Articles

Technology Fit For Purpose.

I love a good magician. Making you believe something amazing has happened seemingly beyond the realms of physics, reason or inputs is an incredible talent and wonderfully entertaining to behold. When you learn the art of slight of hand and misdirection of attention, you have the ability to make jaws gape, eyes goggle and audiences suspend disbelief.

Many contemporary politicians believe they have perfected these skills.

Secretly there is a little boy or a little girl in all of us that wants to be caught up in the magic and believe. Technology for many of us fits in this area. Not only do we have an inbuilt thirst for newness, for the latest, but we also want that little bit of magic to appear before our eyes. The latest release from Apple is an example.

When it comes to the application of technology in retail businesses and the decision-making disciplines associated with it, the little boy or little girl within us seems in many instances to overpower business logic and allow gadgets and gimmicks and packaging to substitute for genuine productivity gain. The dot.com bubble was the ultimate proof of this.

Retail business models are very straightforward. There is no magic that can make up for the essential ingredients that are required to make a retail business work. The job of technology in retail is to do one of two things – increase productivity or increase insight that leads to increased productivity. Better still, it should do both. It needs to do these things within the application of the essential ingredients of retail.

But if it does neither of those two things why would you invest in it? Why would you put your business through the disruption of change, the opportunity cost, the capital cost and the resource allocation if there were nothing to gain? If it produced exactly the same outcome but was just the latest version or looked prettier? If all it did was provide data or visibility that couldn’t be acted upon or used to produce more profit?

The I.T. industry is incredibly good at the magic of selling. They package brilliantly. They up-sell and add-on sell better than any shop assistant. They are charming, persuasive, believable and seemingly authoritative.

So a retail business needs to be very clear on what it needs and wants before it even looks at technology. It needs to be internally convinced of its issues, opportunities and potential gains before allowing itself to be seduced by the magic. Keep it simple before the vendors complicate it and have you spinning. A simple checklist and an internal audit will tell you what you need and what gains are real. Every application should be capable of being simplified into a checklist of essential qualifications that must be met in order to prove a return on investment.

Gadgets are cool things to play with and if you are addicted to them, costly. Technology applications in business aren’t about entertainment. They are about clear, unambiguous gains that are real not imagined.