The journey of digitizing the enterprise created a whole new set of unique challenges in business operations. One of the largest was how to get that host of new software platforms to talk to each other, leading the B2B financial services (FinServ) space to embrace application program interface (API) connectivity, and enable data sharing across the back office.
However, as siloes came down, one large barrier to data integration remained that separated back-office functions from the front office — namely, the point of sale (POS). According to Yoke Payments Vice Presidents Ben Thomas and Mike Johnson, the POS (and the data it contains) can have a major impact on back-office operations. That's the driver of the company's focus on integrating its POS solution with back-office platforms, the executives explained in a recent interview with PYMNTS.
Yoke Payments has developed a self-checkout POS tool, designed for the corporate environment. Placed in offices with only a few hundred workers, the technology enables staff to purchase a range of food and non-food items, and use self-checkout technology for their buys.
While self-checkout can be convenient for shoppers, and cost-effective for micro-retailers that don't have to invest in human capital to manage the POS, it also introduces unique challenges in the back office, particularly when it comes to inventory management. Self-checkout, said Johnson, VP of Happiness, "comes with a completely different set of challenges" to inventory management, compared to traditional POS systems.
"You're dealing with people who have not been trained on how to use a POS system," he explained, adding that any mishaps can significantly throw off inventory numbers. "You look at your inventory management platform and see discrepancies, and think, 'are people stealing?'"
That's not always the case, though. Customers may have simply incorrectly checked themselves out, or changed their minds and left a product on the shelf. So, while a focus on ease of use at the POS is crucial, it's also vital for the POS itself to be integrated into an inventory management platform for these sellers to more accurately track inventory levels.
According to Thomas, VP of Dreams, in recent years, Yoke Payments has accelerated its focus on that integration, not only with its proprietary inventory management solution, but with third-party inventory platforms as well. Johnson said that feature is important for sellers with thousands of POS kiosks across a city, or for those that have been using an inventory management system for several years without the desire to change.
Yoke Payments first emerged in early 2016 out of the incubator program of CSI globalVCard, a commercial payments company that powers Yoke Payments' accounts payable (AP) solution. In recent years, however, the company has turned away from the AP side of operations. Instead, the executives explained, the company is focused on third-party integrations so it can focus on its specialties, while still supporting connectivity with its users' existing back-office platforms.
By connecting into third-party inventory management solutions, it enables micro-merchants to wield POS data to track inventory levels in warehouses. Additional third-party integrations allow Yoke Payments to support users' ability to initiate purchases with vendors when warehouse levels are low.
Johnson noted opportunities like integrating with accounting platforms, another strategy that sees API connectivity acting as a bridge between the front-office POS and back-office financial management.
"We've been entrenched in, and focused on, driving integration as much as possible," said Thomas.
Born out of its own company needs, Yoke Payments is also developing what Johnson described as a mini Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) portal for customers, which enables business users to access the data resulting from platform integrations into a unified place.
"Any business owner has a million things going on, and they'll typically have anywhere from 10 to 15 different software applications to run their business," Johnson said. "It can be a nightmare."
Thomas said that, as Yoke Payments continues to augment its front-office self-checkout technology, back-office integrations will continue to be a critical part of providing the right service level to users, as companies demand ways to take advantage of data that can be trapped within the siloes of individual solutions. For any B2B technology solutions provider, particularly those in the FinServ space, it is no longer sufficient to offer a technology without acknowledging the context in which that solution will sit — regardless of if it's in the front or back office.
"There is a huge opportunity, I think, for keeping all software platforms working well together," said Johnson.