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5 ways retail CIOs can future-proof their business

Sharon Goldman | May 24, 2017
You don't need to predict the future to prepare for it. The strategies outlined here will help you keep your organisation’s eye on the prize.


4. Ensure consistent and reliable application performance

Picture this: You walk into Williams Sonoma with your gift checklist. The clerk enters your name on his/her tablet, and instantly knows your entire purchase history at the store and offers suggestions based on purchases by other customers. Consistent and reliable application performance power personalized experiences such as the scenario above, says Belmar. “With all the network traffic that these in-store wireless technologies are generating, it’s important they don’t interfere with the bandwidth required by other priority applications, such as those on the POS which require constant up-time,” he explains. “CIOs need to explore what they need to build out that’s missing from the store to support a new application — I see that step being skipped; there are a lot of assumptions where a test is done and they assume it will work at all stores.”


5. Support an open ecosystem

Many traditional retailers struggle to integrate digital and physical elements because of silos in the IT infrastructure, says Shelley Kohan, VP of retail consulting at RetailNext: “Today’s retailers need to understand the importance of an open ecosystem in the retail landscape,” she explains. CIOs can work diligently to create an infrastructure in the back of the house that supports this integrated solution across all touchpoints of the business. “Those retailers that really create this partner ecosystem and shared intelligence will leapfrog ahead of retailers that may not be employing some of those strategies,” she says.


Agility, adaptability and innovation

Overall, the CIO can help the company future-proof by being highly adaptable and agile and by delivering projects quickly for the business, says Sheldon. “It’s a fast-paced, dynamic environment, so obsessing about the needs of the business while also being responsible for opening the eyes of the business, especially as it relates to being too early regarding new technologies, is essential.”

The CIO must also ensure that the IT organization can continuously deliver innovation to the business, adds Thomas. “Speed of innovation isn’t just a catchphrase, it is the key to competing successfully — particularly in an environment where change is occurring so rapidly,” he says. “The business is looking for you to deliver fast and then support the need to learn, adjust and refine the solution in near real time. That’s a tall order for many CIOs that are dealing with legacy systems and spend 80 percent or more of their budget on just keeping the lights on.”

On the plus side, the CIO position has been significantly elevated over the past few years, so he or she has a voice at the table, says RetailNext’s Cohan. “A lot of that is because the importance of enabling technologies has become significantly more important in the retail landscape, whether it is mobile payments, social media, analytics or automation.”


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