated the growth and adoption of digital economies across the globe, and the businesses best positioned to keep pace with related changes in consumer behavior and demand will continue to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. According to a consumer study by FIS Global that surveyed participants to understand changes in recent buying behaviour and patterns, consumers have spent 58% more money online since the pandemic started. What’s more, 42% of respondents stated an increase in purchases from local/independent small businesses, and 27% of consumers have subscribed to one new online streaming platform. Large institutions and household brands can not risk complacency if they want to maintain market share. The customer loyalty of today will be captured by the companies that act with agility and optimize data to deliver the most seamless, custom experience for consumers. Unsurprisingly, business models that have prioritized and directed resources towards aligning their processes with digital transformation are better placed to deal with customer behaviour shifting into the digital realm. And yet, innumerable businesses are plagued by the limitations of their legacy IT systems when trying to modernize their digital experience. For many organizations, legacy systems are seen as holding back the business initiatives and business processes that rely on them...when a tipping point is reached, application leaders must look to application modernization to help remove the obstacles Stefan Van Der Zijden, VP Analyst, Gartner Continued use of these systems holds back businesses’ potential for revenue generation and building customer-facing credibility; but modernizing them reaps worthy rewards. Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone. This post will detail how organizations can undertake this modernization process, often termed “legacy modernization,” so as to leverage the speed, agility, and responsiveness required to succeed in a digital-first marketplace. What is legacy modernization? Legacy modernization refers to the process of updating an organization’s antiquated IT stack to align with new-age business goals and workflows. To drive innovation, business leaders need to be supported by technology that can help implement their goals in the real world. They need fast-paced, highly connected systems with minimal-to-zero downtime, and platforms or dashboards that provide cohesive and easily comprehensible views of the entire ecosystem. Generally, legacy IT stacks are incapable of meeting these standards which is where legacy modernization comes in. Defining legacy systems and 4 major drawbacks Essentially, a legacy system is any software or technological system that slows down an organization’s business growth and its ability to shift and adapt to changing market forces. If a software setup is unable to integrate with newer systems, workflows or processes, it qualifies as “legacy.” Generally the incompatibility of legacy technologies, and the bottlenecks that come with them, lead to major issues related to maintenance, support, updates, integration and overall user experience. Think of it this way: using a legacy system in 2021 is comparable to driving a Prius with an engine made in 2000. Legacy solutions lack flexibility and carry a significant technology debt due to dated languages, databases, architectures, and a limited supply of aging baby-boomer programmers. a Deloitte Study on Legacy Systems and Modernization The business impact of legacy systems are varied, but often adverse. They include: 1. Inability to act with agility and meet demand Generally, legacy systems can only be accessed from office computers. But in a digital-first world, mobile devices are at the core of digital transformation. If employees cannot access necessary software from anywhere at any time, their productivity and operational capacity is severely limited. The link between software and employee performance has, in fact, been well-documented . For instance, in 2015 , a computer running a 23 year-old operating system (Windows 3.1) caused planes to be grounded at Paris’ Orly airport for several hours. Needless to say, customers were not happy. 2. Decreased employee productivity and customer satisfaction Everyday people are at the heart of digital transformation. If a business wants to attract and retain customers who are increasingly reliant on their internet-powered mobile devices for day-to-day activities and transactions, they have to meet them online. And if they want to attract top talent, they need to equip their employees with the tools and agility needed to innovate. Being saddled with legacy systems will prevent companies from using newer apps and providing the best possible customer service, support and experience. Additionally, sub-par employee performance and customer service will inevitably cause financial loss due to unsatisfied customers and missed opportunities for expansion. 3. Scalability issues and security risks Legacy software is usually incapable of scaling up, which poses major obstacles to business growth. In a competitive marketplace, businesses must be able to shift strategy and optimize according to market forces, for which they need the support of their IT stack. An excellent example of this is how companies have had to adapt to remote work becoming the ‘new normal’ due to the global pandemic. The IBM 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report puts the average cost of a data breach at USD 3.92 million. Legacy software almost always has glaring flaws in its security mechanisms for multiple reasons: withdrawal of manufacturer support, lack of updates and regular maintenance, difficulties in fixing vulnerabilities within outdated systems. Issues like security breaches will significantly harm brand credibility and repel customers from entrusting the business with their data. 4. Higher costs Administrative, support and maintenance costs are unnecessarily high when companies have to work with legacy software. Additionally, hiring and training new employees, especially developers, is difficult since there is a shortage of coders trained in legacy languages like COBOL and Natural. Most legacy systems are hosted on premise, which translates to enormous and unnecessary overhead related to maintenance and upgrades. These costs are easily eliminated by leveraging cloud computing platforms like AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure. Despite these glaring inadequacies, the pandemic has revealed how far too many organizations continue to rely on aging IT systems. In a 2020 AppDynamics Report , 66% of technologists say “the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in their digital strategy, driving an urgent need to push through initiatives which were once a part of multi-year digital transformation programs.” A roadmap for legacy modernization The journey to legacy modernization can be an intensive one, but there are proven best practices and expert guidance to help you get started. Galvanize the key players in your organization and get started by asking the right questions: What resources can be assigned to the modernization endeavour? Do your employees possess the skills to operate the new systems? What are the specific competitive advantages that modernization needs to provide for your organization? Is there a separate support and retirement schedule in place for your legacy system? Should modernization occur in a single shift or in phases? How will this affect our business? Escaping the pressures imposed by unwieldy tech stacks has become possible with microservices and cloud-based application development and/or usage. The trick lies in decentralizing business tech offerings by migrating them from Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS) to the Cloud via scalable solutions like MongoDB Atlas , MongoDB's hosted database-as-a-service offering. Moving from monolith to microservices architecture can be complex, but offers multiple long-term advantages across multiple parameters. Refactoring monolithic systems requires carefully constructed strategies, the most successful of which are drawn from the Strangler Pattern approach . How do we modernize from existing legacy systems? Initiate new functionalities as microservices: Every time a business has to implement a new functionality or feature, they can incorporate it as a microservice instead of adding it to the existing monolith architecture. Not only does this prevent the legacy stack from expanding, but allows stakeholders to become acquainted with the advantages of microservice ecosystems. Dismantle the monolith: Once microservices have been introduced into an organization’s ecosystem, monolith structures need to be deconstructed for eventual elimination. Companies like FedEx and CitiBank have attested to the success of a microservices-based strategy with real world implementation. To quote FedEx CIO Rob Carter , “We began to build out the services and microservices that represent the less complex, more flexible, faster-to-market capabilities that we have today.” CitiBank, too, opted for migrating its monolith system to a microservices-based architecture so as to accelerate digital transformation. How WeKan and MongoDB Atlas can help Implementing successful, sustainable and scalable legacy modernization requires expertise in executing on the process itself, as well as the right tools that can understand and adapt to an organization’s unique needs and business goals. Databases and platforms like MongoDB and its tool suite help address the challenges of replatforming from monolith to microservice. MongoDB Atlas is the leading choice of general purpose databases for modernization. As a document-based, distributed database, MongoDB reduces time spent on development cycles and empowers developers with flexible schema and the tools they need to maintain productivity. A leap forward from traditional RDBMS, MongoDB Atlas's smart infrastructure helps organizations scale effortlessly and maintain business-critical reliability while driving lower TCO, reducing security risk, and remaining ACID compliant. Complementary to MongoDB, WeKan’s Modernization process is composed of 5 phases that aim to scope an optimal modernization journey for any business operating on legacy systems and looking for a better return on their technology investment: Diagnosis phase – The first step is to understand the current state of the business, its most critical pain points and identify major inefficiencies that can be solved through technology modernization. Prescription phase – With a good understanding of the business’ state, we propose reference solution architectures that can address most critical pain points and enhance overall performance of their technology ecosystem with a focus on always reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) and increasing ROI on their technology spend. Validation phase – After gathering potential solutions, we then validate through POCs their tech viability, expected outcomes and leverage results from these efforts to narrow down and select the option that is best suited to the business’ needs. Requirements definition phase – With a target solution in hand, we work on defining the technical requirements and specifications of the proposed solution to ensure seamless integration to the overall technology ecosystem. Execution and Implementation phase – With the right solution architecture, technical requirements in place, and a proposed modernization plan, our modernization consultants work hand-in-hand with internal stakeholders on the development, testing, delivery and implementation of the proposed modernized solution. According to the World Economic Forum, digital transformation could generate more than $100 trillion by 2025 . Without legacy modernization, businesses will miss out on tapping into revenue streams offered by the digital economy. It is integral for organizations to leverage the many advantages of modernization so that they may gain and retain a competitive edge in a constantly connected and perpetually online marketplace. To learn more about WeKan and MongoDB Atlas's efficacy in organization-centric digital transformation, refer to our case study with RideKleen. After migrating operations to AWS, WeKan chose MongoDB Atlas, Atlas Data Lake and MongoDB Realm as their central data platform. Atlas offers a fully managed cloud database service with built-in automation, Atlas Data Lake provides federated query capabiliites to natively data query across MongoDB and AWS S3, while MongoDB Realm simplifies the critical edge-to-cloud sync and provides backend services to speed development work, including triggers, functions, and GraphQL. RideKleen case study Watch how MongoDB’s industry-best modernization services helped OTTO, Germany’s #2 global e-commerce provider and #1 site for e-commerce, fashion and lifestyle. Learn more about our Modernization Program Learn more about WeKan

July 1, 2021