It’s a volatile time for retailers, to put it mildly. Household brands are struggling, the 2016 holiday season was lackluster for many, yet some analysts are predicting a rise in consumer spending in 2017. This uncertainty makes investments in retail operations more important than ever, from better efficiency to improved omni-channel capabilities and more secure payment technologies.
But rather than large, enterprise-wide technology investments, we’ve seen an increasing number of retailers seek out smaller scale, more focused technology projects that address one specific area – such as an EMV implementation or a promotion/pricing solution upgrade. But these smaller projects don’t avoid complexity, and organizations continue to grapple with questions around combining on-premise and off-premise applications, legacy with new systems, as well as factoring in the expectations of the mobile consumer.
The role of strategic technology planning
A smart strategy is the foundation of any successful technology implementation, and it’s more important than ever for retailers to have a clear understanding of their deployment architecture and integration needs. Strategic technology planning with a technology partner – the partner that helps you implement and integrate your chosen technology across your organization – typically includes services such as business case development, change management guidance, architectural analysis, business process analysis and solution evaluation.
By working with an outside technology partner on your plan, you can more confidently achieve the business case for your project by answering key questions:
What is the business strategy or goal we are trying to achieve?
At times, businesses can get caught in the trap of wondering “What is everyone else doing?” instead of reflecting on “What do we need to do to retain current customers and attract new ones? What makes us unique and how can we leverage that uniqueness?” Be planful and take a good look at how you can effectively execute the project that is right and “right-sized” for your organization and goals, including both the business and IT parts of your organization.
What types of products and technology can manage what we need?
IT projects can be complex; there are questions around system integration, security management, government regulations, PCI/PII and more. Depending on whether your technology is behind your firewall or in the cloud shapes your options and how you utilize these systems across these areas. Working with your technology partner, you should be able to define, plan and successfully execute a project that benefits your organization holistically: One that fully accounts for your impacts and goals not only for today, but that aligns with your future strategic plan.
How will we integrate our new applications or systems?
Your technology vendor may tell you how to integrate portions of their solution, but they often don’t approach the work from a whole-business perspective. That’s where your outside technology partner/integrator comes in: With them, you will look at the entire solution, take into account the overall organizational impact and processes, account for timing or financial parameters, other applications, and carefully plan and execute your integration and change management plans.
Be prepared to adapt
The best strategy won’t be successful unless your team is prepared to adapt. Your technology partner can advise and guide you on project governance and change management processes that positively impact the adoption of a new system and your workforce productivity. The complexity around technology implementations – even small-scale ones – still requires intentional program management strategies to ensure your organization’s long-term success.