Why Black Friday is a red herring for IT retail leaders

Call me old-fashioned, but I have never really got what all the fuss is about with Black Friday which rears its ugly head again tomorrow. Retailers seem to get very worked up about it, but probably not as much as the customers, and it always seems to be a lot of hype about nothing. It’s just another day of peak trading after all, so what?

I must admit that I have also been surprised for a number of years about retailers who lock down their systems from the middle of November until the end of January.

Oh, and then before long its Easter!

The end result is that the poor old IT department gets about eight months a year to do stuff, and it’s also no surprise that the infrastructure is under-invested.

That’s another reason why I wasn’t at all shocked to hear of a leading grocer’s embarrassment last month when customers were left with no way of paying for their provisions after a major glitch.

At the same time, all of the traditional retailers are facing competition from the new entrants in the grocery space, through to new challengers in the online e-commerce arena. This is forcing the whole industry to look at the way it operates, but it is clear that the UK is still underinvested and slow to move to new models.

I was briefly encouraged recently when I attended an event where a leading retailer stood up and said that his organisation didn’t operate the old legacy model and have fully embraced the DevOps culture. As he quite correctly pointed out, “if you are running in a marathon, why would you only start training for it twice a year? We need to be fit all of the time”. His thought process and behaviour is backed up by Amazon which release new code on average every 11 seconds throughout the year!

So why do many retailers find it so difficult to change and adopt the new models? In my view, it is a combination of years of under-investment in IT, poor processes and a failure to embrace analytics. Whilst there are a few world class retailers operating the new “fleet of foot” models, too many are worried about the consequences of an embarrassing failure and carry on with the same old behaviours.

How Can IT Retail Leaders Benefit From Black Friday?

In my view, there is a better way to operate and this focuses more on understanding the customer behaviours and being flexible to the demands of peak events such as Black Friday. To do this effectively means really embracing cloud computing for peak demand and combining this with great analytics to track and monitor key performance metrics for the IT infrastructure. I am constantly amazed by the silo approach of many IT groups who don’t seem able to understand the premise “what you can’t measure, you can’t manage”.

Which is where I believe that Intergence’s Stratiam platform is able to make a difference. By providing a fully integrated visualisation platform, we enable IT leaders to gain an end-to-end visibility of the entire IT environment. This enables retailers to embrace a culture of continuous improvement and to cope much more easily with periods of peak demand.

Being able to bring visibility and control to the IT leader is eminently achievable with a combination of good practice, great analytics and embracing a continuous improvement culture based on agile methodology. I am sure that the majority of retailers would like to see Black Friday rendered a “red herring” and a framework adopted which enables peak demand trading across the whole year. We are sure that Stratiam will go a long way towards assisting with this desired outcome.