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The Scariest Part of Retail Technology…Change

Posted by Nancy Silverman on Aug 6, 2019

Last updated on September 18th, 2019 at 06:11 pm

Change management – it’s one of the last things we talk about when it comes to retail technology. And there are many reasons why. 

One, change takes a specific mindset. For some, it’s hard to separate from the way things have been and look at the bigger picture. Two, people assume that if you know how to do something – like facilitate a transaction – you know how to do it on any system. Yes, you know the basics, but processes change with new technology. There’s a big difference in process flow from legacy systems to modern technology. 

People have a tendency to minimize change for these reasons, among others. The bottom line, though, is that change can be a positive force. When carefully planned, fully communicated and objectively executed, change can drive your business’s transformation forward.

Defining Change Management

In retail, change management starts at the systemic level and implies changes associated with new systems or software. But you also need to focus on the most important, yet often overlooked, aspect of change: the people. This is organizational change management, and it is the planning and implementation of the processes and principles needed to achieve success.

When it comes to change, there’s no denying it’s scary. Most individuals and organizations resist change for little reason other than fear or anxiety. “Do we want to stop and take the time to make the change?” “Will our day-in and day-out confidence take a hit?” These are some of the questions typically asked, or at least considered. 

According to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, 39% of change efforts fail because employees are resistant to change. Similarly, 33% of change management efforts fail because management doesn’t support the change. Change has to start at the top. Leadership teams need to talk about the need for change management and believe in it. 

The Approach

For change management to work best, you need a few key ingredients. 

  1. Vision – without it, you have confusion. 
  2. Skills – without it, you have anxiety. 
  3. Incentives – without it, you have resistance. 
  4. Resources – without it, you have frustration. 
  5. An action plan – without it, you have failure. 

To achieve successful change, it all needs to add up. But where do you get started? Here’s a four-step approach:

  1. Align on the change
  2. Plan for the change
  3. Implement the change
  4. Anchor the change
Align on the change

Change alignment is organization-wide – from the C-suite to merchants, planners, IT and more. If you’re not building new tech and systems in-house and are instead working with a partner, know that for every member on your team, there is a complementary member on the vendor side. Also, be aligned with them. 

After you’ve aligned the people, align against the strategic needs and objectives of the organization. Ask various stakeholders for their input on current processes and identify what needs to be done differently. This will help you create a new process flow and move from the current state to the future state with ease. Finally, align on measurable accomplishments. 

Plan for the change

Have a plan for everything – the good and the bad. Often times corporations will implement a new system but never address the intricacies. For example, how does change affect team members’ roles and responsibilities? The answer is, it’s a balancing act – without regular and open communication, you’ll have low employee engagement and participation.

After you’ve planned for the change, invest in training. Document everything – every step in the system the user will now have to take – and train them on it. Remember: You’re likely making changes to become more productive, efficient or competitive. But, if you’re not taking advantage of the efficiencies because your team doesn’t know how, you likely won’t see the true return on your investment.

Implement the change

You’ve planned, now it’s time to execute. There is a 50/50 responsibility split between your team and the vendor team. While your partner goes through project roadmap events – from environment setup to systems integration to production testing – there also needs to be retail team touchpoints. These are points in time to level set, check-in, train some more and learn. 

Anchor the change

This step comes from a change management expert, John Kotter. It’s about making change stick and instituting it as part of the fabric of your organization. As discussed, change is scary for a lot of people. But if it is reinforced by management and celebrated where appropriate, it becomes a little less like the elephant in the room. 

Closing Thoughts

To be successful in implementing new retail tech, brands today need to embrace change. There are definitely groups that can guide you through the recommended approach here, but really you just need someone who can invest the time, think objectively and work with you. From an unknown source: “If you are not willing to embrace change, then you are not ready to lead.”


Nancy Silverman is an Engagement Manager at NewStore. She was previously a consultant, helping a wide range of internationally recognized companies respond to complex technology challenges in the ever-changing retail environment. Earlier in her career, she was the Director of Systems at Barneys, where she implemented major technology updates.

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