Project management doesn’t begin when new retail IT equipment is installed at the store. Long before a piece of equipment is shipped, retailers need to devise a project management plan that covers each stage of the IT upgrade. There are different factors to consider before, during and after the actual implementation of new technology.
This broad scope can suddenly become overwhelming for retailers who are dealing with hundreds of stores and incredibly tight timeframes. With an inexperienced or small team, a single issue can quickly snowball into a full-fledged emergency that grinds the retailer to a halt.
That’s why it makes sense for many retailers to relieve the headache and bring in a retail technology services company to handle the project management of an IT upgrade. This enables the retailer to focus on their core business and leverage the experience of the experts. But whether the retailer chooses to manage it in-house or through an independent third party, there are key factors that must be considered every step of the way.
Before – Plan for Success
As soon as the idea of a new IT upgrade comes up, retailers need to start thinking from a project management perspective. It’s during these critical planning and strategy sessions that decisions will be made that affect the entire project, and the likelihood that it succeeds.
Retailers must first decide what their objectives are and what new technologies they want to bring in, sorting through countless vendors, products and pieces of equipment. Before committing the chosen technology to hundreds of stores, pilot projects can be done in order identify and resolve challenges at a smaller and more manageable scale.
Retailers must also create a realistic schedule based on the number of stores that need to be upgraded. Individual stores may have different, or older, IT infrastructure that must be addressed, resulting in some stores requiring an upgrade sooner than others. Site surveys should be conducted and local services need to be acquired and coordinated to identify these differences so that an effective schedule can be created.
During – Manage the Implementation
Whether a retailer is dealing with 20 or 200 stores, each store can be thought of as its own mini project. This means there must be a standard, proven project management process in place to simplify the implementation stage at each individual store. Most upgrades will happen overnight while the store is closed, and new stores have set opening dates that must be achieved, creating tight deadline and little room for error.
During this phase, stores need the right people, equipment and technology in place at the right time. Managing logistics of this magnitude is complex, especially when there are multiple stores being worked on each night. If the planning phase was successful, new technology should be able to seamlessly integrate with the existing infrastructure and any potential problems should have been addressed, making delays or budget overruns much less likely.
After – Continuously Improve and Adjust
Just because the store is up and running does not mean the project is complete. There will inevitably be a surge of support requests as glitches are worked out and staff and customers become more familiar with the new systems. This can be a huge burden on a retailer’s existing help desk resources, which would not typically handle such a sudden increase of calls.
For longer projects, lessons learned from the initial stores can be applied to later ones, creating a more efficient process, such as optimizing workflows. Like anything else, the retailer should always seek to continuously improve based on the data they have access to. Once all stores are completed, the retailer can continue to look for ways to improve and maximize the potential of their new equipment.
Make Project Management Key, Every Step of the Way
According to KPMG, 57 percent of retailers state that supporting revenue growth is the main reason they are investing in IT. Undergoing an IT project of this scale is a sizeable investment, and everything should be done to help make it a successful, and profitable, initiative. Project management plays a key role, and goes far beyond the actual installation of new retail IT to encompass the entire project.
A retail technology services company that has extensive project management experience can make all the difference. By handling the logistics of each store, advising on the right equipment to choose, scheduling and budgeting the project and creating an effective and standardized workflow, they let retailers focus on their core business.
After the retail technology upgrade is complete, they can provide full support services to take the burden off the retailer’s help desk resources. They can provide consultative feedback and identify and exploit areas the retailer can improve. This collaborative relationship gives a retail IT project the best chance of success.
Learn from us – with a 100 percent on-time retail IT refresh record, we know a thing or two about avoiding delays. Here are three ways to avoid retail IT project delays.