IBM has streamlined its approach to retail organisations by announcing an SOA-based (Service Oriented Architecture) mechanism for improving delivery.

The Retail Integration Framework (RIF) will offer support in four areas: multichannel retail, merchandising and supply chain, total store integration around point of sale and inventory, and retail business intelligence.

IBM said that RIF would be used by its ISV partners, to give companies easier access to these four areas through an SOA engagement, according to Patrick Gibney, director of industry solutions at IBM. "Basically when you need to integrate an Oracle application to the total solution you buy from IBM, the Framework exists to allow the solutions to install quicker with higher quality and benefit from best practices," said Gibney.

RIF allows a company to integrate in a heterogeneous environment at a customer location and gives a company a BPM (business process management) approach for the retail market.

"Model, assemble, run, monitor, and govern is what our BPM approach gives customers," said Gibney. However, he added that there is nothing turnkey about the IBM approach because the company understands that any out-of-the-box item requires some customisation.

Gibney also remarked pointedly that RIF "is not a product. You cannot go to IBM and buy it."

Rather than a product, the Retail Integration Framework represents a long-term strategic platform that incorporates a number of key IBM assets, said Rob Garf, a vice president of retail at AMR Research.

"It incorporates Websphere but also takes advantage of Tivoli and Rationale," said Garf.

The trend in retailing appears to be the adoption of packaged applications rather than the creation of homegrown solutions. The Framework will allow retailers to take advantage of the more innovative packaged applications now available while still giving them the ability to integrate them with their own legacy applications, according to Garf.

Rather than just implementing another technology, RIF will also give retailers a governance structure that will allow all future implementations to work together.

"It also gives IBM stickiness [in retailing]," said Garf.