IT as an Enabler for Retail Industry
By Armin Roeseler, CIO, Swanson Health Products
IT is invaluable and a successful player when it comes to staying ahead of the market requirements. New models like AWS and Azure supporting infrastructure have drastically changed the existing environment of the retail market. On the other hand, cloud is a major enabler in addressing the market challenges. A business that does not leverage cloud environment can be at a competitive disadvantage as they may be unable to quickly respond to the change in demand, which makes them less desirable.
If IT is business, the website is the store front. Certain aspects of performance, reliability, scalability, and flexibility are challenges that IT needs to respond to. Some digitized companies have no promotion, services offerings, market strategies, and product offering, which can be a major setback for a company. From a business perspective speed is something that should be accommodated wisely so that the company can respond to market demands and challenges quickly.
New models like AWS and Azure-hosted infrastructure have drastically changed the existing environment of the retail market
The cloud environment is a huge enabler, but the challenges regarding reliability, scalability, maintainability, and changeability still need to be addressed.
Over the years, identifying the right solution providers has become easier and more manageable as toolsets matured and service offerings became standardized. When I started working on leveraging cloud technologies many years ago, I opted for a cloud broker model. The advantage at that time was that the cloud broker could customize the environment based on the company’s specific needs. Especially when legacy applications required support, enterprises don't want to go through re-architecting the application stack to make it cloud-compatible. In addition, companies that need to maintain legacy infrastructure, find it difficult to join cloud providers that do not provide a customized approach to address some of the unique requirements. AWS cloud is a way to go if scalable commodity infrastructure solutions are required, and applications follow modern development paradigms. Auxiliary tools for performance monitoring, configuration management, and other third party functionality can easily be added in those environments.
IT leaders must understand where the business needs to go. Over the past ten years, the classic role of the CIO has changed dramatically. Earlier, CIO’s were more of infrastructure providers; but the contemporary CIO is a person who probably has the infrastructure—or at least a large portion of it—in a cloud-hosted environment. In my last company, once we were in a cloud environment, I could spend a lot of time with the business side of the house to understand the business issues and opportunities of the company, and create targeted solutions by leveraging new and enabling technologies—like predictive and prescriptive Business Intelligence (BI).
Personally, I feel that this is a perfect time for the thoughtful and deliberate use of enabling technologies because as a technologist, we probably never had so much impact or the potential of affecting our businesses. The next big wave is the personalization of services, products, and interactions with customers based on machine learning and artificial intelligence. In the future, the way we interact with technology will be based on our preferences and through learning algorithms; technology will become more personalized and interact with us in a more personalized fashion. That's a trend I think will continue and give opportunities for retail industries to grow.