RIS: Based on your experience, what advice can you offer retailers looking to get started?
Wilkinson: Start by uncovering the biggest IT challenges they face in the stores to realize immediate benefits. Most often, these issues cause the biggest pain:
- POS hardware/software/OS compatibility concerns
- Reliability of critical systems needs to be improved
- Business processes that require specialized hardware (or multiple pieces of hardware) to accomplish a task
Retailers must understand that a software-defined approach isn’t about solving a single IT issue (like a POS upgrade) – it’s a fundamental strategy that benefits every IT project going forward. They should think about long-term IT operational efficiency gains. By remotely and centrally controlling store IT, retailers can significantly reduce the expense of IT teams to patch and fix store IT issues.
We also think it’s important for retailers to understand the difference between traditional data center-focused virtualization and a system purpose-built for retail. Clients who are familiar with the data center systems are concerned that additional IT staff or virtualization expertise is required – but that isn’t true with our solution. We’ve designed the infrastructure to be self-maintaining, with security features built-in, and we’ve addressed things such as POS peripherals and retail system workloads. Understanding these differences is important to realizing the true value of a software-defined approach to retail.
RIS: What can retailers do to future proof their store systems?
Wilkinson: Start with a flexible in-store infrastructure. It’s the key to everything else. Don’t “rip and replace.” Likely, the existing system works ― it just needs flexibility. By decoupling the hardware from software, and adding cloud-based API services, retailers can enhance what they have today and be able to innovate faster for tomorrow ― maximizing ROI all the way.