CIOs have been the orchestrators of key technology projects undertaken in response to the pandemic, putting them at the center of initiatives that have reshaped their organizations for an online-heavy environment.
Many retailers “were literally asking every day, ‘How are we going to make this happen? How do we stand up this new function? How do we set up something like a pick-up from store or delivery or a curbside model? And how do we do it in a really nimble fashion?” says Saif Rivers, VP, Retail Industry Leader at IBM Global Business Services.
In the past, such projects may have taken as long as two or three years. There’s a dynamic change happening around the idea that technology projects don’t need to take as long.
But while projects may not need to take as long, they also need to be done right (and made to last). As the pandemic recedes, many retail leaders recognize that some of the quick decisions that had to be made in 2020 may not have been the best long-term decisions.
Depending on the type of retailer and the maturity of their organizations’ digital transformation journeys, here are some of the challenges retail CIOs may need to resolve.
Ensuring Global Continuity & Productivity: Keeping the business running and secure required different efforts for “essential” retailers compared to others.
“COVID threw a wrench into every retailer's plans, and it became a ‘tale of two cities’ in retail,” says Rivers.
“You had the essential retailers that ultimately have never been busier and were fighting every day just to keep products on the shelves and transition to and transform their businesses for this a huge growth curve,” says Rivers. “Those on the other side of the fence, that were deemed not essential retail, were fighting for their lives.”
That “fight” meant retailers were “literally unable to sell, if they relied just on brick-and-mortar, or they were struggling with the reality of their existing digital and ecomm investments.”
Responding Faster to Business Needs: Those digital and ecomm investments may not have been equipped for such an unprecedented situation as the pandemic.
When it comes to their core systems of record for managing the back office, retail organizations require agile solutions built on architectures that can adapt to current and future needs.
“Time to value is probably something that most in the retail domain fully understand — whether it's in terms of sitting in a checkout line in a physical store or waiting for a two-day delivery on the doorstep,” says Joe Wilson, Chief Technology Officer - North America at Workday. “So why isn't that same emphasis being placed on the necessary core systems of record that support the back office? The same emphasis should be given there because it's really crucial, especially in things like planning activities, to make faster decisions without any impact to performance.”
Building an Engaging Employee Experience: Attracting and retaining talented employees is an organization-wide challenge, in which CIOs play a role.
By delivering a highly personalized, secure and engaging user experience that reflects the changing world of work, retail organizations can be “rewarded with employee longevity and reduced churn in their environment,” says Rivers.
Effectively Working with Systems & Data: CIOs need to build additional value across cloud business applications by utilizing platforms that “play well with others when it comes to things like integration or access,” says Wilson.
“Cloud is now in the de facto deployment model,” says Rivers, “which unlocks a lot of flexibility” in integrations. (Since vendors can publish their integration catalogs, “it should be readily apparent what [a system’s] integration capabilities might be,” says Wilson.)
Unlocking Data While Maintaining Governance & Security: CIOs need to safely democratize data to drive insights and process improvements. Retail organizations’ success increasingly depends on whether their Chief Information Officers (CIOs) can move from simply managing IT to creating business value with technology.
“There's a growing consensus that organizations who aren't able to fully leverage the data that's available to them are operating on borrowed time,” says Wilson.
The CIO is in prime position to mitigate the risk of borrowing time. But while it’s up to CIOs and functional leaders to provision data access appropriately by roles and departments, governance and security protections should be baked into the retailers’ technology solutions to help mitigate risk.
Apply Machine Learning Innovations for Business Advantage: Retail organizations are eager to safely and productively leverage cutting-edge technologies. But it’s important for the systems organizations use to leverage machine learning for solutions, not just tools.
Workday, for example, has over 50 million workers generating a network effect on its service — enabling learnings that are regularly applied into new features and enhancements.
“There are many ways to license algorithms or go get AI tools, but that's not where the value is,” says Wilson. “We want to deliver solutions based on machine learning. So we continue to introduce and improve the models within Workday related to curated data sets (like skills or experiences that are contextualized based on unique personal attributes) or the automation of routine tasks that highlight exceptions for human review.”
“It’s what we want to do to help you become better, faster, and smarter, in everything that you’re doing based on data,” says Wilson.
In Conclusion: Embracing the dynamic shift
Now, it’s up to CIOs to reevaluate how their legacy systems failed them during the pandemic. From there, they can evaluate and work with vendors who can meet them where they are on their digital transformation journey and help them resolve the above challenges.
The best part: The right vendors are ready to help CIOs go live with new projects in weeks or months (not years). It’s all part of the dynamic shift that puts CIOs at the center of organizational success.
For more information or to get started, contact Workday today.