Retail IT Career Focus

by Deepak Sharma on Sunday, November 04, 2007

ComputerWeekly has an article with focus on careers in Retail IT. Retailers are moving from Legacy systems to newer technologies with Multi-channel Retailing taking prominence.

The days when retail relied exclusively on legacy IT are gone, and the sector offers opportunities to spearhead roll-outs of cutting-edge technology

Retail has traditionally been a relatively unattractive sector for IT professionals, with low investment in technology.

"Some retailers are still running AS/400-based systems developed 15 years ago," says Iain Mc­Keand, head of the regional CIO practice at Harvey Nash, who spends much of his time recruiting for senior roles in the retail sector.

But things are changing. "Retailers are realising they need to raise spending on IT from less than 1% of turnover to between 1% and 2%.

"Those legacy systems may have been robust in the past, but they cannot cope with supporting the move to multiple channels," says McKeand.

Some new facts from Retail Recruitment side of view:

1. Whereas Vadher has used open source systems, Jane Binner, an associate director with recruiters Computer People, says that the retail sector runs mainly on Microsoft technologies such as ASP, C# and in some cases Visual Basic.

2. Breaking into retail can be tricky because retailers prefer to hire IT staff with retail experience.

"They can identify with the issues customers and store managers have. They understand what competitors are doing, and where the sector as a whole is going in the next six months," Binner says.

3. many retailers, new recruits spend some of their induction period working in stores, either behind the counter or in the stockroom. Some retailers go further and will ask IT candidates, particularly for senior roles, to work in store as part of the selection process, with the evaluation of the store manager performing part of the assessment.

"That reflects the importance placed in good interpersonal and stakeholder skills," McKeand says.

4. Hours can also be long. "Retail inevitably demands working outside normal nine-to-five hours, especially if the retailer is a seven-day operation," McKeand says.

Vadher says that there are often extra seasonal pressures. "Christmas is the hardest part of the year and is quite stressful. We get a lot of stick from the rest of the business at any time of year when there are IT problems," he says.

5. Salaries in the retail sector also tend to be lower than some equally high pressure sectors such as finance, although McKeand says salaries are still attractive.