As the world gets smaller and we continue to blur the lines of commerce, the more complex deploying new technology can become. Global IT organizations must be agile, all the while creating and maintaining standardized processes to hold down the cost of deployment and support. It is no easy feat and causes more than one global CIO nightmare.
All retailers fight to obtain the analytics they need to understand their shoppers’ buying patterns so they can provide a comprehensive shopping experience. However, to be truly effective these analytics need to be viewed on a global basis, not just regionally.
As vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, Francis Kazamouzis states, “People want real-time dashboards and analytics.” Executives in Walmart or the Gap, for instance, “want to be able to walk around wherever they are on an iPad and have conversations with people in other regions around the world and look at real-time data,” so they can make decisions proactively, she says. She terms that a “persistent digital experience.”
To help with this challenge, this article outlines five best practices for creating repeatable global retail technology deployments.
1 – Utilize a Deployment Design
The best way to ensure consistent, repeatable, and successful deployments is to design them. Don’t confuse this with planning your deployment. A deployment design outlines every logistical and technical step required to properly install, test, and turn up the new technology. A deployment plan outlines the fundamental scope of the deployment itself.
A deployment design is especially critical when performing deployments across numerous countries, time zones, and cultures. The main objective is to eliminate any confusion and leave little or no room for interpretation. The more complex the deployment, the more important this design can mean for the overall success of the project.
Installing proprietary technology – hardware or software – can create additional complexity and make it more challenging to find a technician with the right experience. By fully documenting every step in a deployment design, you may utilize technicians with a fundamental telecom or technology understanding to properly install proprietary technology.
Make sure your deployment design covers all steps from the time the technician arrives in store, until the time they have submitted all deliverables and received sign-off for the work completed. Take nothing for granted and make sure it includes processes to handle problems and unexpected events.
2 – Research the Deployment Countries
This may seem obvious but take the time to understand the countries in which you will be completing deployments so you can identify specific challenges that may be encountered, and you can address as part of the deployment design. Some of the things you should consider include:
- General cultural differences
- Process and procedure differences
- Holidays and religious celebrations
- Time zone differences
- Technology sourcing options
- Bill of Material analysis
It is very important to understand the way various cultures approach work and life. In Natalie Reynolds’ book “We Have a Deal,” she outlines that world cultures fall into three main categories as discussed in “When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures” by Richard D. Lewis.
- Characteristics: Those who plan, schedule, organize and do one thing at a time.
- Common Traits: Introverted, patient, quiet, private, punctual, job-oriented, sticks to plans, sticks to facts, dislikes losing face, separates the social from the professional.
- Characteristics: People who are lively and like to do many things at once; they plan their priorities based on thrill or the importance attached to each task.
- Common Traits: Extroverted, impatient, inquisitive, talkative, less emphasis on punctuality, flexible to changing plans, people-oriented, seeks relationships and the exchange of favors, expressive, interweaves the social and the professional.
- Characteristics: Cultures that prioritize courtesy and respect, listening calmly and quietly, and reacting carefully to each side’s view or proposal.
- Common Traits: Introverted, patient, respectful, good listener, reactive, people-oriented, thoughtful, plans thoroughly and slowly, uses controlled body language, connects the social and the professional.
By deepening your understanding of the various types of cultural personalities, you can focus your communications and interactions correctly. It will also make dealing with unexpected events easier to manage and resolve.
3 – Engage Experienced Global Partners
Leveraging a global partner that has the experience and relationships with local providers makes obtaining properly vetted and trained technicians much easier. Find a partner that is accustomed to navigating the legal and fiscal challenges of negotiating and securing the right technician for the job.
If you must ship equipment into the country of deployment, you will need to secure a freight forwarder or global logistics partner who will help with Importer of Record/Exporter of Record, taxes, customs, and duty issues. Once this partnership is established, they will handle the legal and fiscal requirements for receiving and handling imported equipment and ensure a smooth process. This can be an individual or an organization, but it should be someone who has experience handling telecom equipment.
Global partners will also leverage local and regional IT providers to help navigate privacy concerns and regulatory requirements. They can help you understand the network and power availability and stability challenges often faced in certain areas of the globe. This allows you to build robustness into your technology solutions by understanding these challenges in advance.
4 – Understand Language Barriers & Logistics
In some areas of the world, the logistics and language barriers can bring any deployment to its knees if it is not addressed in advance. The more remote the location, the greater the challenge. You not only must consider the language difference, but also the differences in cultural context. What means one thing to one part of the world, can mean something completely different in another part off the world.
Something as seemingly simple as technician travel to the site can be a huge challenge in numerous parts of the world. With heavy traffic and pedestrian congestion, it can take two hours just to travel a couple of miles. These challenges should be addressed in advance and plenty of time planned for travel to the store.
Spend the time and money to have all instructions and written documentation translated into the local language. This helps to limit misunderstandings and wrong interpretations during the deployment process. If written deliverables will be required as part of the deployment, ensure you have a plan in place to have these submitted in English or appoint someone that will be able to interpret and confirm the deliverables as being correct.
5 – Leverage the In-Store Team
When engaging in global deployments, an often-underutilized resource are your own people at the individual store level. Not only do they work there, but they live and play there. These resources are typically natives to the area and fully understand the intricacies and social protocols of how to engage appropriately.
They can provide guidance on the best ways to handle written and oral communications, review training to ensure it makes sense and is appropriate for the audience and assist with understanding the nuances of doing business in the region.
The added benefit is they feel much more involved with the company as a whole and feel ownership in ensuring the new technology is properly deployed to their store. It will instill a sense of pride and they will, therefore, ensure the deployment technician is properly directed while in the store. It’s a win-win for all involved!
About the writer: With more than 30 years in the technology field, Lisa Cook has deep experience overseeing the design, analysis, implementation, deployment and support of varying sizes and complexities of technology initiatives across a broad range of industries. Her experience allows her to provide all aspects of technology deployment support to national and global clients such as Walgreens, Ulta Beauty, Office Max, Walmart, Blockbuster, American Eagle, Chrysler, Simon Property Group and CBL & Associates. In addition to being the founder of OPL Technologies, Lisa serves as part of the Kinettix Global Advisory Team due to her expertise in designing and managing complex multi-site technology deployments. She is the author of the recently released book “Designing Retail Success: A Blueprint for Designing Retail Technology Deployments.” Follow Lisa on LinkedIn and Kinettix on both LinkedIn and Twitter.
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