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Sunday, February 27, 2005

RFID: Early Pilot Essential - Fast Follower Strategies Don't Mix

We recently covered Stephanie Stahl's perspective RFID at core of business processes and also covered -" Barely a day goes by that we don't hear about another application or service or middleware or chip reader that has come onto the market".Gene Alvarez,VP of technology research services at the Meta Group, writes about RFID adaption status and also discusses the approach towards RFID deployments.Excerpts with heavy edits and my comments added:

Many enterprises are standing on the sidelines amid concerns that RFID has been over-hyped. However selective progress is being made, meaning enterprises must keep pace with competitors while controlling investment costs with a technology that has many moving parts. RFID is not a technology that lends itself easily to a "fast follower" strategy, due to heavy infrastructure, as well as business process and application, requirements. A "Slap & Ship" model will remain the preferred model of compliance in the near future. Suppliers will deploy RFID internally as an enabler of process improvements and asset management based on knowledge gained from pilots to meet retailer mandates. Each enterprise's adoption rate and success will be a function of many variables, such as the percentage of R&D transformational spend within the IT budget, the types of products to be tagged, the enterprise's appetite for risk, mandate pressure or lack of mandate pressure. The impact on IT organizations created by current RFID case/pallet tagging schemes hits hard and at many levels of technology within enterprise IT portfolios. The initial entry into an RFID project requires IT organizations to support in-field pilots for setting objectives to test RFID tags, antennas and readers with pallets and cases to determine the impact to existing infrastructure and operational environments.
IT teams should initially assess the impact of RFID to existing infrastructure that is used for barcode-based data capture and determine reusable components such as wireless networks and application servers. Concurrently, many layers in the enterprise technology stack will require RFID impact assessments. These assessments include activities such as environmental surveys at each location to weed out sources of interference and to determine how RFID will perform, from that specific location all the way to the back office and business intelligence applications that run the enterprise. It will take enterprises two to three years to take on all the issues within the technology stack. Issues they must deal with include installation of readers, gates, light sticks, device management, case/pallet configuration, application server and networking upgrades, and integration with enterprise applications. RFID pilots will touch in-store systems, warehouse management, and back office systems and require physical infrastructure requirements such as power and network connectivity. Application infrastructure components such as application servers will require upgrades. These upgrades will enable RFID data aggregation and filtering of events from non-events, as well as control of RFID components such as readers, both handheld and gates, light-sticks, and alarms.The technology impact to applications should be assessed early instead of focusing on the limited scope of the tag testing pilot and determine how to leverage RFID data for business intelligence and data warehousing applications.My Take:We have earlier written that RFID deployment brings within enormous amount of transactional data,the need for a balanced middleware solution, need for realigning business processes, IT backup,tracking and reporting needs - all these are mammoth tasks requiring careful planning and lengthy trials and co-ordination - its imperative all potential RFID users begin testing RFID atleast for pilot with a full blown perspective in mind and define a roadmap for implementation within the enterprise,solidify implementation plans with a proven methodology,draw out program plans , create a good governance structure and aggressively move-in. Being where they are currentlty, and by not pushing, they run the risk of rendering themselves uncompetitive.

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Sadagopan's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Trends,Thoughts, Ideas & Cyberworld
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