Retail IT Getting Ready for Take Off
In retail, speed matters. Customers favor retailers who can get them through the line fastest, deliver their orders quickest, and get them the help they need at the drop of a hat. Speed is critical when it comes to implementing new technologies.
Retailers, as a whole, have limited budgets when it comes to investing in improving their operations and IT infrastructure. The most important aspect of any technology initiative is the return on investment (ROI). The faster the implementation and rollout of new technology, the quicker the company can start measuring ROI.
IT implementations, especially in the area of workforce management, have traditionally been plagued by slow implementations and inconsistent rollouts. Many take years and result in confusion and uncertainty for the organization because the company is forced to use two different solutions during the lengthy pilot and implementation stages. In addition, when the timeline between purchasing software and deployment is long, stores are forced to use out-of-date technology.
Retailers require software that is inherently mobile, configurable, and functionally superior in order to meet a specific organization’s business needs and workflows. Highly configurable software allows retailers to start simple and progressively build a more comprehensive model as the organization gains experience and expertise in using the system. It also enables rapid implementation through the avoidance of expensive and hard to maintain custom code. For example, some of the largest retailers in the world, ones operating multiple brands in multiple countries with thousands of location, have implemented enterprise-wide task management systems in 21 weeks or less. Similarly, optimized labor scheduling solutions have be implemented in a matter of a few months instead of years.
IT departments across retail have hundreds of priorities and limited resources. Between implementing various projects for multiple departments, maintaining hardware and software, and looking into the future innovations, IT departments need to free up time so they can spearhead positive strategic change. But, how can they do this?
The solution is for retail IT departments to focus more on implementing cloud-based solutions. This speeds up implementation and reduces the strain on limited IT resources while meeting an organization’s desire for applications that can easily be maintained.
There are many benefits to cloud-based solutions:
- Upfront capital expenses are lower because there is no need for big hardware and software expenditures
- IT is not required to procure and set up hardware and software, allowing them to focus on more important tasks
- Solution providers take care of maintaining the software, allowing IT to focus on more strategic initiatives
- If the software needs to be scaled up at a later stage, IT is not responsible for procuring more hardware and software. That responsibility is on the solution provider.
- Cloud delivery makes it easy for the business side of the Retail organization by relying on a “Pay As You Go” pricing model
With the advent of highly configurable software and cloud solutions, IT’s role is changing. Gartner Research notes:
“In the near future — and in today’s reality for some — the CIO’s primary accountability is to ensure that the enterprise achieves strategic value from the use of digital assets and technology. Part of that CIO’s accountability remains the sourcing and delivery of technology through oversight and management of the formal IT organization; however, this is no more the dominant focus of the future CIO role than management of the accounts department is the dominant focus of a CFO.”
CIOs, and the entire IT function, are evolving from a department responsible for implementing and maintaining applications to a strategic partner who is expected to help a business accomplish three essential objectives:
- Be more agile
- Deliver a better customer experience
The high proliferation of powerful mobile devices and availability of highly configurable software solutions have removed the need for an organization to spend vast resources to procure hardware and software and implement and backup applications. Mission-critical applications, such as workforce management (labor budgeting, forecasting, and scheduling) and task management (store execution), are now consumed over the cloud.
Leading IT departments have moved beyond simply maintaining software and hardware, by working with the business as an innovation partner to take the retail organization to the next level and better serve retail customers. Change is coming faster and faster and the move to the mobile, digital world is certain. Removing the current barriers will enable retailers to meet customer demands for a more interactive exchange between consumers and associates in an expedient manner.
Reflexis and Cognizant have partnered to implement world-class workforce management and task execution solutions across your retail stores to drive sales and boost your bottom line.
Reflexis enables retailers to execute strategy flawlessly and uncover profit. The Reflexis platform includes real-time store execution, task management, compliance, time and attendance, and labor scheduling. Learn more at http://reflexisinc.com/
From understanding customers to providing a cohesive experience across channels, retail leaders choose Cognizant to help them work better and work differently. Cognizant’s Retail practice helps retailers turn today’s pain points into new business opportunities. Learn more at https://www.cognizant.com/retail
 “The CIO Role Has Many Possible Future Pathways Leading Technology, Business, or Both,” by Colleen M. Young and John Mahoney, Gartner, July 17, 2014.
 “Innovation, Agility, and Customer Experience: How Business Value Messaging Influences the Line-of-Business Buyer,” Randy Perry, Vice President, Business Value Strategy Practice, IDC, Directions 2015, March 18, 2015.