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TEKsystems installed over 19,000 PIN pads at 1,096 stores across the U.S. in support of a national retailer’s transition to an EMV-supported point-of-sale system.

Founded in the 1960s, our client is a major U.S. retailer, operating over 1,160 stores in 49 states. A multichannel retailer, our client sells name-brand and private-label clothing, accessories, housewares and other merchandise to consumers across the country through brick-and-mortar stores and their website. TEKsystems has partnered with this client since 1998.

Recently, security breaches involving major American and global brands have dominated the news; data theft has become more sophisticated, more common and is causing more damage. While affected retailers have experienced damage to their reputation (and often as a result, damage to their revenue), point-of-sale (POS) counterfeit fraud has largely been absorbed by card issuers—but that is about to change.

To help combat data loss and hold retailers more accountable for keeping shoppers’ information secure, in 2014, President Barack Obama signed the “BuySecure” initiative into legislation to speed up adoption of EMV (Europay, MasterCard® and Visa®) technology. Merchants that have not invested in chip-enabled technology by Oct. 2015 may be held financially liable for card-present fraud that could have been prevented by a chip-enabled POS system.

Chip technology, such as EMV, is quickly becoming the global standard for credit card and debit card payments. The technology features payment instruments that have embedded microprocessor chips that store and protect cardholder data and supports dynamic authentication, making it more secure than a magnetic-stripe card.

Sometimes also referred to as “chip and PIN” or “chip and signature,” EMV technology is an evolution in the United States’ payment system that will help increase security, reduce fraud and enable the use of future value-added applications.

In order to protect their business against risk, retailers need to take action in making the switch to EMV-enabled POS systems. However, for large national retailers with hundreds of stores, installation of new hardware can be a complex endeavor with significant financial and operational implications. Large deployments must be strategically planned and executed to ensure installations are consistent across locations and downtime to store operations is minimized. Additionally, retail leaders will need to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of managing the deployment in-house—which depending on their footprint, could result in hefty travel costs—or partnering with a third-party vendor, specifically one with experience in managing large, national deployments and access to skilled local market teams.

Our client, a major U.S. retailer, had not experienced any significant security breaches, yet they realized that their outdated PIN pads put them at greater risk, and with the new regulation going into effect in 2015, also increased their liability. New PIN pads would help them avoid those risks, but also enable them to accept EMV-chip enabled cards and, in the future, newer payment technologies that had been introduced into the market (e.g., Google Pay). Our client made the proactive decision to install new PIN pads well in advance of the regulation deadline.

As they planned for the installation, consistency was a major concern; they had recently taken great measures to improve consistency in system installations at new stores. They wanted the PIN pad installations—down to the cable routing—to be identical across all of their stores, as this would help with troubleshooting in the future. Additionally, it was important for our client to minimize store downtime and to complete the project before the holiday shopping season, when they undergo a technology freeze (i.e., no new or changes in technology are allowed during this time).

Our client had completed an internal pilot of the PIN pad installation at approximately 60 stores. However, due to the large scope of the installation—nearly 1,100 remaining stores across 49 states—they needed an IT deployment partner who had access to local resources so even more remote locales could be reached without accruing exorbitant travel fees. They also needed trained remote support resources who could work with their internal team and field technicians for exception configurations that didn’t meet standard install requirements.

Since TEKsystems was their long-time IT services partner, our client reached out to us for support. We had previously worked with them on several initiatives, including many new store equipment installations, so they were aware of our large footprint and ability to quickly mobilize local technicians. This capability would help minimize costs and complete the installations in a consistent and efficient manner.

TEKsystems would set the deployment schedule for the installation of the pre-programed Linux PIN pads at our client’s stores across the country. We would quickly mobilize teams of 3–4 technicians in each local market. Because of the client’s no-store-downtime requirement, each local team would only upgrade one store in their market per day. We would have a remote support team working out of a TEKsystems location near our client’s headquarters in the Midwest, who would serve as a central resource for our field teams in need of troubleshooting support.

Equipment would be shipped to each store a week in advance of their install and our remote support team would speak with store management two days prior to their scheduled upgrade to confirm the equipment’s arrival and upgrade date. On site, we would locate the new equipment and verify with store management which registers were high priority for the store and we would prioritize the order of installations based upon this feedback. We would remove the legacy PIN pads, install the new PIN pads, verify that all PIN pads were replaced and accounted for, and record the serial numbers for correct project documentation. Our field teams would also document the number of installed PIN pads at each location along with any issues encountered during the project for future reference. Prior to leaving the store, our team would secure boxes with return shipping labels to pack and ship the legacy PIN pad devices to an external facility to be destroyed.

We successfully completed the installation of 19,512 PIN pads at 1,096 of our client’s stores prior to the beginning of the holiday season and the client’s technology freeze. Over a 26-week period, we deployed 589 unique technicians, averaging a 97.3 percent on-time arrival, exceeding the required 94 percent target set by the client.

We also had project management and remote support teams supporting this engagement. Our project management team worked with the client to refine the installation process and provide best practices based on years of experience managing large technology deployments. This expertise enabled us to define and execute a process to ensure consistent installations across locations. Our remote support team provided technical assistance to the technicians in the field, tracked and reported on the field’s progress, and identified reoccurring issues and resolved them by finding a better way to perform the action or better explain the action in the instructions.

One week after we were brought onto the project, we ran a one-week pilot at five stores. Two resources from our four-person remote support team participated in the pilot installation to learn and document the process. This prepared our remote support team to understand what field technicians were experiencing and enabled them to handle routine technical problems. During the pilot, we also validated time to task (i.e., one PIN pad per technician per hour). For an average store with 18 PIN pads and a three-person technician team, the entire store would be upgraded in roughly six hours.

During the deployment, our team encountered a few roadblocks that we were able to overcome:

Interoperability of legacy and new PIN pads.

Initially, the two versions were not interoperable, and therefore, once we started an upgrade, the store was down until we had sufficient pads up and running to support customer checkout. To mitigate this issue, we moved our start time to 6 a.m. (3–4 hours before store opening), which enabled us to have approximately half of the store’s registers operable before store opening, and all registers available by noon—well before the peak weekday shopping hours in the early evening. Over time, this became less of a risk because our client was able to make the PIN pads interoperable later on.

Equipment availability.

Multiple sites had more legacy PIN pads than new PIN pads delivered to replace them. Plus, the hardware provider had a difficult time providing equipment in time to match the deployment schedule. To make up for this, we ramped up additional local market teams so multiple stores in a market could be completed in a day. For those stores that did not have an accurate count of PIN pads originally, we arranged with the supplier to have additional pads shipped and scheduled a technician to return to the site.

With the new equipment now in place, the client’s customers can feel secure using their credit and debit cards at the client’s stores, and in the future will appreciate the option to use emerging features that the equipment is able to process, such as pay-with-phone (e.g., PayPal or Google Wallet). The upgraded PIN pads enable our client to take advantage of new technologies, increase the security of credit card data through better encryption and reduce their liability should a data loss occur.

Following deployment, the client reengaged our project team to swap out pads at 50 stores that were completed as part of their initial internal pilot because the original hardware was missing antennas, a key piece of technology that the original hardware from the supplier did not have. We also provided telephone support during the installation of longer cables at some stores that were upgraded before the longer cables were available.

Large global footprint

Through our proprietary network, we have access to 81 percent of the domestic IT workforce, enabling us to leverage local market resources and cost-effectively deploy technicians in each state where our client had stores, including Alaska. We also have extensive experience managing logistically complex, geographically dispersed technology deployments.

Logistics expertise

Our processes are based on decades of deployment experience and supported by an ISO 9001 certified Project Management Office. This ensured that quality processes and project methodologies were focused on exceptional customer service and consistent technical delivery.

Relationships

Our client was confident in our ability to deliver based on our history of providing quality local talent, thus minimizing or eliminating travel costs to upgrade stores in smaller cities and towns. Plus, we have completed several IT services project for the retailer, including new store equipment installations, which assured them of our awareness of their business and processes.

Flexibility

The client’s PIN pad supplier was unable to consistently supply PIN pads and other parts to support our desired install rate. These equipment shortages caused us to work below our target rate for several weeks, and in some instances—where the cables required to complete installation were unavailable—forced us to revisit markets twice. Our flexibility when faced with these challenges helped us still complete the installation on time.