Exclusive: Retailers’ top IT concerns are…

Retailers are focusing tech efforts on the cloud and staffing.

A new survey of retail IT executives reveals their biggest challenges and what they see as a “must-have” technology.

According to results of a survey of 1,420 IT executives, many of whom were retailers, released exclusively to Chain Store Age by end-to-end, multi-cloud technology solutions company Rackspace Technology, 54% of surveyed retail IT executives don’t envision owning a corporate data center in five years. Thirty-five percent plan to explore edge technologies, while 29% intend to investigate public containers and 24% will consider private containers.  

When asked how the cloud is aiding innovation, 46% of retail respondents said it is improving customer experience and ease of use, while 43% said the cloud is enabling faster testing and deployment of new products and services.

Retail survey respondents cited security as the most important factor to consider when choosing a cloud environment (49%); with 53% saying security is the biggest barrier to serverless computing, followed by 37% of those saying they don’t have enough internal skills to implement cloud technology and 35% saying they have a steep learning curve. Forty-six percent said security is the reason retailers use external partners.

Staffing poses issues
Finding and retaining IT talent, along with price inflation, were cited by half (50%) of retail respondents as leading business challenges; second only to the 63% who mentioned supply chain management as most concerning. Diving deeper into retail IT staffing issues, the survey found that 62% of retail respondents said their staff had experienced burnout, and that 59% of their IT projects had been delayed due to staffing issues. 

Almost three-quarters (73%) of retail respondents said their employees preferred working at home, despite the fact that 64% of them work longer hours when they are remote. To attract and retain new talent, 39% of retail respondents offer additional training/development opportunities to attract talent and 33% to retain talent. In addition, 31% offer moderate salary increases to attract and 34% to retain talent, while 33% allow hybrid or flexible home/office work to attract and 34% to retain talent.

Other concerning business issues included product shortages (41%), wage inflation (29%), and chip shortages (25%).

Don’t forget AI
About two-thirds (65%) of retail respondents to another recent survey exclusively released to Chain Store Age by Rackspace Technology said AI and ML are technologies that are among the most mission-critical to their business strategy. This led to other technology areas such as cybersecurity (63%), cloud computing (60%), data science (57%), and e-commerce (53%).

“The cloud is no longer a shiny new object– it is a nearly universally accepted technology, and there is almost no retail organization that is not currently in the process of transforming itself via the cloud,” said Jeff DeVerter, chief technology evangelist, Rackspace Technology. “At the same time, there are a number of barriers standing in the way of that transformation, most notably a dearth of IT talent. More than ever, retail organizations will need to rely on external expertise to achieve their cloud goals, as they continue to shed legacy infrastructure and ask the cloud to do more.”

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