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Streamlining Retail Business with Technology at the Behest

By Paul Karras, CIO, Wilton Brands

Paul Karras, CIO, Wilton Brands

Top Retail Technology Trends to Watch Out for in 2016

Content rich systems thanks to embedded intelligence and analytics will accelerate the ability of applications to understand their users and respond appropriately to their requests as well as be alert to topographic surroundings, securely adjusting how the information is delivered to the user.

"Fundamentally CIOs role is to drive internal and external innovation through a process of influence in order to affect change and transformation"

Content-rich experiences will also gain added traction, as savvy retailers will further use multimedia content aiming to for a better and more engaging shopping experiences and as a way to find new ways to differentiate the in-store shopping experience from the one shoppers find online. Retailers are seeking through this venue to better increase the relationship relevance with the shoppers and to further position their presence relevance, keeping the shoppers informed in store or while browsing the web on a path to purchase decisions.

Retailers will continue to pursue use of advanced and pervasive analytics, accelerating information based insights in an effort to go beyond the traditional views of their business. Coupled with investment in talent with specialized information management knowledge also offers the potential for improved decision algorithms, energizing a company’s growth potential with accelerated business decisions that are based on data driven information.

Smart phone technology will continue to evolve, enabling greater endpoint functionalities, such as with wearables or store sensors, further enhancing consumer connections.

Cloud computing is not a fad. It will continue to grow further augmenting mobile and social media, drives big data capabilities continuing to promote growth of centrally coordinated applications that can be delivered to any device.

Digital security will remain an obvious focus area for all as attackers are becoming more motivated and persistent. It is important to realize and accept that nothing is or ever can be 100 percent secure. I believe that in addition to the focus organizations have on their ever-growing perimeters and respective defense postures, digital security within organizations must provide broader coverage across all potential categories of attack. This includes enabling capabilities for swift adjustments and learning mechanisms from new attack methods, accordingly applying more-sophisticated risk assessment and mitigation tools, in order to minimize business risk (i.e., expanded use of automated, dynamic controls to block the most serious threats, designing security aware applications that are smarter, more self-aware and self-protecting, etc.). Continued investment in end user education also is also of paramount importance for them to dynamically make confident and informed computing access choices.

Role of a CIO- Then and Now

I believe that successful CIOs have approached their functions as business people who have an affinity for technology, communicating the IT strategy and how it enables the company’s strategy execution. We become valued by architecting the future state of our organization’s IT environment, aligning to our company’s strategic imperatives while in parallel helping the business understand the value of IT. Fundamentally our role is to drive internal and external innovation through a process of influence in order to affect change and transformation, ultimately complementing our company’s leadership team’s capabilities, adding value by helping drive business results. Given our IT expertise, we can ask different questions and raise topics that business leadership teams need to consider, because of the differences in our experiences.

Lessons Learned Over the Years

Every CIO is facing a different set of challenges that are unique to their organization and IT provides a lens into the business. Choosing what technology to enable when becomes a choice based on variables such as technology maturity, company’s enterprise architecture, expense management on a cash or P&L basis, degree of change and respective adoption as well as degree of organizational influence required in support of the business strategy and value creation efforts. I would say that every CIO must address four areas: your role as CIO, supplier partnerships, talent, and digital security.

Being a trusted advisor and or providing a service to the organization are not enough. We need to approach our role as one that is focused on achieving business results, so we have to understand the business and help it understand how IT provides business value.

Supplier partnerships provide the depth in technology stack capabilities and in some cases breath of business process capability knowledge that should act as complimentary to our teams’ skills and capabilities. These external relationships require contractual diligence that sets clear priorities and boundaries in order to maximize the relationship value and outcomes success. Not all Suppliers are created equal, so thoughtfulness is required for which partners are considered as “Strategic”, which for “Commodity Services” plays and which partners are “Predators”. Ultimately we as CIOs and our leadership teams own the quality of the relationship and are accountable for the services we buy and respective engagement outcomes.

We must not forget the exceptional responsibility we have to lead and grow others. Talent is what makes it happen day in day out. This requires dynamic leadership that inspires and enables others, by means of personal traits and actions to achieve extraordinary results and positive change, sustained business outcomes.

Considering the breaches and incidents that have occurred over the past year alone, it is imperative that we are all taking actions to develop a comprehensive security programs that leverages people, process, and technology to enable our businesses to securely utilize modern technologies to extend the reach of their operations and protect vital company information. There are several steps we can take:

• Establish a formal task force, with leaders from Finance, Legal, and HR to help achieve security objectives.

• Provide a comprehensive security awareness program for employees.

• Deploy a comprehensive vulnerability and patch management program to protect systems from known common threats.

• Implement best-of-breed technologies for secure web gateways, endpoint encryption, and advanced malware protection.

• Establish an enterprise mobility management program to control access to corporate information from mobile devices.

• Protect infrastructure by hardening network devices and limiting access to traffic.

• Build out an internal security ops center that includes intrusion detection, prevention monitoring, information and event monitoring log analysis, and forensics capabilities.

• Implement identity and access management utilities to limit users to need-to-know information.

IoT in Retail Sector

Basically the IoT is a computing concept involving ordinary physical objects which are connected to the internet and can talk to each other. As IoT propagates new electronic and smart devices, connections in all directions between devices will increase, and the contact that retailers have with customers will expand as well offering retailer’ greater ways to extend their core business. Still, retailers will have to maintain a heightened digital security posture to protect their brand reputation and customer data, as we’ve seen several incidents that involved for example attacks on smart home systems and devices. Certainly, the prevalent smartification process invites new security challenges.