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It’s About Retail, Not Technology

Hello, and welcome to my inaugural blog! I am happy to be here sharing my thoughts and experiences with you, because I have to tell you: I have the coolest job in the world.

I’ve spent my entire life in retail, starting as a part-time worker while in school and moving up through merchandising and operations to regional vice president at Shopko Stores, Inc., overseeing the work of 12,000 employees. Over more than 20 years, I fell in love with the whole process of retail. When I was invited to work in the retail technology sector, it seemed a natural extension of the work I was already doing. Relatively few tech companies build their solutions around store needs – too often, they tend to focus on technology for technology’s sake. In fact, sometimes retailers do the same thing! I saw an opportunity to impact how vendors – and retailers – think about technologies that truly add value to the business.

Today’s trend toward mobility, or BYOD, is a great example. I’m sorry if this shocks you, but mobility without a strategy has no value at all for the retailer! I have seen stores invest in Wi-Fi networks while continuing to build cell-based apps – this despite Wi-Fi’s higher speeds, more flexible capabilities, and ability to improve the shopping and selling experience. They don’t want employees surfing the Internet, so they block employee access to the network and information that could help improve sales. They understand that shoppers are “showrooming” – sharing opinions and comparison shopping online from the store – but do not leverage the same behavior to promote products and analyze customer trends.

Mobility is a vehicle for improving the business, an extension of overall strategy. (You might like to check out this Lippis Report on “Monetizing Public Wi-Fi in Business to Consumer Relationships.”) I work with companies to help determine how to use such vehicles to define the customer experience, collect and manage large masses of data, and make store operations more efficient. I also help design the Cisco solutions that solve these retail business problems.

Join me on a journey to learn how stores are approaching, managing, and dealing with today’s innovations and how they are meeting customer needs. We’ll talk about how stores are using today’s systems, the most recent trends, the latest research, and how retailers are dealing with this very rapidly changing industry. Please get back to me with your own stories and questions in the comments section.

One more word: I love retail trivia! Comment if you know the answer to this question: What retailer in the country has the highest amount of sales per square foot of its stores?

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The Fifth Step to Enterprise Mobility: Defending Your Data

This is the fifth post in a blog series featuring Vine-format videos focusing on the “Six Essential Steps for Unleashing the Power of Enterprise Mobility”. The first blog post discussing how to build a mobile structure can be found here. The second blog post highlighting the benefits going virtual can be found here. The third blog post focused on preparing enterprises for the division of devices can be found here. The fourth blog post focused on creating an app checkpoint can be found here

In a 2012 survey of IT executives and CEOs, nearly half of the companies that permit mobility and BYOD reported experiencing a data or security breach as a result of an employee-owned device accessing the corporate network. In addition, security concerns continue to remain a key issue for decision makers looking to deploy additional mobile solutions such as enterprise mobile apps, according to a recent article from IT Pro.

Careful planning can help enterprises manage security concerns and harness the power of mobility. Here’s a brief checklist to help organizations secure devices, data and the network:

Watch the video: http://youtu.be/k8ytncvjE7M

Watch the video: http://youtu.be/k8ytncvjE7M

1. IT Pushing of Capability Down to End Devices

 IT needs to be able to push capabilities down to end devices and access control for both on-premises and off-premises apps, while providing pull capabilities for users, so they can self-provision apps.

IT must have the ability to apply situational control policies (for example, for disabling cameras on mobile devices in order to protect on-premises company assets when employees and guests are on corporate premises or in restricted areas). Another must have? The ability to remotely locate, lock, and wipe devices should there be a theft or if an employee leaves the company. It is also essential to be able to automate geo-specific policies to control roaming costs when workers are out of country. Read More »

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Interference Detection and Mitigation with Cisco CleanAir

The previous blog on CleanAir went in depth on how MSE uses CleanAir information to locate interferers and the impact zone for each interferer. This blog takes a step back and gives an overview of the CleanAir technology.

How Interference Affects Your WiFi

802.11 devices operate in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz unlicensed bands. These are unregulated and experimental bands. As such, there are way more non-802.11 devices, including but not limited to cordless phones, video cameras, microwave ovens, Bluetooth headsets, DECT phones and even X-Boxes. Now even more devices are coming out that emit in these bands. These devices interfere with your WiFi network since they don’t work cooperatively with 802.11 devices, causing reduced network capacity and coverage, poor quality of voice and video, and link failures.

When an 802.11 device is ready to transmit and it senses interference, it will hold off transmission until it is finished.  If it is in the middle of a transmission where it has sent a packet and never receives an acknowledgement, then it will try to send the packet again. Issues like these  impact the throughput and capacity of your Wireless Network. An interferer like a microwave oven, which emits interference on a 50% Duty Cycle, will reduce the throughput by 50 percent. In the case of an interferer like a video camera, which emits interference at 100% Duty Cycle, when seen at Access Point above CCA threshold will stop the Access Point from beaconing. Due to this clients will not attempt to associate. Read More »

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The Fourth Step to Enterprise Mobility: Create an App Checkpoint

This is the fourth post in a blog series featuring Vine-format videos focusing on the “Six Essential Steps for Unleashing the Power of Enterprise Mobility”. The first blog post discussing how to build a mobile structure can be found here. The second blog post highlighting the benefits going virtual can be found here. The third blog post focused on preparing enterprises for the division of devices can be found here.  

For today’s app-centric mobile workforce, it’s no longer enough to provide basic security features for devices. Gone are the days where security for mobility is “all or nothing” where virtual private networks (VPNs) gave you access to all corporate network resources, or you had very limited email and calendaring access.

Today, enterprises are managing public and private mobile applications that require a shift in security practices and a new application strategy. Here’s a short checklist to guide enterprises as they create app checkpoints to meet new security demands:

Step 4

To watch the video, see: http://youtu.be/dpQ5_n6FoX4

1. Look for a rapid, reliable, and secure vetting process for applications. 

IT security teams are usually directed toward securing the network and the devices connected to it, versus securing the applications that run on those devices. Many organizations lack the resources to evaluate an application’s ability to handle sensitive information throughout its lifecycle.

Companies rarely have the resources to monitor sites that could breed malware, nor do they have the ability to maintain heuristic algorithms to identify such sites prior to infection. And those that decide to secure mobile apps themselves might end up having to prioritize remediations, leaving them vulnerable. Read More »

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Third Step to Enterprise Mobility: The Division of Devices

This is the third post in a blog series featuring Vine-format videos focusing on the “Six Essential Steps for Unleashing the Power of Enterprise Mobility”. Be sure to read the first two blogs and watch the videos – First Step to Enterprise Mobility: Build the Mobile Structure and  Second Step to Enterprise Mobility: Go Virtual.

In this blog series, we’ve discussed two important steps enterprises can take unleash the power of enterprise mobility. We’ve covered how building a mobile structure can arm enterprises with the appropriate architecture to increase efficiency and revenue. In addition, we highlighted how enterprises can go virtual by implementing desktop virtualization.

Our third step -- preparing for the division of devices -- relies on both structure and a mobile workforce. How can enterprises enable and support the proliferation of employee-owned devices without burying their IT department and putting corporate data at risk? Here’s a quick checklist to help make it happen:

mobstep11. Use a unified network infrastructure that facilitates secure, virtual workspace delivery across wired, wireless, VPN, and cellular networks.

As wireless access becomes more pervasive, performance and reliability expectations are the same as what is expected from a wired network. Features such as reliable connectivity, application response times and voice, video and real-time collaboration solutions all depend on a seamless delivery for both wired and wireless devices. This fundamental shift demands that IT monitor and have a unified solution in place  (i.e. a single physical infrastructure) for both corporate wireless LAN (WLAN) and wired LAN. This converged infrastructure will enable the right quality of experience for users, independent of their devices.

A unified network infrastructure can also make sure that IT is able to identify each device connecting to the network and authenticate the person using it.

Read More »

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