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  • 3 Sep

A Day in the Life of Communications Executive Ellie Cook

Ellie: During my time at Retail Assist, I’ve interviewed various members of the team to ask them about their typical day at Retail Assist. Today, the tables are finally being turned and Alex Broxson our Head of Marketing will be interrogating me instead! Alex: I certainly will – firstly Ellie, you’ve been with Retail Assist over three years now, so tell us about your time here. Ellie: I started at Retail Assist in May 2009. My initial role was Marketing Coordinator, but in July 2011 I took on responsibility for copywriting and so my role progressed to Communications Executive. Previously we worked with a PR consultant to support us with the PR pieces that were used by the Marketing Department – such as press releases, case studies, thought leadership articles and award entries. The decision was taken to bring this work in-house so I was given responsibility for it. We still work with an external PR Consultant, but they now focus on distributing the pieces that we write in-house to their press contacts. Alex: You know what’s coming next Ellie – please describe a typical day at work for you at Retail Assist. Ellie: Typically when I first get into the office I check all of the company’s social media accounts and post updates or respond to any comments on these. Retail Assist are very active on social media and I manage the corporate Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube accounts. We also publish weekly blogs, like this one, so I am always trying to think of new ideas for our next post – whether it be based on an issue facing the Retail Industry that I’ve read about in one of our trade publications, or whether it be approaching somebody within the company and asking whether I can interview them for the blog. A lot of what I do is focused on interviewing people and subsequently writing up articles based on this. These might be internal interviews; for example working with one of the Retail Assist Board of Directors to come up with ideas for a thought leadership article. Once completed, this is then sent out to the trade press in the hope of generating positive publicity for our business. Or they might be external interviews, e.g. interviewing one of our clients, to either put together a press release announcing a new contract, or write a longer case study based upon the work that we’ve done together. My role isn’t solely focused on writing however; I am also involved in updating the company websites and intranet. Furthermore the Marketing department is entrusted with organising a number of events. These mainly involve getting our clients together, so I will often be required to research potential venues. Once the event details have been confirmed I will then send out invitations both internally and externally. Alex: What do you enjoy most about your job…Other than working with such a great team that is?! Ellie: Haha naturally the team are all lovely…
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  • 13 Aug

A Day in the Life of Help Desk Call Handler Emily Harrison

Ellie: My ‘Day in the Life of’ interview today is with Emily Harrison, Help Desk Call Handler at Retail Assist. Emily, how long have you been working here now? Emily: I have worked for Retail Assist for 18 months, as I started on the Help Desk in February 2011. Ellie: So could you run me through a typical day at work for you at Retail Assist please? Emily: A usual day for me would start by checking for any email responses from Vue sites that I emailed the previous day. These regard calls open that I either need them to confirm the closure of, or calls that require updating. I also check for emails from Team Leaders and colleagues regarding major issues I need to be aware of when I am logging calls. I log between fifty and seventy-five calls a day and take calls from all clients. I get the site information and caller’s name as well as all details of the fault to pass on to an Analyst. Lastly I give the client a reference number in case they need to ring to update a call. Not all of the calls I take are new calls; I also take calls from clients asking for updates on calls. I resolve as many small issues as I can whilst on the phone like cabling checks and reloading PoS screens. Around midday I go through all awaiting customer calls; contacting sites to get updates on calls and also to advise them if a call has been closed. In the afternoon I take lots of incoming calls from Engineers ringing to update and close calls as well. I also contact sites advising them that equipment has been sent from Head Offices and when to expect this in the post. Ellie: Next, a question that I particularly like hearing the answer to – what do you enjoy most about your job? Emily: I enjoy the variety of clients that I speak to on a daily basis and also the variety of calls I take. Every call is different, from Sony projectors for Vue to ‘Ship from Store’ at Aurora. Logging a call for a site and then speaking to them a few days later as we have resolved the issue is very satisfying. Another thing I enjoy is the workload; I love the busy nature of the Help Desk. I like learning about new clients and developing knowledge to pass on to colleagues. The team on the Help Desk are also really supportive. Ellie: So now we’ve discussed what you enjoy about your job, I’d like to know what aspects of your role you find most challenging… Emily: I like to find all aspects of my role challenging as I am trying to resolve issues myself and try to find out how to resolve calls first time round. I find it rewarding to solve calls myself. Ellie: Lastly, what previous experiences helped prepare you for your role? Emily: Previously I worked as a…
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  • 30 Jul

A Day in the Life of Account Manager Jane Caren

Ellie: Today’s ‘Day in the Life of’ interview is with Jane Caren, who has had a number of different roles during her time at Retail Assist. How long have you worked for the company now Jane? Jane: I started working for Retail Assist in Jan 2000 as a Help Desk Analyst, having previously worked for Sears Clothing as a contractor on the Adams account. It seemed only right knowing the software and hardware that I applied to work for Retail Assist after they won the Adams contract following a management buyout. I worked on the Help Desk for 11 years, reaching the dizzy heights of ‘Senior (think that’s because I’m now officially old) Services Controller (yes I have been called a control freak!) It’s amazing how that desk has grown and it makes me proud to know that I assisted with that. I have so many lovely memories of those early days as we were such a small team and worked so closely, there are many tales I could tell. One time we scared each other, making ourselves believe that the old office in Bingham was haunted… I do still wonder who it was going through the filing cabinets on the top floor late that Saturday evening. Entertainment came with the town centre being filmed for Crossroads. Unlike today, weekends used to be quieter and sometimes we only answered a few calls. Ellie: It’s lovely hearing such fond memories about your time on the Help Desk. What would a typical day at work be for you now in your role as Account Manager? Jane: Every day is different, early in the month I am heavily involved in the creating of monthly reports for our clients. Now with the help of James Lowe (big thanks) I can adapt these reports to contain the client’s specific graphs. I also attend many service review meetings, which could be anywhere in the country depending on the client. Prior to these meetings there is quite a lot of preparation, i.e. creating the agenda, adding information into the reporting pack and ensuring the minutes are fully up to date. If the meeting is hosted at one of Retail Assist’s offices I will book a meeting room and organise catering requirements. I then perform some further analysis to discuss at the meeting, highlighting any trends. I also ensure that the client’s SLAs are fully adhered to, which includes liaising with some 3rd party suppliers – it helps that I know the majority of these from my Help Desk days. After the meeting there is further admin work to complete, such as updating and distributing the minutes. There is always lots of email correspondence to deal with too. I also like to be aware of any major incidents, so I use RSD (Retail Service Desk) heavily, utilising this application for any meeting minute action points. Ellie: What do you enjoy most about your current job at Retail Assist? Jane: I like the people I work with; both the…
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  • 11 Jun

A Day in the Life of Accounts Assistant Stephanie Richardson

Ellie: Next up to be interviewed as part of our ‘Day in the life of’ feature is Retail Assist Accounts Assistant Stephanie Richardson. Hi Steph, how long have you worked for Retail Assist now? Steph: Hi Ellie, I’ve been here since February 2007, so five and a bit years. Alan Morris the Executive Chairman jokes that I’m part of the fixed asset register because one of my regular tasks is looking at the depreciation of fixed assets… I think that’s a fair assessment! Ellie: I’m going to ask you a tricky question here – would you be able to describe your typical day at work at Retail Assist? Steph: I don’t really have a typical day at work, but I do have more of a typical month in terms of the type of activities that I do. In the Finance department we have ‘month end’ processes at the start of every month. For example April’s accounts would be done at the beginning of May and so on. Andy Harris in the Finance team is responsible for the Management Accounts, and I assist him in terms of bank and fixed assets reconciliation. One of my responsibilities is ensuring that all of the client invoices are sent out each month. I am also responsible for the Aurora accounts, so once my ‘month end’ duties are out of the way I will move on to this task. From the middle of the month onwards I work on the payroll process. As the company has expanded over the past couple of years, this now takes a few days to complete. Since Retail Assist has grown, all of the Finance processes have grown too and require high levels of attention to detail. Last but not least, we have a payment run to complete every two weeks where we pay expenses and external suppliers. Ellie: Which area of work do you enjoy the most? Steph: There isn’t necessarily one particular area which is a favourite of mine as I like the fact that I get to be involved in lots of different things. As Retail Assist has expanded I’ve become responsible for more areas of work, which I enjoy. I previously had roles at other companies which were based around only one or two tasks and were sometimes a bit monotonous, so I prefer the variety of my job here at Retail Assist. I also enjoy helping people within the company with their queries and solving any potential problems. Ellie: I’ve got another tricky question for you now – what aspects of your role do you find most challenging? Steph: I think the most difficult part of the job is working to tight deadlines, for example we’re committed to completing payment runs at set times in the month. Also the year end can be very hectic when we have lots of processes going on. Although the department has grown recently, if people are on holiday it can be a challenge juggling the work that they would…
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  • 14 May

A Day in the Life of Development Team Leader Jamie Bray

Ellie: The next in the series of ‘Day in the life of interviews’ will feature Jamie Bray, Development Team leader at Retail Assist. Jamie, how long have you worked for the company now? Jamie: I’ve worked for Retail Assist for 3 and half years, the first two as a Senior Analyst Developer and in the last 18 months as the .Net Development Team Leader. Ellie: Would you be able to describe a typical day at work for you at Retail Assist? I know that previously people have found this difficult to do! Jamie: Like all the other ‘Day in the life of’ interviewees I’d say that there is no such thing as a typical day here. I find that I tend to get involved in lots areas that are not totally development focused. However, the main focus of my role is to work with the .Net team delivering quality Merret developments. This task normally includes sitting down with each developer and working through any issues that they may be having with their development. I will normally help them work through any issues that they may have and communicate anything that may have an impact to the delivery schedule. I am still hands on and normally have various developments that I need to work on during my week. They are fairly mixed and vary from simple to complex changes. Another key part of role is to get involved in analysing new developments that are due. This will involve a key meeting with the developer and head of development in which we will sit down and analyse the change, making sure that all the requirements for the change are met, what the impact of the changes are and if there any areas that require further analysis or technical specs. Ellie: So if you had to pick one thing that you enjoyed most about your job, what would that be? Jamie: I don’t think that I can pinpoint one thing that I enjoy most about my job, I think it’s a combination of various elements but I have to say it’s the guys I work with on a daily basis. I have a great group of guys who all work very hard but along the way we try and have fun I also think we are quite lucky to have a great set of Merret customers and working with them is always pleasure. Ellie: And what about the thing that you find most challenging? Jamie: It has to be the go-live week and implementation of Merret into new customers. It’s very much like rehearsing for a show for 6 months. While you have done everything you can in preparation there are always some last minute nerves. Ellie: Last but not least, I’m interested to hear what previous experiences helped to prepare you for your role? Jamie: Prior to working for Retail Assist, I ran a small IT company in the midlands supporting servers, computers, developing web sites and software to make their lives…
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  • 8 May

Real Time Monitoring of the Till Estate

Alex: I’m here today with James Lowe, our Senior Analyst Developer. He currently works on Merret development, and has previously developed tailored solutions as part of our Store Systems Team. One of these was the monitoring of the till estate for a retail client, which is what we are going to talk about today. So James, why did the retailer need this solution? James: Hi Alex, the real time monitoring solution came about as one of our customers was just making the switch to new Retail-J software across their store estate. We quickly ran into issues with data flows between the estate manager/central system and the store’s tills and back office devices. This was largely caused by some extensive reporting being done on the Estate Manager database; the running of these reports caused a slow down in the data processing; eventually this got so bad that the stores ended up manually trading. We found ourselves needing to get some kind of instant feedback to determine if the actions we were taking were beneficial and having the desired effect. Fundamentally, the Retail-J system is all about data flow between devices; when that breaks down the data processing gets backed up, with various knock on effects including till systems slowing down to the point of tills not being able to trade and EFT settlement files not sent overnight. Alex: What does the solution allow the retailer to do? James: The real-time monitoring solution, allows seemingly small problems to be pro-actively picked up and actions taken before they become real show-stoppers. For example, spotting that a database has grown to a point that it’s nearly out of space enables us to take action and extend the database before that starts giving errors. The primary monitor display gives an overview of the health of the store estate, but one can also drill down to store and till level. We have since expanded the solution to monitor database sizes, OLA server status, EFT Settlement submission, PLU propagation, etc. Alex: And how do problems get picked up? James: Generally, real-time monitoring is achieved through a summary wall display showing a red/amber/green state of the key parameters of the system. Depending on the customer, we set sensible thresholds that give an amber alert or a red alert if something is going wrong. Optionally, if a red alert is encountered, a sound alert can also be used to attract attention. At Retail Assist, we monitor customer estates through our 24 hour operations centre and the Help Desk. Alex: An important question is what benefits have been achieved thanks to the solution? James: The key benefit is to minimise the amount of downtime by nipping tiny problems in the bud before they become real issues. Also when an unexpected major failure does occur (e.g. central database failure) then it enables support staff to quickly assess where the issue is and likely impact on all areas of the business. Also, by using the summary page to highlight a potential problem…
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  • 30 Apr

A Day in the Life of Project Manager Paul Harvey

Ellie: For the next ‘Day in the life of’ blog, I’m going to interview one of Retail Assist’s Project Managers, Paul Harvey. Paul, how long have you worked for Retail Assist now? Paul: I started in December of 2009, so two and a half years. Ellie: I know that the project work can be very varied, but would you be able to describe a typical day at work for you at Retail Assist? Paul: I would typically spend 50% of my time out on customer site – recently I have worked from the Jacques Vert Group Head Office – and the other 50% based at the Application Centre in Northampton. A day out of the office would often involve a couple of hours travel to London from my home in Northampton ready for a 9.30am start facilitating a workshop on Merret implementation or development. Whilst on site there is usually time for a lunch break and to catch up on emails regarding the current projects I am managing. Most clients would want to get full value from your time on site so you can expect to field a wide range of questions about the Merret application or project progress. Where my knowledge of the application is lacking then these questions need to be passed on to the Retail Analysts in Northampton and followed up when I am next back in the office. During a large Merret implementation the customer’s office becomes something of a home from home so the working day would typically end at around 5.30pm followed by the return trip to Northampton. Ellie: What do you enjoy most about your role at Retail Assist? Paul: I like the variety of working with different retail clients. Having spent a number of years on the other side of the fence as an IT Manager for a retail business it is interesting to see how different organisations operate. Ellie: That is interesting, so what aspects of your job do you find most challenging? Paul: As with any project based role there will be times when resources or time are in short supply but deadlines still have to be met. This situation is a bit of a double edged sword as it is certainly the most challenging part of the job but once you overcome the issue it is also one of the reasons you keep coming back for more! Ellie: Finally, what previous experiences helped prepare you for your current job – I know you’ve already touched upon ‘working on the other side of the fence’? Paul: Whilst working in my previous role as an IT manager I managed a number of different implementations of retail systems ranging from Merchandising, Warehousing, EPoS and Finance. This experience along with my view of life from the client side has I believe been of most help in my current role. Ellie: Great, thank you Paul. If anybody reading this would like more information about Projects at Retail Assist, please visit our website or email…
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  • 30 Jan

A Day in the Life of Systems Analyst Gareth Thorley

Ellie: Whilst I recently conducted a ‘week in the life of’ interview with one of our clients, it’s been a while since I caught up with one of the Retail Assist team on the blog. To remedy this, I’m here today with Systems Analyst Gareth Thorley. For any readers who haven’t met you before Gareth, how long have you been at Retail Assist now? Gareth: I’ve worked at Retail Assist since November 2006, so a little over five years now. I spent approximately one and a half years on the Help Desk before moving to the Store Systems team. Ellie: So since moving over the Store Systems team, what has been a typical day at work for you? Gareth: I’m sure you have heard this many times before, but we don’t really do “typical”. I normally arrive at the office for 08:30 and complete some pro-active checks, so we can attempt to resolve any potential issues before they become problematic to the client. The rest of the day can consist of many different tasks. This might include reactive client support, where calls have been raised to the Help Desk for first line analysis, before being passed over for second line analysis by the Store Systems team. We regularly complete analysis of previous calls, to identify if there are any trends. If trends are identified, we’ll investigate these to see if some pro-active work can be completed in order to stop repeated calls being made to the Help Desk with the same issue. We also create ISO20000 procedures for use by Store Systems, or the Help Desk. Sometimes I may be required to assist the Project Services Team with ongoing projects by providing hands on support and technical advice. The Sales Team also ask for background information from time to time when working on new bids or tenders. Not all of my work is office based as I can be called upon to complete on-site installs, de-installs, demonstrations or training. I also build till systems for New Store Openings. Ellie: There seems to be a lot of things to choose from, but what do you enjoy most about your job? Gareth: I guess that would either be successfully solving problems and issues or seeing a till system I have been involved in configuring and creating being rolled out to a real working environment. This recently happened in Jane Norman and Mint Velvet stores. Also I don’t want to be a creep but obviously working with great people is a bonus! Overall I like the fact that every day is different. Ellie: In contrast, what aspects of your role do you find most challenging? Gareth: Sounds like you are trying to make the word “challenging” sound bad! I guess what is most frustrating would be admitting that something cannot be achieved or fixed, as that would mean admitting defeat! Ellie: So finally, what previous experiences helped to prepare you for working at Retail Assist, both on the Help Desk and in your…
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  • 31 May

A Day in the Life of Store Operations Analyst Luke Chadwick

Ellie: For the next ‘Day in the Life of’ interview, I’m about to speak to Store Operations Analyst Luke Chadwick, another member of the team who joined us from Aurora Fashions. How long have you worked for Retail Assist now Luke? Luke: I’ve worked for Retail Assist since the IT department was outsourced by Aurora Fashions in February 2011. I joined Aurora in my current role as a Store Operations Analyst on June 7th 2010 so I’m pretty new to the company. This is my first IT related role. Before joining Aurora/Retail Assist I worked for HSBC on the Executive Management Graduate Scheme but decided banking wasn’t for me and began to look for a new career path. I am good friends with Chris Coggins (who works in the Store Development Team) and when I moved home he told me of a vacancy at his work, it sounded interesting and I like to learn new things, I applied and here I am! Ellie; So is there such a thing as a ‘typical’ day at work for you at Retail Assist? Luke: Depending on whether I’m on an early (8 – 4.30) or a late (9 – 5.30) depends on how my day starts. Usually it’s an early shift (3 weeks out of 4) and so I get in and perform some of the morning tasks like checking the intranet, doing the credit card checks to make sure transactions have processed correctly and other system checks. Then I’d move on to performing Sales Audit checks for a brand or two, making sure that all stores have polled correctly for the previous days sales and rectifying any data that’s rejected or finding any data that’s missing. Once this is complete, (which can take anywhere from an hour on a good day to all day on a bad one!) I look at my work load, RSD calls and store work, to see which needs prioritizing. If I have a new store opening or any engineers attending store to re-install or re-locate systems then this work takes precedence. I liaise with engineers to ensure systems are installed/re-installed, tested and that the store manager is happy. RSD calls form the other part of the role and as I’m sure everyone knows, the volume and nature of these varies from day to day. As a team we try to maintain the calls so that most are resolved on the day they come in; although a number of factors determine whether this is achievable or not. The last part of my day usually involves any ad hoc work that we are involved in. The nature of the job means there is always something slightly out of the typical day that needs working on. It’s this variety that I enjoy. Ellie: You just mentioned the enjoying the variety of your role, but what else makes your job enjoyable? Luke: For me, the thing that makes any job enjoyable is the people you work with. I’ve been fortunate enough…
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  • 3 May

A Day in the Life of Business Analyst Daniel Reeve

Ellie: It’s been far too long since I interviewed one of the Retail Assist team for our ‘Day in the life of’ feature, so today I’m speaking to a relative newcomer to the business, Business Analyst Daniel Reeve. Daniel, how long have you been at Retail Assist now? Daniel: I’ve worked for Retail Assist since February and was employed by Aurora Fashions for eight months prior. Ellie: Could you describe a typical day at work for you at Retail Assist please? Daniel: It’s extremely varied and for the most part no two days are the same. My job role incorporates project management, business analysis and elements of support so I generally move between tasks within each area. Ellie: So what is it that most motivates you to get up and go to work in the morning – what aspect of your job do you enjoy the most? Daniel: I really enjoy how varied a working day can be, the days and weeks go so quick. I’ve always enjoyed seeing a development through to delivery, it’s very satisfying to remember when a project was initiated with just a stakeholder conversation and then months later you deliver the solution and the business benefits. The work and effort required during a project can be substantial but very rewarding. Ellie: Yes I think a lot of people will be able to identify with that feeling after successfully delivering a project. On the other hand, what aspects of your role do you find most challenging? Daniel: The biggest challenge within my job role is working for a client, which is then broken down into separate brands or businesses. Each brand uses a different combination of our core systems; they use different versions of those systems along with brand specific processes and procedures. With this business model, development cannot be standard as you have to factor in each brand’s variables. Ellie: That’s really interesting. I know that you’ve already mentioned working for Aurora Fashions, but what other previous experiences helped prepare you for your role? Daniel: The majority of my experience was spent with Argos for seven years. I worked in a number of IT roles during my time there and this is where I picked up a lot of project management skills. It was a very fast paced environment, working within a lot of business areas and there are many similarities within my current role. Ellie: Thanks for taking part Daniel. If any members of the Retail Assist team would be interested in being interviewed for the next ‘Day in the life of’ feature, or if any external readers would be like to write a guest blog for Retail Assist, please email info@retail-assist.co.uk.…
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