Gap CIO Paul Chapman last week took to the stage at the Forbes CIO Summit to talk about how he has revamped the retailer’s IT organization in recent years, integrating corporate and e-commerce IT resources, encouraging faster decision-making about pursuing new IT projects and implementing a new model for IT responsibility.
Chapman said he gives staff members with new ideas about 48 hours to decide if they are worth developing, a practice which speeds up the decision-making process and delivery of new services. “I love my company dearly… but [Gap] is so slow to decision-making,” Chapman said at the Summit, according to CIO.com. “I see this even to this day when we can make a decision very quickly but instead it becomes sort of a group think.”
Chapman also also done away with the tradition RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) model for IT management, in which only one person or organization is accountable for IT service delivery, in favor of a LARC (Leading, Accountability, Responsible, Contribute) model, in which a larger number of IT staff take on broader responsibilities and participate in developing ideas and making decisions.
Are Chapman's principles a signal of where retail IT organization management might be going?
It certainly sounds like Chapman has done a lot of the things with Gap's IT organization that other retailers are now trying to accomplish with their own groups. In short: align internal and e-commerce IT resources, focus on moving quickly and sticking to projects with core business impact and have IT take ownership and responsibility for its endeavors.
Quick decision making will keep the retailer moving and help it avoid so-called dream projects that seem forward-thinking but may actually take a retailer too far from its core business needs. Broadening responsibility also ensures that as many people as possible have a stake in a project's success so that projects don't whither on the vine under one person's guidance.
Other retailers are struggling to strike the right balance between near and long term innovation and technology projects. Target's chief of innovation is soon set to depart the retailer, which is in part a reflection that the long-gestating projects he favored fell out of favor. Target also appears to be consolidating IT responsibilities under its CIO after having both innovation and digital camps within its organization that appeared somewhat separate from internal IT.
Chapman's appearance at last week's event came not long after Gap reported a surprisingly strong holiday quarter months after its various retail brands had appeared to lose their way on the marketing front. The IT and technology impact on that positive run is not so clear, but Chapman is certainly giving more time and room to manage Gap's innovation and IT practices.