Digital transformation in the retail sector – what could possibly go wrong?
There is greater pressure than ever for businesses to provide the best possible digital experience. Not just for their customers but also for their staff and partners. However, many IT departments are still concerned with maintaining legacy systems, and there’s often a lack of understanding among senior management as to what digital transformation involves.
We want it all, we want it now
In an increasingly online world, customers have high expectations. They want to be able to access online shops at any time and from any device. Increasingly, that means mobile usage. For businesses, this means pressure to innovate and to deliver a better user experience.
This creates the need for closer integration between IT departments and business units. In order to deliver what the customer wants, businesses are increasingly turning to self-service solutions, allowing business units to build and maintain their own applications. This means online stores can be kept fresh and up to date without the need to wait for action from IT.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that companies are turning to cloud applications to deliver many projects, rather than spending time on adapting legacy systems. For applications such as analytics and business
intelligence, the cloud is able to deliver faster results.
There’s a problem, however, which is that while customers know what they want, in many cases management doesn’t understand what is needed to deliver it. There’s a lack of understanding as to what digital transformation means. It’s often seen as projects such as moving to the cloud, or becoming a paperless office, without the longer term vision to see that it can radically transform the way a business operates.
The IT world has never stood still for long, but the current pace of change is faster than ever. New technologies including the Internet of Things, software-as-a-service, etc increase the number of devices a company needs to connect to, and these systems change often.
The key to coping with the added complexity, and doing so fast enough, lies with APIs. These allow the management and sharing of data with a wider range of applications and devices. Business units are then enabled to unlock the value contained in data that’s stored in central silos which otherwise would go largely unused.
This shift in technology needs a parallel shift in the way the IT department operates. It needs to move away from being a provider of technology to being an enabler of business processes. Rather than deliver projects from start to end, IT must deliver assets that business units can then combine, manipulate and re-use to achieve their goals. APIs are the main key to making this happen.
In retail, digital transformation requires a closer relationship between IT and the business. That means a significant cultural shift for the IT department from being the custodian of technology to becoming a strategic enabler. Failure to recognise the need for a fundamental change in attitude could see digital transformation projects fall at the first hurdle.