Despite vast investment, retail IT projects routinely fail to deliver. Retailers spend a lot of time and effort on increasingly sophisticated technology, so how should they be developing and adopting it?

Argos old street tills

Jon Dakin, director at Boxwood, says a solid business case is necessary: “There should be no such thing as a technology project – it’s a business transformation project.

“The rumour is Argos is investing around £300m for its digital transformation and in 2013 Asda reportedly paid around £700m for digital projects. Amounts like this aren’t tinkering at the edges, they go to the heart of the business.”

He adds retailers need support at all levels of the business to make the new technology stick. “There’s a lot of emphasis on getting buy-in at the top for large technology programmes. All well and good but you need advocates at all levels of the business to actually make the new technology stick.”

Change management is also crucial. “Consider the management of change as a distinct workstream within the programme. It is vital to success yet often sidelined.

“Too many programmes are shut down at the end of the tech implementation rather than when the business benefits have been delivered.”

Dakin also advises using internal talent, making sure teams are using the right systems, and that technology projects are properly supported across the business.

He adds: “Get it right and you could join the stars like eBay, Amazon and iTunes who set a high bar with near flawless, real-time service. Get it wrong and you risk becoming one of the forgotten names of the high street.”