It’s a clashing of two worlds: systematic, process-oriented IT projects and delay-prone construction. When all parties are working toward the same goal ― a new store opening date ― but with different mindsets, trouble is never far away. With thousands of new store installations under our (tool) belts, Level 10 has worked out a lot of the kinks that would otherwise derail the successful set-up of store technology in the highly variable world of store construction.
Take the cash wrap, for example. From an IT perspective, it’s pretty straightforward: the construction plan says everything will be in place by Thursday, the general contractor seems confident, so it makes sense to schedule the equipment and techs to arrive for a Friday installation. But in construction, variability is normal: someone couldn’t make it this week, so the site won’t be ready for cash wrap set-up until next Tuesday. Not a big deal for them, but very costly for IT, which now must cover the additional tech time and find a safe place to store equipment until the site is REALLY ready.
Here are 10 best practices to make a new store build go smoothly despite the inevitable variability of new store construction:
- Clearly understand what IT needs from construction. Consider all the devices that will be deployed and the infrastructure that must be in place in order for techs to get started.
- Cater to both unique mindsets. Construction folks ― and the store operations team that contracts them ― speak a different language than IT. A great tech service provider must be conversant in both.
- Understand your true customer. In some retail organizations, store operations and the construction manager supervise the tech service provider, even after IT did the hiring. In others, the provider reports to IT. Opinions differ on which is better, but in either case it must be clear how to escalate issues and who makes the final call.
- Set IT readiness forms and checklists. The result of step one is a checklist of all the elements that must be in place for IT to work. Before scheduling deliveries and techs, it’s key to go out and survey the site to make sure all checklist items are really in place. Never go purely on GC (general contractor) assurances. Assumptions are costly.
- Don’t mix wiring and IT installations. Low voltage wiring is the bridge between construction and IT. The tech provider needs to get wiring in walls while they’re still open. But they must wait until walls are completed before moving on. The IT plan should include pre-wiring during construction, then a site survey to determine readiness before final wiring and the start of IT installation work. Don’t plan to do one immediately after the other.
- Set up efficient communications. New builds involve three constituencies – store operations, IT and construction. That can lead to endless ‘looping’ to disseminate information and collect the needed approvals ― and that means delays. It’s important to understand the customer’s culture, then set up direct, efficient, content-rich communications and approval processes: Here is the issue, here is everything you need to know, here is what we recommend.
- Use experienced technicians. Using techs accustomed to new store builds vs. other types of deployments gives retailers the confidence that they can work well in the controlled chaos of a construction site. Solid training is key.
- Document site progress. When on-site techs document every completed step through checklists and digital images of their work, everyone can feel confident in the true status of the project to coordinate next steps.
- Adopt plug-and-play staging and configuration. The smoothest and most efficient projects minimize steps in the store so techs can work quickly. That means performing as much configuration and staging of equipment as possible before it hits the store – don’t plan to do programming, assembly or other tasks in the soon-to-be-store.
- Train associates. Help desks are a costly and inefficient way to teach associates how to use store systems. Any good new store project includes quality on-site training for managers and associates on all the new devices.
When IT equipment installation and store construction are not well coordinated, retailers pay the price: aggravation, higher costs, and the delays that can stall the store opening. A well-planned approach like ours mitigates all of these ― in fact, Level 10 can sometimes offer a guaranteed fixed rate for new store work after a few successful openings because we’re confident the rest will go smoothly. With tech playing an ever-growing role in the success of the store, having peace of mind that it will all be in place and working with minimal headaches is great news for retailers.