Retailers are beefing up their store technology: Store IT budgets are growing even more than overall IT budgets in Tier 1 and Tier 3, according to RIS News. They’re understandably anxious to get these new investments in place and are working to elevate the customer experience and drive incremental revenue. So project managers understandably gravitate to what looks like the fastest approach.
Often that means hardware is only partially staged when it hits the store: the vendor builds the device to spec, for example, and techs unbox it in the store, load the image from a thumb drive and finish the installation. That may sound smart, but there are a lot of trapdoors and hidden costs in this “distributed staging” approach that end up costing retailers in time and dollars.
Centralizing hardware staging in one place, and then sending it to stores all tested and ready to go, actually speeds up the total project while reducing risk and saving money. Below are 10 reasons your next store IT project should be centralized:
1) Improve accuracy. Field techs inevitably stop consulting process instructions after they have done a certain number of installs. This leads to variations and opens up the potential for errors. Quality control processes in centralized staging mean it’s done the same way every time.
2) Instill consistency. Training 50 techs to do the work in the field means losing control over how the install is done. Centralized staging requires training just two to three techs, and they can QC each other’s work to ensure consistency.
3) Deploy faster. New hardware typically has a 2% failure rate. So 2% of the devices will be DOA in stores, incurring the cost of a second tech visit and delays to ship out a replacement. Centralized staging means those devices are immediately tested on arrival at a lower tech pay rate, and the bad boxes replaced, so the retailer isn’t paying for field testing and installation schedules don’t slip.
4) Streamline training. Centralized staging eliminates as much as 60% of the tasks a tech has to perform in a store. That means much less training time for techs: instead of a 90-page document, for example, it may be just 20 pages. That not only saves training costs, but minimizes the support those techs need while in the field, so the help desk saves time as well.
5) Improve communications. Anyone who has ever worked on a store install knows changes are inevitable even mid-rollout, incurring additional tech time, an overloaded help desk and new shipments, training and coordination that can add weeks to a project. By staging centrally, those changes can be communicated and verified quickly with the two or three techs working on site.
6) Prevent store disruption. The ideal store tech rollout means getting in and out of stores as fast as possible. That minimizes operations impact and field tech costs and enables the new technology to start delivering on its benefits. Staging centrally makes installs highly efficient.
7) Allow for change. Distributed staging often uses external media such as a thumb drive or DVD to get a new image loaded onto hardware. But when changes inevitably occur, all those old images must be taken out of the process and new images delivered to stores, with serialization and a tracking system to avoid mix-ups. The replacement process brings delays, risk and the potential for errors into the distributed staging process.
8) Ensure asset management. In addition to preventing DOAs from shipping to stores, centralized staging by a highly skilled integrator like Level 10 ensures every detail is also addressed to ensure fast, smooth installation in stores. A solid asset management system with quality control checklists at each step of the process means the right device, cables, image, and so on ships to the right store, with virtually 100% accuracy.
9) Reduce risk. During one retailer’s PC upgrade, a tech left a thumb drive with the image out in plain view while he attended to a call. The drive was stolen, opening up a gaping hole in the retailer’s security defenses and triggering several days of drop-everything emergency triage and remediation. External media can be duplicated, lost, stolen and mistaken for its replacement, so its use for distributed staging is a significant source of cost and risk.
10) Save money. Field tech rates are higher than in-house techs, so in-store staging tasks plus installation time adds up to a higher cost for the same end result. By avoiding these higher costs, plus the cost of delays and errors in the field, centralized staging typically costs less than partial configuration in stores.
There’s a reason a major retail bank, a payment terminal manufacturer and a top quick service chain have all switched their store tech rollouts to centralized staging with Level 10. Actually there are 10 reasons. Centralized staging means a new store technology is 100% tested and ready to go the second it hits the store floor, saving time and money so it starts delivering benefits faster.