For any retail business opening multiple branches at pace, there are a number of significant challenges, from recruiting the right staff, to setting up supply chains. However, one challenge that is sometimes overlooked in the early stages of planning such an expansion is the importance of foundational IT infrastructure.In addition to finding the right cloud services provider and ensuring your data centre is protected against disaster, for mass openings you also need to establish a standardised process to follow, so that things go smoothly across the board. In this article, we take a look at the key focus areas for retailers opening multiple retail branches.
The Challenges of Branch Openings
The various challenges associated with opening multiple retail branches mean that it is often more complex than companies initially understand. This can potentially have serious consequences, delaying openings and running up costs associated with having properties that are not yet generating any income.Issues related to IT infrastructure are a common cause of delays, especially when businesses do not have a robust plan for getting everything in place in a timely manner and operating in accordance with other branches.As an article for Business Chief highlights, the digital pressures on retail companies and individual stores have increased as a result of the rise of IoT devices and digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay. Many physical retail stores need to contend with people ordering and paying via mobile devices, or ordering online from their homes.
Customers expect the full range of digital retail options to be available at all stores, regardless of how recently they opened. Actually delivering this requires clear plans to be in place, so that when a new branch opens, it can cope with these demands right away, rather than risk disappointing customers at such a critical time.Of course, aside from disappointing customers, there are many other reasons why IT infrastructure needs to be in place quickly and working reliably. Modern businesses collect large amounts of data about customers and this all needs to be kept secure. Point-of-sale systems also need to be up and running, in order to process purchases.
The Value of IT Standardisation
One of the biggest areas for retail companies to focus on when setting up multiple branches is the standardisation of IT infrastructure. Not only will this make opening new sites a much more efficient process, it will also pay dividends when it comes time to repair hardware, fix network problems or replace devices.As TechSoup points out, standardising IT infrastructure helps you to avoid compatibility problems, makes life significantly easier for IT support staff or your managed service provider, and improves communication.To achieve success in this area, you need to try to establish a single approach, so that whenever your business sets up a new branch, there is a clear process to follow. The on-site team should be able to order standard equipment, such as point-of-sale systems, and set up their network infrastructure in the standard way.Additionally, it is critical that you have a clear idea of which suppliers or service providers are responsible for fulfilment projects and which are responsible for maintaining and delivering services to the site. Large retail companies sometimes opt to have a central distribution and processing unit, which takes responsibility for the entire supply chain to the individual branches, so this is another thing to consider if you are planning a large-scale roll out.While auditing one of the UK's largest retailers, we learned that they had the same 10 standard IT requirements at 35 branches. Yet, these requirements were being supplied and maintained by more than 60 different vendors. This kind of set up may be necessary in some instances, in which case a central unit is critical for managing the supply chain. However, for most companies, it is needlessly complicated and more likely to cause unnecessary delays.Standardisation can also help when it comes to IT disaster recovery solutions too and this is vital for avoiding data loss, lengthy down time and all of the costs that are associated with such problems.
Generally speaking, it is best to centralise as much data as possible, rather than storing data with individual branches. This makes it easier to access and maintain. A good cloud services provider can be invaluable for achieving this centralisation, although a certain amount of data will still likely need to be stored on-site too."The data centre, along with cloud solutions, will play an enormous role in data analytics initiatives, which require retailers to store and process more information than ever," an article for BizTech explains. "A hybrid cloud approach may make sense, as this allows stores to quickly scale resources up and down according to demand."Centralisation goes hand-in-hand with standardisation and a managed service provider can help greatly. For businesses operating in and around London, Fifosys offers a complete range of infrastructure and data management services, from IT disaster recovery solutions, to cloud storage services, cyber security training and NOC monitoring.In our experience, creating standardised roll out plans for new branches, with a clear list of all parties involved, demarcation of responsibilities, standardised equipment and as few suppliers as possible allows for more efficient openings. It will also allow you to more easily capitalise on economies of scale, offering financial advantages too.
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