Guest Column | January 10, 2022

Advance The Digital Retail Experience With AIOps

By Sean, Windward Consulting and RedMonocle

Connected Retail Store

Consumers buying retail goods and services online increased by 29% from 2014 to 2021, reports Statista. This equates to more than 2.14 billion digital buyers worldwide and represents a significant shift in consumer behavior. And retailers are responding.

To accommodate the rise in online shopping, retailers are undergoing digital transformations to streamline internal processes and provide discerning consumers with superior digital experiences. And as brand loyalty declines, many in the industry are investing in more innovative customer-facing technologies to capture a buyer’s attention. Augmented reality in virtual dressing rooms and natural language processing in digital customer service centers are just some of the many advanced technologies rolling out across the retail space.

While technology drives efficiency and delights shoppers, the systems, applications, and networks powering these experiences don’t run themselves. Retail technology — and all technology for that matter — is operationalized and maintained by IT Operations teams.

But how can these teams support next-gen technologies while maintaining system uptime for a spectacular digital shopping experience?

AIOps To The Rescue

Today’s consumers expect to browse online goods and services, visit virtual fitting rooms, make digital purchases and return items 24 hours a day, seven days per week — without a glitch, let alone downtime. At the same time, they are accustomed to new technologies and functionalities, which are the very changes within a system that can spark an incident or outage.

The combined demand for new technology and continuous system availability makes monitoring increasingly more important. But manual monitoring also has grown more difficult as the amount of data has skyrocketed with customers’ increased usage of digital products and services. And, with the movement to the cloud, the IT systems retailers rely on have become more complex. It’s simply too much data and too much complexity for the human mind to process.

Adopting an Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps) strategy can help. By taking an AIOps approach, IT Operations teams can use automation, machine learning, and Big Data to more easily manage intricate IT environments and improve system uptime. AIOps makes this possible by anticipating service-impacting incidents, turning data into actionable insights, and automating the repetitive problems and tedious tasks that too often overwhelm IT Operations teams. With AIOps, these teams can remediate fixes faster, improve system performance and use more of their days to innovate.

5 Steps To AIOps Adoption

At Windward Consulting, we recently helped a multi-billion-dollar sports equipment and athletic retailer adopt an AIOps strategy to streamline monitoring of its expansive IT system. Here are the five critical steps any retailer can take to implement an AIOps solution and what worked for this specific retail company:

  1. Develop your vision for success. AIOps can transform more than the IT function — it can affect an entire organization. But stakeholders must first envision what success looks like for their organizations. For our client, success was simplifying the monitoring of its digital products and services.
  2. Build a strategy with goals at every level. A comprehensive AIOps strategy speaks to stakeholders in various roles. At an executive level, the strategy helps prioritize initiatives with more immediate ROI, hire employees whose positions align with the AIOps vision, and make strategic investments for long-term success. For more tactical teams, the strategy’s measurable steps guide their execution of the AIOps tool. In the case of our retail client, the AIOps strategy revolved around providing a frictionless experience for the end user, and the platform implementation necessitated integration with the ticketing system and other monitoring tools.
  3. Roll out your AIOps tool. With the foundational work complete, IT teams can operationalize the AIOps software by working through the implementation process outlined in the strategy. Our client needed to reduce incident and event noise, so our team developed algorithms to consolidate and cluster redundant system alerts and repeatedly tested the platform for competence and user experience.
  4. Incorporate a change management plan. The crux of a successful AIOps strategy often lies with technology adoption. Consequently, leadership should engage and inspire the people expected to adopt the technology. Because our retailer client’s third-party IT team needed to operate the AIOps solution, our team conducted thorough training and ran user acceptance tests to ensure adoption.
  5. Share metrics and observations with stakeholders. As the AIOps solution rolls out and the technology matures, share both quantitative metrics and quantitative observations with stakeholders across the business. Our client had plenty to celebrate: streamlined monitoring for increased uptime and accelerated innovation and reduced costs with less redundant software.

With more consumers turning to their digital devices to shop, advanced technology and seamless digital experiences are no longer just nice to have. They are essential to doing business. An AIOps strategy — that is thoughtfully conceived and carefully implemented — can help retailers contend with these new business imperatives and meet rising consumer demands.

About The Author

Sean McDermott is the founder and CEO of Windward Consulting and RedMonocle. He also acts as lead researcher at Helix Market Research. Sean previously acted as founder and CEO of RealOps Inc., the pioneer in enterprise management run book automation solutions, which was acquired by BMC. Sean’s curiosity for advancing technology began at his first job as a network engineer/architect installing and managing the first private internet for the U.S. Department of Justice. At a time when the internet was just taking off, Sean was at the forefront and has continued to be on the cutting edge of technology with the development of Windward and RedMonocle. He is an advocate for business leadership strategies and shares how other entrepreneurs can align passion and action on his blog, Wheels up World.