The Hidden Cost of IT Infrastructure and Why Having Visibility of Your Retail Estate is Vital in Order to be Able to Optimise It
Ask any retail CIO or IT Director what they prefer focusing on — keeping the lights on or rolling out the latest digital transformation project — and there’ll be no prizes for guessing that it’s the latter. Except, in some ways, this really should be the other way around because, as the old saying in golf goes: drive for show, putt for dough.
Let me explain.
I recall many years ago talking to the Group CIO of a well-known multi-faceted national grocer about this very topic; what he told me was revealing.
To paraphrase, he explained that it was all very well immersing yourself in multi-million pound capital projects that promise to deliver growth and transform the business. When the CEO’s laptop breaks down just before an important presentation, however, even though he was Group CIO, fixing that laptop became his number one priority.
Years later I got to know that particular CEO quite well, and I can vouch for the story!
It’s a stark reality that as retailers’ costs and competition increase and customer loyalty becomes ever more enigmatic, pressure across the business to become as operationally efficient as possible leaves no stone unturned – and that especially includes the cost and efficiency of maintaining the IT estate upon which the brand depends (e.g., end-user devices such as POS devices, kiosks, employee laptops, etc.).
Where tracking costs was once the preserve of spreadsheets, the complexity of retail businesses today means that this approach is no longer a viable option. New information and insights are needed and this, more than ever, means shining a light on the digital estate. As more and more devices such as tablets, smart mirrors, mobile POS, interactive fitting rooms and so forth are rolled out to stores, all those devices must be monitored and managed to ensure a seamless consumer experience. Just imagine the chaos should a device go down.
Such scrambling and productivity killers are exacerbated by the fact that, out of necessity, many retail businesses ‘sweat their assets’; in other words, they extend the lifetime of their devices as far as possible. This strategy comes with risks, like potential downtime if you have no visibility to whether devices are up to par.
Then of course, there’s the complexity of maintaining accurate software licencing. Many will be familiar with the ongoing headache of revoking licenses, monitoring access and software license reconciliation, which quickly becomes a significant issue. Retailers have become accustomed to having to dedicate a lot of resource to this and undergo lengthy and expensive audit processes only to end up discovering that they have been bearing the cost of unnecessary and unused licences. When put in the context of today’s world of BYOD and hybrid working environments, the situation is only exacerbated multiple times over.
But what if you could proactively monitor every store, every licence, every device — not merely to check that it’s up and running but whether or not it is on the verge of breaking down or out of compliance with the contract?
And it’s not simply direct cost savings that accrue from having complete visibility of the IT estate either; there are other hidden benefits such as staff retention.
Recent research by McKinsey revealed the level of the ‘Great Attrition’ amongst frontline retail workers in the U.S. showed that flexibility and well-being were the top two reasons for leaving their jobs. In fact, research by Lakeside Software showed that 36% of employees admit that they’ve considered leaving their employer because of a poor digital experience, and 14% actually have. Employee expectations of their working environment, like those of the consumer, have never been greater, adding further significance and pressure on ensuring that your IT assets are consistently in a state of good health.
To return to the golf analogy, the driving might be the fun part but it’s the putting that keeps the business up and running; and the irony is that whilst for virtually every retail business now, digital transformation is non-negotiable, with it comes added pressure. Keeping the lights on just became not only an awful lot more challenging, but central to the survival of the business.