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The Biggest Risk When Deploying an RFID System

It depends on the type of project, but for enterprise-wide rollouts, the issue is not the technology.
By Mark Roberti
Aug 06, 2012I received an interesting e-mail from a reader last week that said, "There's no question that real-time inventory/replenishment would be of great benefit to retail. I'd be interested in knowing more about the constraints and risks of implementing an RFID system."

There are risks in deploying any new technology. With radio frequency identification, I think you need to distinguish between a point solution that solves a specific problem, and an enterprise-wide approach in which RFID is deployed as infrastructure to capture a large volume of new information and address a variety of operational issues.

With a point solution, the risks tend to be related to technology. Some companies choose the wrong technology for a specific problem, possibly due to bad advice from an inexperienced systems integrator. Other firms choose the correct technology, but for one reason or another, it does not work at their facility (not every company performs a proper site survey before deploying). If a business gets everything right, and the RFID system solves the particular problem it was hoping to address, there are usually no other issues—unless the system can't be expanded to additional applications.

But this is not true of enterprise-wide deployments. With such deployments, you face the same issues involved in choosing the right technology, conducting a proper site survey and managing the system's expansion to other applications—but far and away, the greatest risk in a large-scale deployment is change management.

There are companies that have chosen the correct technology, gotten the site survey right and deployed RFID successfully, but still failed to achieve the desired benefits—because they failed to manage change.

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