Don’t go it alone in the team sport of retail digital transformation

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retail digital transformationThe reaction of IT teams to the ever changing “bimodal IT” landscape has been interesting to watch over the past several years at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) BIG Show.

There have certainly been winners and losers, but not always the ones you might expect. There has been a surge away from centralized IT in past years, in favor of routing new projects to embedded, shadow IT teams or completely outsourced digital projects.

However, those who are succeeding in building a truly winning omnichannel strategy are doing so with the complete inclusion of centralized IT. For these winners, the experience of CTO and CIO teams has been essential.

I often talk to IT directors of large retailers. These are the people who traditionally ran 12 -18-month implementation projects. They now find themselves with a stark decision: be agile or be benched. Instead of sitting on the sidelines while other players from elsewhere in the business took charge, they are becoming the new change agents with a playbook to drive the digital agenda.

What has changed in the past few years is the attitude of the central IT teams to embrace the problem at hand. With a new acceptance of agile principles and the new reality of cloud and hybrid, these same IT teams have a pivotal role to play. They are helping the teams charged with rapid build out and transient projects, where delivery is measured in weeks.

Some recent very public security breaches have helped put the wind at the backs of once-beleaguered CTOs in making the case with boards to have central IT at the heart of every new build out. The move to a world where central IT retains control of the core systems — either on premises or the cloud, while working in partnership with shadow IT — is a newly emerging and powerful trend which ultimately will make everyone better off.

As enterprises react to the opportunities that cloud and digital bring, their IT architectures built over decades face their greatest ever challenge: supporting a new digital world where the connectivity is handled by a whole new generation of empowered users — rookies, if you will —  coming along with diverse skillsets.

For some, this could be categorized as API development tooling, but the further from the data center one looks, the more this morphs into something more fluid. It’s simply part of the business landscape. For the iPad generation who can connect their home world together — to switch on their lights from their smartphone while automatically publishing pics to their social channel of choice — it looks odd that enterprises are unable to apply this level of connectivity to the apps that make up their business landscape.

This broadening connectivity and user landscape changes the game, driving a forever-expanding and critical role for integration software. Integration is a fundamental element of any good team, handling the complexities of connecting and making sense of the data that digital teams need. Whether on the cloud or in the data center, integration is becoming significantly more powerful and ubiquitous, serving a surprising range of user experiences.

We’re driving a new generation of tooling aimed at and promoting collaboration between the spectrum of digital teams driving the omnichannel agenda in leading retailers.

Have you seen the future yet? Come and talk it through with me at NRF or learn how you can join the winning team.

Senior Product Manager - IBM Cloud Integration

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