The current retail landscape has exhausted many legacy operations in our enterprises. The “new normal” for customers that has emerged in the last couple of years will likely see our retail infrastructures altered to accommodate new ways of interactive marketing, shopping and services. This is no surprise to many, but the speed of the turnabout is a different story.

Covid and its economic impact have altered consumer behavior, shopping patterns and our supply chains forever. The pandemic also fueled investment in technology and habitualized consumers’ digital shopping ecosystems. Having spent half my years in the retail CIO chair and an equal number as an independent IT strategy consultant, I can appreciate that many retail companies are suffering through a technology deficit that’s destined to hamstring their future performance.

“Technology projects are key to implementing a competitive customer experience, but more than ever new technology needs new skills and processes and to make a shift; the business needs deep involvement and a leadership role in enabling change.”

While calls for the death of the retail store will certainly be inappropriate, if you were lucky enough to muscle through last year’s challenges, you’ve probably determined that your customers’ shopping model has shifted and that the tools your business needs to compete, and win, have changed. You may be looking at upgrades, a shift to cloud technology, new supply chain systems or more innovative machine learning and predictive tools.

Whatever the gap, you’ll need to implement more than technology to address it. Technology projects are key to implementing a competitive customer experience, but more than ever new technology needs new skills and processes and to make a shift; the business needs deep involvement and a leadership role in enabling change. At the most basic level, new technology requires training, but it’s likely that processes, policies and skills will need to change to enable new ways of working. People may need nurturing toward a new way of doing old business—flexibility is critical.  Streamlining operations is key to efficiency and success

ERP implementations, innovations and upgrades, no matter their size, already impose a high degree of complexity and risk. As human capital costs promise to get ever more costly—and scarce —companies can ill afford the time to make decisions on projects that are outside of the realm of day-to-day trading. That’s why many smart companies ensure success by dedicating resources to planning, project management, business analysis, process engineering and training activity. Change management roles, when properly staffed and defined, can secure investments and acceptance of new ways of working.

People, and their institutional knowledge, are the key ingredient in organizational change. Listen to them, include them, support them, train them, empower them, and you’re more likely to have a satisfied and loyal workforce and innovative operation. Find a way to do this without distracting them from running the business.

These adventures are difficult to maneuver even with a full complement of staffing; today’s talent challenges make it more demanding. My experience, either in the driver’s seat or as a paid observer, is that these projects are fraught with pitfalls and costly, either in time or capital (human and economic). 

It would be a serious risk to address your technology default without proper care, attention, and advice. With remote working as the new norm, organizations need to tap into new ways of working to run programs, design processes, test systems and run training. An investment in outside resources that have developed solutions and toolkits for their proper delivery of technology and operational changes in this environment can be a win-win for your organization. It allows remote team members to engage, learn and be trained without having to invent a new wheel. It develops and embeds a new model for running complex programs and new training tools, encapsulating ‘anytime, anywhere’ utilization.

This will set your company apart from the pack and go a long way toward keeping your success, letting you focus on supply chain optimization and customer satisfaction.

Experience and scars suggest that many large projects suffer enormous cost overruns due to poor planning, ill-conceived benefits, and lack of focus. Getting to a point in a project where you must spend your way out of a problem is career-ending and costly. 

Here is the conflict: Whether it’s inside or outside support that manages this effort, teams must be dedicated; staffing projects as an add-on to one’s day job will fail. However, companies in today’s economy can ill afford to lose one day’s strategic advantage that these efforts afford. Therefore, investment in these approaches will provide the focus necessary to keep budgets and activities on target and on time.   

As we move into yet another forced march to new solutions, don’t waste time and resources. Hire professionals whose toolkits and methodologies work. You’ll ensure happy staff and satisfied customers as a result. Isn’t that why we’re here?