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Commodity or Strategic? The New Role of Retail IT

Commodity or Strategic? The New Role of Retail IT

Last month in Rochester, NY, EarthLink hosted some of its largest retail customers for an advisory council meeting to understand their priorities and challenges. The meeting centered on two topics:  mobility and IT efficiency.  During the discussion on IT efficiency, here’s what one of our customers had to say:

“There’s commodity IT, and then there’s the places where we really add value, where we’re driving our revenue or improving margins. Take email, for example – one of the biggest things our users use. If it goes down, you’ll hear about it immediately. But it’s commodity IT. It’s like the light switches. I don’t want that headache. We’re not adding value there. We want to manage smaller teams, and keep our teams efficient, and let them focus on what’s unique to our company. That’s where we need to spend our money and our investment.”

What does your IT staff spend their time on? If you read the latest analyst reports and retail news publications, on the surface it appears that the focus is on leveraging IT to improve customer engagement and loyalty. But behind the scenes, retail IT departments are struggling with balancing the management of day-to-day operations with refocusing their budget and resources on more strategic initiatives. That is, they’re still spending a lot of their time “keeping the lights on.”

But shifting resources to new initiatives is a business imperative for retailers of all sizes. IT departments that fail to restructure their organizations risk being left behind. Consumers are starting to expect a consistent experience from store to device to Web, and the industry’s largest retailers are responding by investing heavily in store and omni-channel technology. Retailers know they need to invest in IT – according to the 2013 EKN Report “Navigating the Intersection of Marketing and IT”, 22% of retailers say their technology solutions are outdated and require a complete refresh and/or they limit their marketing teams from achieving their true potential.

Why spend time just “keeping the lights on” when you could be working on projects that generate revenue and move your business forward? What will truly differentiate your business – ensuring patches are up to date, or giving employees real-time access to inventory via tablets? Answering help desk calls on email, or gaining insights into consumer buying behavior by mining in-store mobile data?

Hosted and managed services can help retailers make the transition from tactical to strategic IT. As another council member put it, “When you look at the hosted model, you’re getting those upgrades, patches, etc and you’re not spending resources to do the tactical activities.”

EarthLink Business provides a range of managed and hosted services, working with retailers of all sizes to take on the management of tactical day-to-day operations.  Our services include Tech Care/Help Desk, Hosted Exchange/Sharepoint, Mobile Device ManagementDisaster Recovery, PCI Compliance, and Managed Security. With EarthLink hosted applications, you can lower your costs by paying only for what you use, get consistent patching and upgrades to support PCI compliance, and securely access these applications from any device, anywhere.

What WOULD you like your IT staff to spend their time on each day?

About Sadhana Joliet

Sadhana Joliet
Sadhana Joliet is the Director of Marketing for Retail Solutions at EarthLink Business. She has over 20 years of experience working with both startup and global technology companies in marketing and product management. Before joining EarthLink, Sadhana was Vice President of Marketing for Liquid Computing, a data center vendor recognized by Gartner as Visionary in their Magic Quadrant for Blade Servers. Prior to this, Sadhana held senior level product and marketing roles at Gartner, Yahoo and Intel as well as startups Online Anywhere and Kavado. She has an MBA and Master of Engineering Management from Northwestern University’s J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Vermont.