Retail Scale Brings Challenges for Device Monitoring
By Martin Hirschvogel
The modern retail landscape is competitive, with retailers increasingly adopting new technology to both entice new customers and increase brand loyalty with existing ones. This competition is reflected in the retail environment, with digital signage, interactive displays, and smarter checkout solutions becoming the norm.
However, increased reliance on technology brings additional burdens for retailers who now have to ensure these additional modern devices are stable and performant; otherwise, customers will flock to a competitor who can keep their technological lights on.
It is essential that robust monitoring solutions are put in place to ensure the smooth operation of in-store technology, but retailers face challenges when selecting a monitoring system. For example, monitoring infrastructure from a cloud-based or remote monitoring system can be problematic due to the dependency on high-speed network connections, which cannot be guaranteed at every store.
For retailers, hosting lightweight monitoring systems locally, in the so-called edge, but managing them all from one central location, is often a better option because they minimize the networking and hardware requirements for monitoring. Retail organizations require monitoring of every element of a retailer's front and back office, from physical servers, such as mail servers and databases, to the cloud, connected freezers, digital signage, and more. This combination of scale and complexity makes choosing the proper monitoring solution both crucial and complex.
The monitoring system must scale, not only in technical terms, but also organizational. A monitoring solution must be flexible enough to work within the organizational layout of the business, allowing a retailer to work with the tool without making administrative changes to fit it. In addition, the data such a tool produces must enable teams close to the monitored devices to receive granular detail while allowing management teams to aggregate information for capacity management and group-wide SLA/RTO reporting.
Likewise, a monitoring tool needs to work with and react to a plethora of devices and hosting options. Retailers have a wide blend of technology and equipment, ranging from the latest cloud offerings to POS systems considered by the wider technical community to run on legacy technology. Therefore, any monitoring system used in the retail space needs to work with the entire estate without leaving gaps that need to be met by niche tooling. Where this occurs, it requires custom integrations, or a separate monitoring stack, leading to a mishmash of alerts and data that can easily allow issues to be missed, and again, affect the customer experience.
When choosing a monitoring solution for retail, there are crucial questions to ask:
Can it reliably monitor my entire tech stack without compromise or gaps?
Does it fit into my current infrastructure without a large investment in new equipment?
Does it work with my organizational structure?
Does it scale to the enormous retail scale?
A monitoring solution is likely not right if the answer is “no” or even “not sure” to any of these questions. And in the competitive retail landscape of today, unreliable technology can be directly linked to an erosion of customer trust and loyalty. So as the retail environment increasingly turns to technology for a better customer experience, reliable and effective monitoring is a must-have, not an afterthought.
-Martin Hirschvogel, Head of Product Management, tribe29
Hirschvogel is head of product management at tribe29, the developers of the popular Checkmk open source monitoring platform. Having joined the company in 2018, Hirschvogel has played a key role in scaling the business. He also heads the product marketing team and leads development around modern DevOps technologies, such as Kubernetes. Before joining tribe29, Martin worked as chief of staff at TeamViewer and as a consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, with a focus on digital transformation and growth in the technology and engineering sectors.