3 Reasons Major Retail Tech Projects Fail – And How To Make Yours A Success

There’s no two ways about it: investing in a new tech system for your retail business is a big deal. It’s also a big risk. 

When implementation of a new technology, including an operating system, goes well, the impact is huge. Productivity goes through the roof, errors and mistakes get eliminated, processes get streamlined and automated (and that’s just for starters).

But when implementation of a new technology goes wrong, the impact is even bigger. It costs hundreds of thousands to fix, takes months of time and energy and results in endless glitches that disrupt business and jeopardize success.

As a leading Retail Operating System (ROS), we recently did a study on hundreds of retailers to dig into the issues surrounding the implementation of major tech projects. Here we outline three major reasons these projects fail – and suggest what merchants can do to avoid the same problems… 

1. Assuming all providers are created equal

Many merchants head into implementation projects expecting to simply pay their money and get a system that ‘just works’. In reality, it’s often a much more messy affair, as research shows the success of any implementation project is irrevocably linked to the provider – or type of provider – selected. 

For instance, ERPs remain popular ‘solutions’, yet up to 75% of ERP implementations fail and a third of ERP customers run into major issues. Plus, the average ERP implementation is delayed by up to 200 days and costs 27% more than predicted. Even if implementation eventually works out, almost 1 in 5 brands report ‘endless glitches’. In fact, it’s not unusual for ERP implementations to take more than two years, cost hundreds of thousands of pounds and still not work as they should. 

It’s a similar story for Order Management Systems (OMS) and other ‘standalone’ solutions, which have incorrectly become known as ‘cheap fix’ operating systems. More than 40% of OMS customers experience major issues or failure and the average OMS implementation takes 150 days longer than expected, with an implementation bill that’s a third (32%) higher than predicted (making them not so ‘cheap’, after all).

What you should do: Merchants must stop heading blindly into implementation projects with little more than their fingers crossed. They should ask potential operating system providers for proof of their success rate and insist their project is fully scoped before anything goes ahead. 

It’s also sensible to request a fixed price upfront, with the assurance that it won’t go up no matter what, and for a predicted timescale that’s based on the unique needs of their business. At Brightpearl, we offer all of this and more. 

2. Going it alone 

Sometimes, it’s not the tech itself that lets merchants down; it’s a lack of expert support. In our study, 16% of brands cited a ‘lack of expert implementation consultants’ as a top reason for the failure of a new technology, 15% blamed ‘poor project management’ and 18% cited a ‘lack of ongoing training and support’. What’s more, according to Panorama Consulting Group’s annual ERP report, less than half of firms had engaged consultants to guide their big tech project, which Panorama described as “surprisingly low”.

Too often merchants are sold a system and left to fend for themselves by carrying out ‘self-guided’ or DIY implementation. It’s supposed to be a cunning way to save cash, but in reality it causes failure or major challenges for almost a quarter of retailers.

The truth is implementing a new operating system is no mean feat. It requires the skill and experience of dedicated experts who can ensure the system is not just ‘live’ but fully optimized and configured to get results. It’s not the kind of project someone within the office who happens to have an interest in IT can set up – at least not successfully. 

What you should do:  Retailers must realize that attempting a DIY or self-guided implementation is highly risky – and likely to cause major challenges, if not outright failure. Instead of going it alone, merchants should leave implementation up to the experts. That way, it doesn’t have to be risky. 

At Brightpearl, we take a unique approach to implementation. All projects are fully scoped and led by dedicated implementation experts, who are trained to optimize and configure our system to your individual needs. They also provide onboarding and ongoing training and 24/7 support. It’s a tried-and-tested approach which results in an industry-leading success rate of 97%. Find out more with a free demo.

3. A lack of due diligence 

Organizations don’t always take the time to outline and quantify all the benefits they hope to achieve from their ERP or other solution, and end up finding out too late that the tech they’ve invested in is at best a mediocre match for their business – and at worst a disastrous one.

Introducing a new technology system into an organization can increase productivity, reduce costs, support growth, and boost the customer experience. However, for it to achieve these goals, businesses need to do their due diligence – ideally before committing to a large investment. 

This is especially true for retail businesses. Retail is an industry with highly specific needs and a unique requirement for flexibility (the ever-evolving nature of the modern retail landscape demands nothing less). When merchants fail to do enough pre-purchase research on whether the system they want to use is a good fit for retail, they set themselves up for failure. This explains, perhaps, why more than one in 10 merchants explicitly blame a ‘poor fit for retail’ for the collapse of their implementation project.

Too often retailers fail to foresee the headaches that a lack of flexibility and retail-specific functionality can cause until it’s too late. Many merchants only realize this once they have to fork out extra and wait ages for custom retail connections. 

Our study clearly reflected this, with a quarter of brands experiencing failure or major issues due to ‘integration issues’, a fifth reporting ‘endless glitches’ and 15% specifically calling out a fatal ‘lack of scalability and flexibility’ in their chosen operating system.

What you should do: Businesses must do the internal work to truly understand what they are looking for from their investment. Modern brands need access to a library of ‘plug and play’ integrations along with accurate demand planning, powerful automation and advanced analytics – which is exactly why Brightpearl offers all of these, in one centralized system. 

Our implementation experts will help you assess if Brightpearl is the right fit for you when you book a demo.

Want to know even more about why implementation projects go wrong so often? Grab your free copy of our new report: ‘Implementation Crisis: Are Most Major Tech Adoption Projects Doomed to Fail?’ now.