I am sure you have days where you question your judgement of being an IT leader in the retail or hospitality sector. The past few years have been a complete nightmare for both sectors and now things have opened back up, the pressure on IT teams has exploded.

It is difficult to think of another sector that moves at the pace of retail and hospitality. In the past twelve months 14,477 restaurants/cafés have opened in the UK, the equivalent of 48 each and every day. There is a similar rate of change in the retail sector albeit a different type of shake-up, according to PWC 48 stores/outlets are closing each day and 21 new ones opening.

At NAK we have definitely experienced the pressures that our retail and hospitality clients are facing. Where initiatives could be carefully planned over several months, the expectation now is for IT to respond in weeks if not days. Where breathing space was available to develop strategy, today it is more of a case of keeping fires under control.

Calling it a crisis may be going too far, but the current pressures are not sustainable and IT leaders in these sectors need to prioritise their focus to build ‘agility’ by design into their infrastructure and the way their teams operate.

How do we bring order to what seems like chaos?

The challenge is that every day you are forced to make ‘one-off’ decisions. How do we connect the new store in Edinburgh? How do we support a pop-up next weekend? How do we integrate the latest acquired business?

The problem with one-off decisions is that they create a fragmented collection of one-offs that need to be managed and supported by your team. Over time, this simply becomes impossible and commercially unviable.

Based on our experience of supporting organisations in this sector, we see four key areas that can help break this spiral and create long-term viability and flexibility.

Scalable Standardisation

You can’t quickly go back and fix the past, but you can start reshaping your future. Leading vendors such as Fortinet and Cisco Meraki are transforming your world with technology ranges that are scalable and modularised. This allows you to select a common foundation technology across every location but with the ability to place the appropriately sized components at each location.

Centralised Visibility & Control

The SDN era is changing how we manage infrastructure. With the controlling software being abstracted from the physical appliance enabling centralised visibility and management. The quicker you can embrace these capabilities, the quicker you can reduce the number of site visits and turn the emphasis of your team from reactive to proactive.

Security by Design

It’s a phrase that is becoming common place, but what does it really mean for organisations in retail and hospitality? The cyber security risk in this sector is greater than ever before, the surface attack area is expanding rapidly with guest WiFi, more devices being connected at each location and the explosion of IoT. Gartner’s SASE model is going to be critical in securing ‘by design’ this world and if you have not already done so, you need a plan to move to a zero-trust network environment.

Reimagining Connectivity

Connectivity is critical for retail and hospitality; a lost connection could render PoS devices useless and poor performance can be detrimental to customer experience. It is no longer a case of throwing more money or bandwidth at the problem, smarter connectivity requires smarter thinking. SD-WAN is transforming connectivity and so too is the possibilities arriving with 5G. Separating how you manage connectivity from the underlying physical circuits is the way forward in gaining greater agility and price/performance.

Although it is true, it is tough for IT leaders in retail and hospitality, it is also an exciting time with endless possibilities to transform how we think about and deliver IT services to this fast-paced world.

At NAK we are helping many organisations embark on this journey and would be more than happy to share our thoughts and experiences. Simply reach out to the team on 0300 456 0471 or email