The ripples of digital disruption spurred by radical shifts in the ICT field were slow to reach the retail sector, which lagged in terms of digital maturity and technology spend. However, this is no longer the case. Gartner predicts that by 2022 the total IT spending of the global retail industry will touch $225 billion. With the penetration of e-commerce giants into most retail markets, traditional brick-and-mortar players have begun to scale up their technology infrastructure. Retailers around the globe are investing heavily in digital capabilities to meet rapidly changing customer expectations and survive in a competitive industry. Additionally, emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning are being leveraged to deliver personalized shopping experiences.
At the center of this digital transformation are the IT departments of retail organizations, tasked with ensuring around-the-clock availability of business-critical services, which are supported by a broad portfolio of applications and hardware. In the absence of an ITSM tool that covers the gamut of IT-enabled retail operations, retailers face an uphill battle in managing their IT infrastructure effectively.
Some of the challenges they may face are:
Firefighting incidents that affect retail operations
Retail businesses operate a complex network of servers, point-of-sale (POS) terminals, and other IT assets. When an availability incident occurs and the POS terminal or e-commerce website goes down, retail organizations lose money by the minute. Retail businesses also have an abundance of consumer data stored in their servers that is used to provide personalized recommendations, and this data is vulnerable to security breaches that can result in penalties running billions of dollars. Without a proactive incident management strategy, retail businesses will grind to a halt since POS terminals and internet-enabled retail transactions have become the mainstay both online as well as in brick-and-mortar stores.
Managing a multitude of IT assets
Retailers with a global network of outlets employ various IT assets that are vital for day-to-day operations. These include handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets for scanning barcodes, POS terminals for processing payments, and routers and modems for networking operations. IT departments need to ensure peak performance of these IT assets while keeping tabs on risks, costs, their budget, and forecasted IT purchases. Without a well-defined ITAM strategy, retailers find it difficult to track assets over their entire life cycle, i.e, from purchase till disposal. This may lead to suboptimal asset utilization, higher maintenance costs, and legal and security risks.
Overseeing IT projects across franchises
Large-scale retail businesses operate numerous physical stores across continents, in addition to e-commerce portals. In such a scenario, it’s possible for multiple shadow IT projects to crop up due to lapses in collaboration and communication. An effective ITSM solution helps major retailers roll out changes and undertake IT projects without losing track of dependencies, ensuring a uniform IT infrastructure that’s easier to govern.
Delivering enterprise services efficiently
Retail businesses are dependent on other enterprise services besides IT. These include facilities, payroll, HR, and finance. These enterprise departments facilitate retail operations such as managing warehouses, replenishing stock, and organizing the retail workforce. However, most retailers use disparate channels and tools for managing their enterprise support. This may lead to increased costs and difficulty coordinating teams to fulfill retail services.
Mitigating the impact of COVID-19
One sector of the economy that’s been directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is retail. Challenges abound when retailers try to enforce social distancing guidelines in physical stores, giving rise to more digital transactions. Major retailers such as Walmart are expanding their no-contact transactions to keep both consumers and employees safe. Fast-food chains are adopting contactless delivery of orders, while e-commerce companies have transitioned to sending acknowledgments via email. This pivot towards digital delivery of retail services has increased the strain on IT departments, which are tasked with ensuring the high availability of remote IT operations.
Technology has now emerged as the key differentiator in the retail sector due to its ability to deliver customer-centric experiences that lie at the heart of consumer loyalty and retail success. However, the complexity in retail operations means IT service desks must handle multiple fronts, such as resolving incidents, managing assets, implementing changes, and tracking IT projects.
The convergence of people, processes, and technology in ITSM is critical for organizations that are looking to gain a competitive edge over other players. Retail businesses that use legacy applications to manage their IT will not be able to outperform their competitors; they need to adopt ITSM tools that are robust, scalable, and ITIL®-aligned.
Just like ServiceDesk Plus is.
With an array of ITIL-aligned capabilities, ServiceDesk Plus enables retail organizations to infuse ITIL best practices into their day-to-day ITSM operations, boosting operational efficiency and delivering enhanced customer experiences.
ServiceDesk Plus helps retailers drive business agility by streamlining IT support and refocusing service desk resources on strategic IT initiatives.