Following on from my last post, I wanted to discuss IT infrastructure for retail in the digital age. In my last post about a new formula for retail, I said I would follow up on some of the key issues from WPPs The Future of Retail conference last week. To recap in brief, criticism was levelled at legacy retailers who are failing to join up the identity of off and online shoppers.

Understanding customers

It is loyalty that is at the root of this crisis for legacy retailers in the face of the exponential rise in eCommerce. Loyalty requires businesses to truly know and understand their customer’s habits, likes, and future desires. Loyalty in a digital age requires a new IT infrastructure to enable the eCommerce journey and to manage the data that customers leave behind.

The key to developing world-class IT infrastructures is in fact as much about clear strategic vision and change management as it is about choosing the right technology. Companies who succeed at transforming their IT infrastructure do so by creating a clear roadmap for how the whole organisation must behave differently in order to deliver excellence online. Before the supply chain, stock management and customer experience can align, a very clear mandate plan must be created. This inevitably requires new skills to be employed at C-suite level right down to technical deployment.

By investing in senior leadership around IT infrastructure, companies give themselves the best chance of success. This can take the form of a third-party consultancy firm, newly appointed Board Advisers or non-exec Directors with appropriate experience.  Full-time employees in roles such as Chief Digital Officer tasked with bridging the gap between the IT and marketing functions can also be beneficial.

C-Suite IT infrastructure

Clarity in the C-suite vision is critical, not only to enable the roadmap but also to dictate the requisite mandate for tough decision making. Studies have shown that most legacy data infrastructures for retail firms are wholly inappropriate for the multi-screen mobile device driven consumer. This always requires new investments and almost always the jettison of legacy systems. Ongoing investment needs a long-term vision and commitment from the company’s financial community as well as a clear understanding of the critical cost-benefit it will deliver over time.

With the roadmap and stakeholders aligned, the programme needs delivering. Project leadership is a key component of delivery.  Increasingly here at Ignite Digital, we are asked to place seasoned project leaders to manage the process, talent and deploy the new systems. Teams of data analysts and technology specialists will report through this project manager to enable timely reporting to senior management, whilst also into the broader business, ensuring continued engagement and conviction across the whole enterprise.

Keeping this talent pool fresh and responsive is what a great talent partner is all about and at Ignite Digital Talent, we work closely with our clients to ensure that they remain focused on delivering the transformation roadmap.  We handpick the talent for them to make it happen.

About the author: As a founder of Ignite Digital Talent, I lead our brilliant team to ensure we deliver time and time again for our clients. I also stay closely networked with industry influencers to ensure we are well placed to understand the issues and challenges our clients face.

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