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By Sara Castellanos
The technical problems at Target Corp. stores over the weekend illustrate the challenge of unifying a large retailer's technology infrastructure with its bricks-and-mortar presence and underscore the importance of having trusted vendors and backup plans.
Target's checkout systems suffered a nationwide outage for about two hours on Saturday due to a problem during routine maintenance of its computer systems.
On Sunday, an unrelated problem cropped up: Some card payments at certain stores couldn't be processed for about an hour and a half because of a problem at a third-party vendor.
"Nobody is immune to an outage like this," said Joanne Joliet, senior research director at Gartner Inc.
That's in part because large retailers rely on third-party vendors for various technology solutions, and because of the innate complexity that comes with the convergence of online and offline environments, she said.
Shopping outages as a result of technical problems have become prevalent both online and in physical stores in recent years, causing problems particularly on peak shopping days.
Routine technology maintenance has become more complicated because systems are not isolated from each other. "They're all integrated...which introduces greater complexity," Ms. Joliet said.
For example, a point-of-sale system could be connected to an order-management system and an enterprise resource planning system, she said. Disruptions to one system could cause ripple effects, which is why testing is critical but also increasingly complex, Ms. Joliet said.
Target said Sunday's hiccup came as NCR Corp., a vendor it uses to help accept payments, experienced an issue at one of its data centers. NCR didn't respond to a request for comment.
Reliance on third-party vendors requires more trust than ever before, Ms. Joliet said: "Trust in that partner is just as critical as the technical functionality."
It's imperative that business continuity and disaster recovery plans are in place in service agreements between companies and third-party vendors so outages don't last long, she said.
Enterprise-technology executives should ensure that third-party vendors are in "lockstep with the plan" for disaster recovery, said Anna Frazzetto, chief digital technology officer of technology solutions at IT offshoring, IT recruitment and executive search firm Harvey Nash Inc.
"Enterprises have to challenge third-party vendors and hold them to service [agreements]," Ms. Frazzetto said, adding that there should be financial penalties for not adhering to those agreements.
Target said it knew many customers had a "frustrating shopping experience" at its stores over the weekend. "We're working tirelessly to ensure these issues don't happen again," the company said.
Write to Sara Castellanos at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 17, 2019 17:28 ET (21:28 GMT)
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