Retail Technology  

IT challenges facing retailers on Black Friday

Retail Digital gives retailers a few tips for making it through the busy holiday season
 Black Friday shopping
For many retail companies, we are now in the ‘revenue’ zone where the next six weeks can bring as much as 20 to 50 percent of the revenue for the entire year.  Specific days can be especially critical (the day after Thanksgiving which some refer to as ‘Black Friday’, as an example).  The challenge for an IT department is to meet the demands of the business while you have so many of your staff out on vacation.
The goals for IT during this time include keeping the business running, being prepared for peak processing and trying to avoid calling staff off on vacation to deal with outages.  Retail Digital gives you a few tips for making it through the holiday season:
Some key “To Dos”:
  • The ‘freeze’ time period should run prior to Thanksgiving right through the New Years’ holiday
  • Maintain a high level of discipline around your ‘freeze’.  Have senior level sign-offs for all changes.  Remember: When you run your freeze more like a ‘thaw’ and allow non-critical changes, then you are opening the business up for increased risk
  • Changes that are required (regulatory requirements, tax updates, etc) should have extra scrutiny and ensure all staff required for testing, validation, deployment and support are properly prepared and available.
  • Forecast which business critical systems will require additional resources (processors, memory, etc) and schedule in advance the allocation of those resources. It’s too impactful to wait until the bottlenecks occur
  • Use this time to test in your labs and validate all potential impacts as you prepare for post-freeze deployments.
  • Have all staff schedule their vacation during the holidays in advance. Ensure you have the proper coverage required.  Be prepared to make adjustments.
Some key “To Don’t”:
  • Do not introduce new user interfaces or changes to business processes just prior to going into the freeze. This time of year is too hectic to expect store personnel to learn a new system or process.
  • Avoid opening up a window between Thanksgiving and Christmas to try and push changes through that missed the cut-off.
  • Avoid doing ‘catch up’ work (infrastructure work or patching) that impact your production environment.
  • Don’t allow someone’s lack of planning to turn in to an emergency and rush a change into production.  When that happens, usually the quality of work is poor, corners are cut and outages occur.
The best holiday seasons occur because you planned well, prepared well and executed properly.  If you find that you experience a poor delivery of service, learn from your mistakes and start January planning for the next holiday season.
A final comment:  Make time to visit the stores and verify things are running as planned.  You may even volunteer to help at the store to help customers find things or be a greeter.  Your dedication to the store and your staff is the kind of leadership that makes the holiday season a pleasant one. 
Written by: Gary Bronson
Gary Bronson has over 25+ years of Corporate IT experience, including 10 years with Fortune 50 companies
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