Recently, a retailer reached out to me looking for a solution to a problem. Their POS software support developers were ready to roll out a long-awaited solution but had just informed the owner it might interfere with a scheduled task, the exact purpose of which he was not certain. They knew what the task did, but not why it did it. The conundrum for the owner, then, was “what happens if we break this task?”
My first question was not the one he expected: what is your testing environment and roll-out process?
It’s a question most retailers don’t ask very often. There’s a tendency to assume that when a solution has been developed, it has been tested or will be tested. In short – it’s going to do what it says it will and not break or interfere with anything else. After all, these are the guys who work with this piece of software all day. But developers know that all solutions have some degree of risk, depending on the nature of the additions/changes as well as the state of the environments they’re working with. This is particularly true for any POS software that has customizations.
In an ideal world, developers might work in an up-to-date copy of your production environment, deploy to an isolated staging environment, complete detailed regression suites, and then get rolled out to your stores. In reality, this can be time-consuming, expensive, unrealistic as well as get in the way of rapid, effective changes.
The good news is that we don’t need to have perfection. There’s nothing wrong with having simpler versions of this process and accepting risk. Which is good, because most retailers can’t afford to stand up test servers, pay for additional licenses as staging environments, or spend time and money waiting while their software support team does so.
There is something wrong when we don’t balance simple process with a consideration of ROI assessment and risk management.
Regression sites, isolated and overnight deployments, smoke tests, rollback plans…there are many tools for managing risk and making informed decisions. Too many retailers simply don’t ask questions about the roll-out process and wind up experiencing unnecessary and unforeseen problems with real customers, employees and transactions in their stores. As a result, we wind up with last minute rollbacks, workarounds, and costly confusion.
Luckily, the owner who called me was able to work through what the scheduled task was related to and identify that it was too risky to interfere with, even for an evening. This resulted in the decision to wait for a new development solution. They were able to interpret the risk because they asked questions and then considered that the development was taking place in an environment that was a poor representation of their store and that even with risk mitigation it would still be too dangerous to be beneficial.
If you don’t know how your software support development team is building, testing and deploying your work, you cannot make informed choices about how and when you want it. Make no mistake: the work will be put to the test. But if you’re not paying attention your store, your customers and your profits might be doing the testing.
Jaeger Consulting Group provides Point of Sale System optimization support to connect business goals to software solutions.