Why You Must Design Your Retail Technology Deployments—Not Just Plan Them

Why You Must Design Your Retail Technology Deployments—Not Just Plan Them


Plan vs Design

Webster’s dictionary defines Plan as “to arrange a method or scheme beforehand for any work, enterprise, or proceeding”.  Webster defines Design as “to prepare the preliminary sketch or the plans for (a work to be executed), especially to plan the form and structure of”. Wikipedia elaborates on the definition of Design as “Designing often necessitates considering the aesthetic, functional, economic, and sociopolitical dimensions of both the design object and design process. It may involve considerable research, thought, modeling, interactive adjustment, and re-design”.

The differences in definition may appear subtle. The reality for retailers is that simply “planning” your technology deployment is not enough. You need to “design” your technology deployment. A Deployment Plan usually tells you what you are going to do. Whereas a Deployment Design tells you how you will actually do it. Let me give you some examples.

Imagine, you have a project to deploy updated wireless infrastructure to 800 of your 1,500-store portfolio. Oh, and you’ve been given six months to complete. Seems straight forward, right? The following illustrates how this would look in a Deployment Plan versus a Deployment Design.

Deployment Plan

Deployment Design

Confirm which stores will be updated.

List of stores to be updated, including store number and full street address. Associated details would include Store Manager name, size and layout of store, equipment receiving requirements, storage availability, unique building aspects, and hours of operation.

Establish timeframe during which the deployment needs to be done.

The business drivers for the requested time period and financial impact to the business if missed. Actual schedule of which stores will be deployed when, with considerations for preferred in store times, blackout periods, ramp periods, and availability of store personnel. Also includes an associated milestone schedule and process for handling schedule changes.

List of equipment to be installed.

All specific details of the equipment to be installed, including make, model, size of device in box, and weight. Associated specifics include how and who will procure, configure, and ship, how DOA equipment will be handled, and how legacy equipment will be dispositioned.

Complete site survey for each store.

Schedule of site surveys by store with assigned Technician for each, communications to be used (e.g.: call ahead script, email, intranet post, etc.) by Store Operations, checklist or survey script to be used by Technician, estimated length of time to complete the survey, method of collecting information and transmitting back to Project Team, and how the results will be stored and used in the deployment process.

Establish installation script.

Fully documented step-by-step instructions for the Technician to follow during the deployment. This script must include all the details and must be 100% accurate. This requires iterative testing until it can be executed flawlessly and includes every single aspect of the install from the time the Technician enters the store until the time they exit.

Establish deployment help desk.

Established levels required for proper support (e.g.: L1, L2, L3, etc.), how many resources required for each level, knowledge and experience requirements, how tickets will be opened and maintained through the problem management lifecycle, scripts and guidelines to be used by the Help Desk personnel, hours of operation with associated coverage schedule, and escalation processes.

In Conclusion

As you can see from these few examples, a Deployment Design must include all the details from the beginning to end of the deployment. No detail should be considered too small. Granted, you may miss some minute details or have to tweak some processes during the actual deployment. Yet with such a detailed design you will be able to adjust quickly without causing a negative impact to the project.

While everyone plans their deployments, few take the time to go through a formalized design process. The Deployment Design should be a part of the Deployment Plan along with the proper amount of time to complete. Depending on the size and breadth of your project this could be a significant amount of time. But the time and money it will save you is well worth it. In today’s highly competitive retail environment it is critical to get technology deployed flawlessly, expeditiously, and seamlessly while ensuring the store continues operationally. Developing a Deployment Design will allow you to meet all of those objectives.


With over 30 years of experience in the technology field, Lisa Cook is a thought leader. Specializing in overcoming the challenges associated with complex, multi-site technology deployments, especially with retailers. Her proven approach of designing deployments, rather than just planning them, has led to over 30,000 successful deployments for national and global clients such as Walgreens, Ulta Beauty, Office Max, Walmart, American Eagle, Blockbuster, Chrysler, Simon Property Group, and CBL & Associates.

As Founder of OPL Technologies she is focused on helping Retail Technology Leaders eliminate the challenges of multi-site deployments by creating Deployment Designs that save money and ensure the deployment is done right the first time. She is the author of the recently released book Designing Retail Success: A Blueprint for Designing Retail Technology Deployments.