Planning Considerations for Mobility in Retail
In Part 1 of this series I covered how a Business (Retail or other), could adopt the following four focus areas in data capture and Mobile device usage within their business environment:
- Mobile devices to improve customer service.
- Faster look-ups and check-outs via Mobile POS
- Improve communication and scheduling for internal Sales/Support Staff
- Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
We looked at how the use of Mobile and POS devices in a new differentiating way can provide better consumer service and provide a positive consumer experience. We also introduced ways in which adopting Mobile Device solutions can improve business operations and the day to day back office activities.
Mobile and POS devices bring mobility and connectivity flexibility and the business side needs to ask how business operations are impacted in a way that was not planned for.
With that said, at a minimum, the following IT considerations and questions should be asked in adopting Mobile in Retail?
- What is the device being used for?
- Data management and infrastructure considerations?
- Day to day management?
- How is it supported?
- Physical device security?
1. What is the device being used for?
Are the existing legacy systems due for replacement and is this the right time to consider an opportunity for additional capabilities that a Mobile Device/POS system can bring? The physical size and type of device needed will be based on the use cases being considered. Who will use these devices, will we allow Consumer use or is it intended only for staff use? IT will also need to consider where in the store the devices will be used?
2. Data management and infrastructure considerations?
How and/or when will information (data) be moved between devices and the main on premise and/or cloud systems? Will there be a need to install an expensive Wifi network (with security) in order to use the devices or will a physical data connection work? For example, VR/AR devices and Smart beacons may actually require a physical data connection in order to handle the amount of data being collected and projected. Also consider the number of devices that need managing and the throughput of data required. It’s important to understand how secure and functional the solution is and is it cost effective based on how it will be used.
3. What is the day to day management?
Day to day management of these devices and environment is often forgotten. Who will be responsible for these devices in the store? Will they be responsible for issuing and retrieving these devices? Or will that be split between 2 or more groups and how is that coordinated? And will the device need to be connected to the network in order to be managed from a remote location and team?
Who checks the devices each day to make sure they are functioning correctly? How and where will these devices be charged? What happens to devices that show signs of wear, won’t hold a charge, and operate slower than expected? Do they become expense doorstops or can they be easily and cost effectively replaced?
4. How is it supported?
On the device environment itself, what software will be needed to manage the environment and these devices? Will hardware/software updates need to be applied and who will be responsible for doing this? Will an additional 3rd party support agreement be needed or does the product vendor provide the required support? And with that said, what level of support is actually needed vs. what the vendor wants to provide and charge?
Separately, a key area of concern is how easy is it to make changes and updates to business functionality of the devices as the business changes and grows? Is this ability a separate service charged by the vendor? And are changes charged by the request or viewed as a major project. If this need is not provided by the vendor, then how will the staff be identified and trained in order to make those changes? And finally, will the solution introduce unintended compliance and data protection risks if done wrong.
5. Physical Device Security?
Who will have access to the device and how it is secured or not secured? For example, handheld devices can be taken by consumers. Currently, while costs are dropping, a VR/AR headset is not cheap to replace. You should also consider if and how a device can be vandalized and/or tampered with during its use and while it is charging.
As we discussed, Businesses are introducing the use of Mobile and POS devices in a new differentiating ways in order to provide better consumer service and a positive consumer experience. Additionally, business operations will be impacted in a way that was not planned for and will impact both IT and various Business departments.
Consider the IT impact to device usage (staff and/or consumers). Understand what the physical (device) and virtual (software) security and compliance needs are and how it may impact the business and/or IT. New underlying technologies, like blockchain, introduce additional considerations, so understanding what the solution lifecycle is from introduction of the devices to eventual replacement or termination of the solution is very important. Since Mobile POS devices bring mobility and connectivity flexibility, ask if these devices can be shared at different locations based on demand, reducing the need for additional software licensing, hardware and cost. However, using devices at multiple locations may complicate the support model.
In summary, IT organizations are in a position to move away from the traditional role as a basic infrastructure provider and become a trusted advisor to the Business. Retail is not dead but is rapidly changing to adopt to a new consumer digital world. IT must embrace this change and provide technology leadership to the Business as the Business changes.
If you didn’t get the chance to read Part 1 of this series, click here.
Les Viszlai is an Advisory Strategist with Advisory Transformation Services in Atlanta. Les, by leveraging his previous CIO experience, helps senior IT and Business leadership accelerate the “Proof of Value” of projects targeted to deliver outcomes that deliver breakthrough innovative IT strategies, optimize IT organizations’ capabilities, and help drive growth while managing risk.