I was recently reading a post on the Essential Retail website by RSR Research managing partner Steve Rowen, which discussed how retailers often don’t value the IT solutions that they have implemented. In this article, Steve states: “Not only have retailers purchased a series of technologies that they don’t find particularly valuable, but they plan to keep on doing so… If retailers are unsure of solution value, yet continue to purchase those solutions, how will they know if they actually add value?”

For many retailers, the world of technology can be a complicated and confusing place, but this does not mean that retailers should continue with a purchasing strategy which isn’t meeting their needs. For many, I guess it is a case of ‘the better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t’, but there are real implications for businesses who are currently engaging in poor IT purchasing decisions.

When unsuitable IT solutions are implemented in an organisation, maintenance costs often rise as a result. If the technology solutions are not meeting the needs of the business, they will be more susceptible to failing, requiring increased call-outs and more downtime, leading to a loss in revenue. Staff who are not trained in using the technology can also cause damage to the system, through no fault of their own. With a lack of knowledge on the facilities they are using it can be easy to cause problems which will need to be fixed by a professional.

Retailers can find it difficult to move away from the familiar and look into new options. When someone has been working with a particular brand or model for a long time, they may not be aware of the different services available, or may not know where else to go to find a better service.

They can also often find the array of choices on the market overwhelming. It can be difficult to find the right fit for a business with so many options available, and this often puts retailers off looking further into the possibility of improving their systems, sticking instead with their ancient printers and cash tills. Additionally, in situations where purchasing decisions are localised rather than controlled centrally, there can be huge wastage involved, from buying the wrong consumables and jamming the printers, through to simply not getting the economies of scale that are readily available through bulk ordering and re-ordering.

Often, retailers will know something is wrong with their current system, but just don’t know how to fix it. The easiest solution in this scenario is to keep buying and worry about it later. Many see there being no point fixing what isn’t broken, but do not realise the benefits of upgrading and evolving their IT system. In the majority of cases, the costs saved in the long run by upgrading to a more efficient a cost-effective system will far outweigh the investment needed to replace and upgrade the system.

When it comes to making a decision about IT solutions, seeking advice from a third party is often the best solution. Internal departments are often not able to take a sufficiently objective view of the current systems to evaluate it effectively, nor do they have the expert knowledge of what alternatives are available in the industry. The times spent researching and evaluating potential solutions is also detrimental to the organisation, as that is time that employees spend away from their core roles.

Dealing directly with manufacturers can also lead to biased recommendations, with them naturally wanting to promote their own ranges and solutions. In many cases, independent IT support service companies can be the best port of call, as they are not tied to any particular solution or brand. Having worked with many retailers, they can bring best in class experience and not only recommend, but also implement solutions which are both competitive in price and deliver the exact functionality needed within the business.