Technology Record - Issue 28: Spring 2023

169 “ Frontline workers need to be free to engage in highvalue tasks, such as providing personalised assistance to customers” Photo: River Island FEATURE threatened retailers’ ability to remain operational,” says Minbiole. “Retailers discovered they couldn’t easily communicate with all their frontline employees, which made it difficult to disseminate essential information, share product and inventory updates, manage staff absences and shift changes, and more. Employees were also taking on unfamiliar roles and didn’t know how to access critical information to complete tasks, which negatively impacted the customer experience. The predominant reason for this is that retailers didn’t have the right technology in place.” Avanade’s global workplace study indicates that only 30 per cent of retail respondents have implemented a virtualised workplace platform to enable employees to access applications and data from anywhere, via any device. Meanwhile, just 35 per cent have embraced cloud-based platforms, AI and automation to simplify knowledge sharing. And only 39 per cent of retailers globally have streamlined their employee experience ecosystem and workplace applications. Yet, Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index shows that 63 per cent of frontline workers are “excited” about the new opportunities digital technologies could create. More than one-third suggest that technology could be used to improve shift scheduling, onboard new team members, automate basic in-store tasks and deliver real-time task updates. “Frontline workers are overwhelmed and they can’t afford to waste time completing basic, repetitive tasks that could easily be automated,” says Minbiole. “Instead, frontline workers need to be free to engage in high-value tasks, such as providing personalised assistance to customers, which will boost their productivity and job satisfaction.” Simplify and streamline Microsoft offers multiple tools and technologies that are designed to help frontline staff to work more efficiently, productively and collaboratively. Microsoft Cloud for Retail, for instance, consolidates disparate data sources via a common data model and provides industry-specific integrations between Microsoft Cloud products and third-party applications. One of the latest additions to the platform is Store Operations Assist. “This gives managers and frontline workers access to all the information they need to complete day-to-day activities in physical stores,” says Minbiole. River Island employees now use the Walkie Talkie, Tasks and Shifts applications in Teams to do everything from managing inventory in the stock room, to delivering personalised services to customers RETAIL & CG