- When Mike Santimaw became Rent-A-Center's SVP and CIO last year, the company was focused on security, which interfered with connectivity, he said while speaking at the National Retail Federation conference in New York Monday.
- The furniture retailer wasn't equipped to allow its franchises to have their own connectivity approach, he said. Before the retailer adopted a cloud-based Wi-Fi and routing solution, franchises used multiple devices with complex configurations, and it was not centrally managed.
- Flexibility was "nonexistent" and configuration deployment took weeks, he said. The "construction time was killer." Now it's "literally just plugging in a few wires."
Security is often seen as a barrier for innovation, and Santimaw, who previously served as the retailer's VP of information security, ran into similar issues.
Rent-A-Center "was running with a security mindset, and while that’s important, it stopped the business from being effective," said Santimaw. It interfered with him trying to build more computer vision and data-intensive initiatives at Rent-A-Center.
"The business model has to go where the customers are. Security cannot stand in the way of moving forward," he said. Overcoming the existing model was a "horrific tollgate to get through" and now it's a conversation about innovation.
While the main business model is not entirely security-centric anymore, there's an "open area" in the headquarters for the security organization to collaborate across IT teams. It's not a "basement;" non-security employees are welcome.
Rent-A-Center's open concept for security collaboration went hand-in-hand with overhauling its connectivity solution to the cloud-based option.
Retailers treat their cybersecurity organizations as the default internet of things security team, said Robert Eastman, research manager at IDC Retail Insights, speaking on the panel.
Instead, retailers must rethink what the smart store concept means for customers and associates. Operational and information technology converge with cybersecurity, meeting them in the middle.
In retail, networks and infrastructure are a "black box," said Eastman. Senior management and C-suite officials wouldn't really think about it.