Building IT

Retailers at user conference share stories of technology development

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Chris Boebel

Chris Boebel

FORT WORTH, Texas -- As the Pinnacle users' summit continued this week in Fort Worth, Texas, retailers spoke of technology projects within their companies, ranging from the development of district-manager "dashboards" to improving infrastructure use through "virtualization."

Other topics lead by retailer speakers during the The Pinnacle Corp.'s conference included managing digital public relations, creating customized reports and timesaving methods to use while auditing.

This week, about 175 retailers, partners and Pinnacle staff met to better understand the software and service provider's products and upgrades, as well as to network among fellow users.

In a session about making the most out of today's infrastructure options, Chris Boebel, with Delta Sonic, Buffalo, N.Y., spoke of maximizing the computer space that a company has access to, both with existing hardware and with providers off site.

"It's like running your own 'cloud'," Boebel told about 20 workshop attendees about creating a host site for much of their chain's operations. "We repurposed existing computers and made our own cloud."

Speaking to the same point, Mike Cooper, IT manager, for Arlington, Texas-based Pinnacle, said many third-party providers help chains develop computer capacity that's essentially off site, with much of those services accessible at little or no cost. One of the important steps is to set arbitrary life spans for computer use, Cooper advised. When a retailer accesses "virtual" computer time for whatever the task may be, he or she is still using resources, albeit through a third party or internal resource. As a result, a timeframe needs to be established so those resources are not abused.

On the topic of creating dashboards on computer tablets for in-field personnel, Jeffrey Barcome, vice president of MIS for General Equities, Kensington, Conn., walked through his chain's development process for about 25 workshop attendees.

In his presentation, he said the company employed the help of a consultant to understand and design its dashboard, building off a basic template. An ongoing project that took several months to reach the beta-test stage, its dashboard gathers information from stores and allows district managers to view, in real time, the ongoing performance of specific locations.

Barcome showed examples of how managers could click on specific stores, SKUs or metrics and see trouble spots. Numbers that fell below set parameters would show up in red, alerting managers of problems, while graphs and "heat maps" showing products by profitability and units sold also aid in identifying trouble spots.

"Our managers had not had reports like this before, so they were excited," Barcome said. "And the dynamic nature of these reports is an advantage."

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
View More Articles By Angel Abcede