IT in Retail

How it’s different from other Sectors

It’s been two month’s since my last blog, in these two months, I celebrated my birthday, got hospitalized for the first time in my life and also switched my job (quite an eventful period, huh?). Now, I work for the BIG BLUE – IBM. Obviously, It’s one of the largest organizations anyone can ever work for and I hope to enjoy my time here.

Since, I have just switched jobs let me talk about the experiance with my previous organization, It’s also going to be my first non technical blog. My previous employer was a retail organization, in fact the second largest retail company in the country. During my tenure of just under 3 years, I experienced how IT in retail is very different from most other sectors. 

In Retail an incident of server down impacts cash flow directly, this is unlike most other sectors where such an incident would only have an indirect impact on the business. As a result escalations are fast, mounting more pressure on the IT professional. It demands quick and correct decision making, you can’t take your time in order to arrive at the right conclusion, you need to be fast and you need to be accurate all the time. There is no room for error. You might say that pressure is there in every sector and not just retail. Well, yes, it’s true but most of that pressure is artificial and usually the source is an over excited delivery manager. Such man made pressures are normally created for vested interests rather than any real urgency for solving the problem at hand. In Retail, the pressure is REAL, as real as it can get because the company is actually loosing money by the minute, you cannot compare that with anything else.

The number of stores is normally very high in any retail organization, usually in hundreds, and you can’t have an IT superhero at all your stores. Thus, arises the need to keep things as central as possible and whatever you have to keep at the store level, it should be as simple and tamper proof as possible, Architecture Design and Implementation are the two key phases to achieve that. Since, critical IT equipments like Servers and Routers are placed at the store, IT security and monitoring requirements go beyond just meeting compliance norms. I can go on and on like this but in short what I have learned is that IT Infrastructure requirements for an Retail Organization are very special in terms of Design, Operations Management, Incident Management and Hardware and Software requirements. You need a sturdy and stable IT Infra setup to run a retail organization, this may be true for any sector but more so in Retail.

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