How senior retailers are becoming ‘digital immigrants’
There is no doubt that technology is changing the way retailers operate, both in terms of retail channels and infrastructure options. Technology and IT touches upon all areas of the retail business, and as a consequence retail executives need to embrace the digital landscape and understand the opportunities and threats it can offer. The attitude is starting to change, but for too long Chairmen, CEOs and FDs have left the responsibility for making technology decisions to their IT team.
Disengagement from the most senior people in the organisation means that as retail businesses move to reinforce their in-house technology expertise, CEOs need practical help to advise on the job specification they need. In the past organisations would bring in an IT Director to be responsible for the organisation’s technology, but today that role could be Chief Information Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, Multi-Channel Director, E-Commerce Director or Chief Technology Officer.
Whilst many senior retailers have been quick to tap into technology, there are not enough of them around to meet the demands of retail businesses that need people who understand both retailing and IT. The result is that we have seen a migration of experienced IT operators from parallel industries such as banking and utilities into the retail sector, who are now sitting on the boards of retail companies.
The smartest use of technology adoption will come from retailers who combine IT and retail understanding, so if the digital world isn’t second nature and retailers aren’t ‘digital native’, the time has come to force themselves to go ‘digital immigrant’ and commit to understanding how technology can make their retail business more effective, efficient and competitive.