The access we all have to consumer goods through big box retailers can be exciting, overwhelming and deceiving. As consumers, the lights, the bling, and the emotions that come with stepping into a big retailer and having access to everything from high end computers and slick printers to savvy servers and operating systems can lead to the immediate need to purchase.
Suppress the Short Term
Small businesses are understandably focused on increasing productivity, reducing downtime, providing access, and streamlining process. Big-box stores have an immediate need to drive sales. This is a concept that sometimes tends to be at odds with the business agenda.
Small businesses, like larger corporations, are working through bandwidth, database management, file access, and infrastructure needs. What’s different in small versus large organizations, though, are the resources allocated to manage those needs. The bigger the organization, the bigger the team and budgets working on solving, minimizing and planning for that organization’s technology infrastructure. Infrastructure – that include systems thinking and hardware and software configured to deliver customer engagement, employee connectivity, and security
Those deliverables might be lost when a business owner takes his needs into a big-box retailer. Often the owner has some understanding of the business hardware needs, but often lacks the finer details that could be difference in wild success or crushing network, hardware, and security failures.
The Retail Shopping Experience
Retail outlets are designed to entice first, support second, and close the sale third. The ideal process takes probably no more than an hour – depending on the purchase. Likely, there would not be enough time to dive into the specific short and long term needs of a business that result in the right hardware package (or pieces). Fundamentally, retail sales teams are not working the floor as consultative sales teams are. Instead, those working the floor are equipped to address product specifications and attributes, but those details don’t demonstrate integration. Sure, hardware is readily available off the shelf in real time, but system requirements could easily be overlooked.
Understand The Dynamics
Hardware becomes the face of the back-end systems allowing the business to function. Underestimating the necessary functionality, integration, and future planning can lead to frustration and rework. The following is a short list to consider when thinking through how, when, and where to purchase and boost technology. Keep in mind, this list and the important questions to ask.
- Bandwidth – How much information can the system handle? An internet connection with a larger bandwidth moves faster than one with a lower one. Hardware needs to be able to support the bandwidth, and there might be reasons to control how much of the bandwidth hardware should use.
- Interconnectedness – This is what is linking people to technology/hardware and other systems together. Approaching with a systems mindset allows businesses to approach their network of wires and hardware in a way that helps to solve issues like efficiency and accountability in an organized manner.
- Virtualization helps to streamline everything. Its mirroring meets sustainable operations, of sorts. This concept allows devices, servers, storage systems, networks, and operating systems to be split which can lead to resource maximization. Making sure the hardware and the technology infrastructure supports this concept is important. It is also one to manage and plan for as businesses expand and adapt to the ongoing demand of streamlining.
Approach Integration Openly
Systems integration isn’t only about the wires that connect to the hardware and how devices are communicating with the whole. Systems integration requires the right hardware to support the necessary functionality. Supporting the functionality is something that can and should be planned for. However, unless there’s an in-house tech expert, these are issues and plans that are often left unaddressed.
Let’s explore some of the most common products:
- Computers – desktops and laptops
What types of roles require a dedicated computer? What will the business be doing with the computer? Would a tablet be a better (and more cost effective) solution? What programs will the computer run – office software or something bulkier, like video editing? Is bookkeeping involved? Are there highly sensitive documents that should be protected? Does the business need a point of sale system? These are all questions any retail team would anticipate have been answered prior to purchasing.
What types of materials will be printed? How often? In what quantities? In what lead times? While three-in-one options are popular, is that necessary? What’s the best large volume printer? What’s the best printer for printing in-house marketing materials? How many computers and devices will be connected to the printer? Where will it be housed? These are important questions to think through before purchasing.
Consider a wired network if you’re planning to have a business server in production. A network can be simple – a server with an operating system connected to the router. The operating system and network allow the business to manage employee connectivity and to put permissions in place to manage access as necessary. Certain businesses will also want to consider what type of access they will offer customers/guests. That use should be planned for.
Data use drives the server decisions and more or less impacts the type of server you’ll need.
Since business owners strive to maximize productivity, it’s important to remember that IT support is something that requires more than a five minute, off the shelf solution. Planning and engaging with a partner allows businesses to focus on the core and leave the back end tech functionality – not to mention long term tech solution – to a different expert.