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The importance of designing retail technology deployments

January 14, 2019
The importance of designing retail technology deployments

Avoid the hassle and cost of a clumsy technology deployment by doing it right the first time

BY LISA COOK, Co-Founder/Owner, OPL Technologies

YOUR technology team has spent eight months testing your latest technology solution that is going to take your stores into the next generation of retail. You’ve been assured that everything is ready to be deployed and that they expect to be complete within three months. You’re excited! You ask “What are you waiting for? Let’s get this technology pushed out and running!” Next thing you know you’re getting a call from the Vice President of Store Operations screaming at you about the catastrophe that is happening at the stores. Then commences the nightmare of stopping the deployment so you can try to figure out what happened, praying that you can recover not only your standing with the company’s executives, but your team’s image.

The cause for this outcome which seems to happen all-too-often, is very simple. Technical people are really, really good at developing very cool solutions. But they are absolutely terrible at implementation. And in the end, they shouldn’t be expected to know how to implement solutions. That’s not why you hired them. The skills needed to develop innovative technology solutions are not the same skills required for a successful implementation. This is why it is vitally important that you design your retail technology deployments, not just plan them.

Even when project managers are used to guide and lead the deployment, they tend to focus on what tasks need to be done and when they need to be executed. However, they don’t usually focus on how those tasks will be completed. The reality for retailers is that simply “planning” your technology deployment is not enough. You need to “design” your technology deployment. A deployment plan usually tells you what you are going to do. Whereas a deployment design tells you how you will actually do it. Consider the following example.

Design for success

Imagine you have a project to deploy updated wireless infrastructure to 800 of the 1,500 stores that you have in your portfolio and that you’ve been given six months to complete it. While this seems very straightforward, simply providing a schedule of stores, a list of components to install along with an installation checklist, and a notice to the stores will not produce the desired outcome for your business. Instead, every aspect and detail of the deployment should be considered and documented in a deployment design. The chart above illustrates how this would look in a deployment plan versus a deployment design.

Avoiding unnecessary cost

There are hundreds of examples of cost overruns that occur in all types, sizes, and complexities of deployments. But let’s take one simple example to illustrate the effectiveness of a deployment design.

Continuing with our wireless deployment example, there was a requirement for cabling to be completed for additional and relocated wireless access points prior to the deployment technician arriving at the store to upgrade the wireless infrastructure. There were numerous stores that did not have this work completed prior to installation because either the store was moved up on the schedule or the technician did not show up. While a schedule was provided to the project management team, they did not implement a change management process to communicate schedule changes which would have allowed cabling work to be adjusted. Additionally, call aheads were not performed to ensure that the cabling work was completed prior to the arrival of the deployment technician. A revisit charge was incurred at $150 each for 118 stores totaling $17,700. Additionally, each store had to be rescheduled later in the master schedule which added ten days and an additional $20,000 for resources to remain after the original scheduled completion date of the project. A total of $37,700 of unplanned costs were added to the project simply because the deployment was never designed.

While every business plans their deployments, few take the time to go through a formalized design process for their deployments. The deployment design should be a part of the deployment plan along with the proper amount of time required to complete. Depending on the size and breadth of your project, this could be a significant amount of time. But the time and money that a design will save you is well worth it. In today’s highly competitive retail environment, it is critical to ensure that the technology is deployed flawlessly, expeditiously, and seamlessly while ensuring the store continues operationally. Developing a deployment design will allow you to meet all of these objectives and ensure retail success.

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