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Massive shifts in consumer habits — patterns that have been exponentially accelerated by a global pandemic — are forcing retailers to take a hard look in the mirror and ask: Is my organization agile and resilient enough to meet the fluid demands of my customers?  

Retailers often operate legacy, monolithic software and hardware in a back room or closet that is costly to maintain and difficult to scale. And increasingly, retailers are realizing the potential value of pent-up data that could be utilized to drive additional sales or cost savings. 

Today's buying journey, which was once straightforward and rigid, is now exponentially more dynamic and digital. Technology must follow suit to provide a level of speed, personalization and awareness.  

A wave of next-generation applications and services made possible by an array of critical technologies reaching peak maturity, such as cloud, edge and IoT and others, will help unlock trapped value from inside and outside the store. 

These new apps —  predicated and powered by modern connectivity — will enable retailers to: 

  • Deliver a frictionless, immersive shopping experience that drives new sales or adds to existing transactions by targeting and approaching customers with personalized experiences regardless of their location.
  • Transact outside of the lane by exposing customers to a holistic view of inventory when and where they need it.
  • Get the goods in to your customers' hands faster than ever by digitizing the supply chain and gaining a crystal-clear view of where inventory lives and where it's going.
  • Save time and money by taking the complexity of technology used in the branch.

Taken collectively, these outcomes enable retailers to become more agile, aware, efficient, intelligent, safe and sustainable.  

But a key question arises when considering execution: How can I cost-effectively leverage technology without completely gutting my legacy systems in order to drive this transformation? 

What to consider? 

Like many businesses, retailers suffer from a disconnect between technology and business. In the face of disruption, the business is being forced to create new revenue models and customer acquisition strategies. All the while, IT departments are often constrained from a budgetary perspective, have fragmented technology organizations and are limited in how they can innovate. 

This leads to a standard, two-tracked approach to modernizing infrastructure: In column A, retailers make do and limp legacy technology systems along, while they work on a disruptive, e-commerce engine in column B that can transform their business. At some point, the plan is to flip the switch and make a clean break from legacy to modern.  

Retailers need a way to shave costs in the interim as they utilize legacy systems while at the same time accelerating the development and implementation of transformational solutions. 

Shaving costs in the interim 

The migration of mission-critical applications to the cloud has improved end user experience, with smoother collaboration, automated backups and access to the latest updates on an ongoing basis. However, latency and network congestions can cause poor performance for cloud-based applications used by enterprises all around the world. 

For retailers, this can cause a lag in vital functions that can cause delay in revenue generation.  

By incorporating edge computing into your network environment, retailers can operate critical services and functions on-premises in order to increase latency and enhance resiliency, thus creating a more cost-effective and sustainable legacy environment in the branch. 

Accelerating transformational solutions 

The future of retail will be all around us, indistinguishable from every other part of our lives. To compete in this new economy, retailers will need to embrace and consume a bevy of key technologies that collectively make up an Industry 4.0 solution. 

Industry 4.0 — an evolution in the way business is done to make even the biggest of retailers more agile, aware, efficient, intelligent, resilient and sustainable — weaves together these technologies to bring about new levels of operational efficiency and productivity while simultaneously enhancing customer experience. 

Technology, however, is just one piece of the puzzle. Strategy and execution will also be integral.  

Follow these key principles of a transformation strategy to drive Industry 4.0: 

Start with the end in mind: Transformation is purposeful change over a short period of time to obtain or maintain a competitive advantage. It is intense and fast paced and can be overwhelming if not well thought out and implemented. Understanding your business objectives and desired outcomes are crucial to staying on course. 

Align stakeholders: Many retailers understand the dire need to evolve but have a fractured relationship between business and IT. The two sides of this paradigm too often speak different languages, have different priorities, or don't communicate whatsoever. Bringing both sides to the table to align goals is critical to avoid stalling or failing completely. 

Gain visibility: It is next to impossible to change something of which you don't have a clear understanding. Having a firm grasp on systems used and current infrastructure deployed is needed to avoid unexpected surprises further down the road. 

Build a team of teams: Transformational projects require not just the right people, but the right mix of people. Selecting the right combination of personalities is also important to ensure collaboration and productivity takes place without conflict. 

Agile delivery: An outcome-based approach will establish clear objectives, but it shouldn't dictate the route in which those objectives are achieved. By adopting an agile delivery methodology, you'll have more flexibility in how progress is delivered and be more able to react swiftly when challenges arise along the way.

Scalable execution: Industry 4.0-enabled solutions will be deployed by the tens of thousands in the field as opposed to once in the cloud or data center. In the end, digital transformation is only as good as your supply chain. Industry 4.0 solutions are rendered meaningless if they can't be delivered last mile. 

Transformation is the destination. 

Retailers operate on notoriously thin margins, which can make investing in technology feel like risky business. But failing to adopt digital trends will undoubtedly leave retailers susceptible to disruption as competitors progress. 

By combining strategy and execution, you can more quickly move along their journey to becoming a more digitally savvy organization that can swiftly maneuver to meet constantly evolving market forces. 

Need help getting there?  

Industry 4.0 enablement
WWT combines strategy and execution to drive and enable Industry 4.0 solutions at scale.

While most companies solely operate in either digital or physical spaces, we excel in both. Our unique understanding of the retail landscape, paired with an unparalleled expertise in network infrastructure, positions WWT as a critical leader in Industry 4.0 initiatives. 

  • Accelerate decision-making and delivery of business outcomes. 
  • Optimize infrastructure to align with business goals. 
  • Modernize your end user experience. 
  • Align business and IT leadership to generate tech-enabled innovations and operating models. 
Ready to get started on Industry 4.0?
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