Future-Proof Against the Changing Network Landscape

Ken Silay,  Leader – Innovation and Technology Management

Highlight: Ken Silay, Leader – Innovation and Technology Management

Regardless of the industry you’re in, your customers are finding more and more ways to do business with you. No matter what you call it, omnichannel, connected commerce, digital commerce, what everyone is trying to achieve is a connected customer experience. That experience is composed of a few fundamental requirements. First, the right data must be captured and staged appropriately for access by your associates and customers. When competent sales associates have customer history at their fingertips, sales, units per transaction and average sales size all increase. Next, in order to accomplish the types of transactions that customers are expecting today, you must know where your inventory is with unprecedented accuracy. Buy online/pick up in store only works if the merchandise is there to be picked up. Most importantly, if the network in place is not agile or flexible enough to provide information at the moment of the transaction, the information, even if accurate and available, is of relatively no use.

Let’s say you are one of the fortunate organizations that seems to have all the basic fundamentals under control at this point. Congratulations, you’re in select company. However, the network landscape as we know it is changing. The need to move information around your network is becoming more complex. We may not be able to predict the future, but we do know with reasonable certainty that:

• There are more and more devices providing more and more data

• The data is not only customer information but device information

• The use of the information must be instantaneous and always available

• Not all data will be processed at the central or cloud location

• Computations and decisions will be made at the Edge or store level

• Security is non-negotiable

• Budget constraints require informed, longer-term decisions

• The wired and wireless worlds are converging

If you are responsible for network viability for your company and you agree with even a few of the network challenges identified above, there is little doubt that you are thinking about how to cost-effectively provide a platform that moves data where and when you need it both now and in the future without replacing that platform every other budget cycle. You need to “future-proof your network”.

Future-proofing you network is not just about plugging in the latest and greatest network appliances any more than you need to implement beacons in your stores just because it makes you look innovative. With the proliferation of devices required to attract and service your customers, it is no longer sufficient to depend upon your WAN along to be competitive. You need a well thought out plan utilizing WAN Diversitytm, or the appropriate mix of wired and wireless capabilities, to meet the needs of your customers and associates. There are several facets of a comprehensive network and just connecting data sources will not make you successful. Not only do you have to concern yourself with connectivity, but just as critical to your platform are maintainability, reliability, security and how you utilize both cloud and edge computing. You need to build in the right mix of 4G LTE and intelligent routing capabilities to provide the kind of flexibility that today’s network platforms require. Just as importantly, you need to align yourself with a business partner that looks to the future and works with you to constantly stay ahead of the curve.

We invite you to catch our post next week where we will discuss in more detail some of the planks of a flexible, forward-thinking network platform. Also, mark your calendars for a webinar on August 26th at 2pm EDT that will address solutions to deploy a solid foundation for your connected customer experience and future-proof your network against the changing network landscape. Click the "Register Now" button below to register.

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About Ken

Ken's most recent career position was Director of Technology Research and Innovation for Chico's FAS, Inc. He was also responsible for Store Technology during the selection of the next generation POS. He was also responsible for implementing RFID in the Soma brand with its unique network situation including hand-held devices for taking weekly inventory of a complete store in 30 to 45 minutes.

Currently, as a consultant, Ken is a frequent speaker and writer most recently speaking on the Internet of Things in Retail at the 2015 GS1 Connect Conference and was Chairperson for the 2015 RIS News Technology Conference.