Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Retail store managers. Use Cloud Computing and Desktop Virtualization (VDI) to bring them back to the shop floor.


Cloud computing / desktop virtualization together with real time communicaiton / collaboration allows exciting new solutions to business problems.

In today's blog we cover the challenges of the retail store manager.

(Picture copyright Nasa)

The issue: Establishing a great relationship between the customers and the store is the prime goal of retail store managers. That makes customers return - thus driving revenue. So the retail store managers should spend the majority of their time on the shop floor. Instead they spend a substantial part of their time in the backoffice in front of their PC doing administrative work. Thus there is need to untether the store manager.

The challenge is in my humble opinion: Current solutions to untether the store manager using PDA type of devices have substantial shortcomings:
1) Ergonomics. The screen size and keyboards are too small to do backoffice work effectivly on these devices. The keyboard adds to the difficulty.
2) Compute power. Backoffice software requires PC level compute power which is typically not available on a PDA.
3) Deployment costs and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). The callenges above force the IT department to deploy both PC's for the backoffice and PDA type solutions for the shopfloor. This doubles the deployment costs and the TCO.

A solution in my opinion is a combination of a larger tablet with the right ergonomics, cloud computing and desktop virtualization How:
1) Ergonomics: A solution is a larger tablet (10-12" screen) to have the screen real estate to succesfully display backoffice applications. It should have either a good on screen keyboard or a real attached keyboard. With a bar code reader this tablet then can get used to do both backoffice and shopfloor work.
2) Thus one can reduce the number of devices a manager needs: Move the backoffice software from the desktop PC back into a central data center. And then access the SW through a thin client on the tablet from the shopfloor through a real time link. (Cloud Computing, Desktop Virtualization). This eliminates the need to have a separate desktop PC in the backoffice of the shop. All work can get done from the tablet. Plus it reduces the CPU power needs of the tablet making it more light weight and/or giving it a longer operating time on a single battery charge.
3) Reduce the deployment costs and TCO: The reduction in number of devices itself lowers deployment costs and TCO. In addition the proposed solution virtualizes the desktop PC in the store managers office. That eliminates the management costs associated with a desktop PC. Plus the centralization of the backoffice SW in the data center ensures the SW on the desktop PC stays always current.

In summary: Virtualization of the desktop PC of the retail store managers using a larger tablet will increase the effectiveness of a store manager. It will allow him to do a substantial part of the backoffice related work on the shop floor. This brings the store manager back to the shop floor. And it allows him to spend more time to build relationships between the customers and the store. Which is the biggest lever to have customers return to the store.

(Keywords: Retail store, retail store management, retail software, retail business software, Retail Management Systems (RMS), computer software retail, business POS software, Point of Sales (POS), Customer Interactions, store management)

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