In the turbulent, ever-changing world of retail, developing consumer trends, digital disruption and emerging alternative business models make competitive advantage a constant challenge.
For a foothold on tomorrow’s profitability, retailers turn to technology to underpin growth strategies, often calling on retail IT consultancies to support their evolution.
This article outlines IT consultancy in retail, what it is, which services are included, how to identify a need within your business and how to choose the best retail consultancy for you.
- What is IT consultancy in retail?
- What does IT consultancy in retail include?
- When should you work with an IT consultant?
- How to choose an information technology consultant for retail
- Who are the best retail consultancy companies for IT in Birmingham?
What is IT consultancy in retail?
Offering advice, innovation and delivery, it’s the inquiring nature of the approach that marks the difference between IT consultancy and standard IT business solutions. Consultancy listens and learns before suggesting a bespoke, specially-crafted solution.
An IT consultant tackles your most complex retail problems. Working as an individual or within a team, their experience means they can advise you accurately on the best technology for your business, market and growth plans.
They’ll be well-versed in best practice approaches and will be innovative by nature with plenty of market-relevant insight to pull on when offering you advice.
Many retailers call on an IT consultant for transformative action. Fresh thinking and industry expertise are brought in to revolutionise the way a retailer manages internal and external processes.
Is this digital transformation?
Digital transformation integrates technology into all areas of a business. It fundamentally changes the way a business operates and how they add value to customers.
It also involves a cultural shift, a “change in leadership, different thinking, the encouragement of innovation and new business models” as The Agile Elephant explains. It increases the use of technology to “improve the experience of employees, customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholders”.
A study by Hitachi Consulting found that 9 out of 10 senior decision makers believe retailers that fail to digitally transform will go out of business by 2024. But while clearly a priority issue, is digital transformation the same as IT consultancy in retail? What does a digital transformation consultant do that an retail IT consultant doesn’t do?
That depends on the problem a retailer is trying to solve and the experience and services offered by the IT consultant. With retailers’ eyes firmly on the customer, many solutions delivered by consultants share the same objective as digital transformation: to improve the digital experience.
Not all IT consultancy services go so far as to address a retailer’s culture and employee approach to technology however. See the section below, ‘How to choose an information technology consultant for retail’ for more guidance on this.
What does IT Consultancy in Retail include?
Services typically include business analysis, strategic planning, project and programme management and integration, with consultancies often providing technology architecture, digital and test practices.
Depending on the project scope and business challenge at hand, you can expect an IT consultancy to provide you with a comprehensive review of requirements and challenges, leading to innovative strategic planning.
They’ll be able to manage large and complex programmes and fully facilitate and manage the vendor selection process. They may offer pilot projects to provide proof of concept solutions.
Anticipate detailed data from such services that will be used to fuel a sound business case before roll-out. And the best providers offer staff and stakeholder training and engagement, ongoing support and maintenance and, obviously, on-time and on-budget delivery.
Beyond this, consultancy gives you the skills you need, when you need them. By partnering with a consultant or consultancy, retailers are able to harness rich pools of knowledge and resource not readily available within their organisation.
Within a consultancy, specialists such as business analysts, product owners, quality assurance managers and technical specialists come together to focus and prioritise your IT project.
Such a team may be available to a retailer on a short or long-term basis, working on site alongside existing teams or as a virtual extension of the business.
When should you work with an IT consultant?
Whether it’s slicker workforce management, better supply chain solutions or the need to transform legacy systems for the modern age, IT consultancy is most commonly driven by a need for competitive advantage.
With technology’s ability to cut costs, improve margins, delight the customer and future-proof a business for impending change, senior leaders identify the need for consultancy when planning for growth.
Typically, a retailer either won’t have the required skills within its walls and (or) wants to access expert opinion and perspective. They may also wish to deliver a programme of change within a set timeframe, and have identified the best recruitment approach is to partner with an organisation. This avoids the need to recruit a team or individual whose skills will be redundant once the project is complete.
How do you choose an information technology consultant for retail?
How do you assess the skills, aptitude and prowess of a potential supplier? Hiring an IT consultant in retail is a decision to be deliberated. Look for:
- Experience in your sector
- Evidence of successful project delivery
- An appropriate approach to the brief
- Skilled and experienced team members
- Relevant geographical reach for your business
- Experience with your legacy systems
- Suitable and certified project management frameworks
- Flexibility in terms of delivery and collaboration
- Full insurance and liability
Some retailers believe hiring an independent consultant delivers more flexibility, reduces costs and enables greater control over the work. These were cited as the top three reasons retailers work with independent consultants over agencies in a recent survey by Source Global Research.
However, this approach is reliant on strong and robust internal resources that are ready and able to execute a consultant’s advice. A consultancy company offers a wide expanse of expertise backed up with rigorous training, best practice frameworks and contingency measures.
Who are the best retail consultancy companies for IT in Birmingham?
Of course we’re biased, but our track record with some of the world’s largest retailers doesn’t lie. Learn more here.