Embrace the digital age or get left behind, IT expert urges retailers

Retailers must adapt their e-commerce operations or risk losing out to more agile competitors, an IT expert has warned.

Ian Furness, of IT management firm Claranet, claimed that implementing a DevOps (development and operations) approach is critical if retailers want to gain a competitive edge.

According to a report by Microsoft, 54 per cent of retailers expected their industry to be ‘significantly’ disrupted over the next two years.

Claranet argued that in order to fend off this threat, retailers would need to adapt quickly.

Only 39 per cent of European retailers have already implemented a DevOps approach, and only 38 per cent host their e-commerce applications in a public cloud, research by Claranet has found.

Mr Furness claimed retailers yet to adopt DevOps and/or public cloud platforms would be at a disadvantage, compared with more agile competitors.

He said: “The retail sector is ripe for disruption. As a result, it’s vital for retailers to be able to adapt quickly in order to contend with the disruptive players within their industry. Consumer behaviour is constantly changing and many will not use a retailer who lacks a good website or mobile application. Ultimately, the faster an organisation can improve its applications, the better chance they have of gaining a competitive advantage.

“However, this puts additional pressure on the IT department, who must ensure they can keep up with these changes. Not doing so can have serious repercussions on the competitive advantage of companies and ultimately their bottom line, as what businesses can really afford to wait for new applications in the digital age?”

Mr Furness concluded: “With software now at the centre of online retail businesses, applications are a key differentiating factor from the competition. The retailers who will be best placed to gain a significant edge and overcome issues and compete with agility are those who start to implement a DevOps approach. The benefits include a more streamlined and integrated environment that is able to facilitate an accelerated application lifecycle.

“Public cloud is also an important part of this story here. The potential for automation that comes with hyper-scale public cloud platforms is essential for supporting DevOps, while the scalability they bring enables retailers to cope with sudden and potentially huge spikes in traffic. It’s therefore surprising that so few retailers have yet gone down that route.

“For retailers to truly win in their market and compete at the forefront of digital transformation, IT teams should be focusing their efforts on developing applications that deliver the optimal customer experience, while using a partner with deep expertise in designing, deploying and managing both public cloud and hosted platforms. By working with a trusted cloud provider with the specific skills and expertise needed to help organisations architect the best possible solution for their applications, they are able to focus their efforts where they are needed most.”