Managing Retail Deployment Lifecycles When There Are So Many Lifecycles to Manage

15 Feb 2016

Once upon a time, the term store systems really meant POS systems, and retailers strived to make their POS systems last as long as possible. Retail moves, adds, changes and break/fix took up most of the time of those charged with keeping store IT environments humming until the next big POS deployment, a rare event that retailers could take time to plan with precision.

Fast forward — and don’t stop, because moving fast and forward is what deploying store solutions has become. Today retailers are leveraging a whole bunch of new technologies to bring the best parts of e-commerce into the store, beyond just POS. That means mobile POS devices, endless aisle, smart printers, security cameras, people counters, speaker systems, beacons, price checkers, kiosks, digital signage…the list goes on and on.

So now, retailers are in a near-constant state of deploying or upgrading new technologies as well as keeping installed systems operational. Even traditional POS systems replacement rates are on the rise, according to IHL Systems. Often they are removed or supplemented with docked tablets, fully mobile POS, or a hybrid traditional POS systems, docked mobile tablets, or fully mobile devices — each with their own lifecycle management needs.

As a result, the precise planning process retailers used for their once-a-decade POS refresh must now be retooled to accommodate a range of overlapping retail technology deployments, each with its own unique requirements.

To manage it all, retailers need to step up their project management game, applying exacting, centralized planning to be as efficient, cost-effective and expedient as possible.

Getting more efficient doesn’t stop at planning how all of these different technologies are going to be installed, maintained and supported without bringing store operations to a halt. Applying the best practices established through years of installs across literally thousands of stores helps ensure each step of each retail tech deployment is managed as efficiently as possible. These steps include:

  • Hardware Procurement
  • Staging & Integration
  • Key Injection
  • Kitting
  • In-Field Installation
  • Help Desk Services
  • Warranty Management

These seven steps times multiple retail technology deployments times a never-ending list of retail move-add-change work and break-fix work equals a lot of IT management activity. The time and cost invested add up fast, and so do the headaches. For example, without significant experience with new devices such as mobile POS, it can be difficult to:

  • →Determine the right number of mobile spares to keep on hand and select the right depot service for when devices, sleds, printers or other tech goes down.
  • →Establish a process to quickly reload the right version of the app in the event of an accidental system change.
  • →Size the spare inventory pool for consumer grade mobile devices like iPads, since operating systems are no longer available as models change.

That’s why as the scope of the task grows, so does the list of retailers outsourcing these activities. Used wisely, strategic outsourcing using sound practices, such as those outlined here by Gartner, allow retailers to leverage an experienced partner’s investment in technology, process and skilled personnel to save time, save money, and just as important, minimize disruption to stores.

There is about a zero chance that managing retail technology deployments is going to get simpler, and a sure thing that the pace of change will only increase. Putting a system in place to manage those installs in a way that minimizes cost and disruption and maximizes efficiency and productivity is critical to make retail technology deployments a success.