How the CIO of Foot Locker is Raising the Bar for Digital Transformations and ERP Projects

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: May 14, 2018

Earlier today, I read a great interview with the CIO of Foot Locker. In it, he provides a perspective that should make us all want to expect more from our digital transformation and ERP projects.

Like discussions I’ve had with other CIOs of multi-billion-dollar organizations, he provided some interesting perspectives regarding enterprise technology trends and his experience with large-scale transformation. But this interview was particularly interesting. This CIO has a different take on how technology intersects with people, customers, and other stakeholders. (You can read the full interview here.)

Like most in the retail industry, Foot Locker is being disrupted by market forces. Many of our clients in this space are in survival mode while they try to fend off Amazon, changing consumer behaviors, and other threats. This industry provides a good case study for a “burning platform” for transformation. Other industries will also eventually be disrupted by technology, if they’re not already.

Here are just a few takeaways from the interview. These are philosophies that would make more organizations successful if more people viewed the world like him.

Focus on customer experience, not just back-office and supply chain functions

ERP projects have traditionally focused on back office and supply chain functions. Things like inventory management, financial reporting, and order management are often the focal points of these initiatives. This is largely because the bar is set low – simply to replace an old legacy system.

Foot Locker, on the other hand, has a bigger-picture perspective on how technology fits into their business. They focus on their overall customer experience and journey rather than the myopic view of traditional ERP projects. Customer behaviors and needs drive technology more than anything.

In the retail world, omnichannel is one of those disruptive consumer and technology trends that IT practitioners and consultants should be familiar with. Traditional ERP systems may not address this need well, but that shouldn’t stop companies from adopting the right technologies to help them keep up with technological and customer changes.

Incorporate technology trends into real life

Machine learning, artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0, internet of things, predictive analytics, and blockchain are all examples of buzzworthy technologies that many don’t yet know how to leverage. While many CIOs don’t yet understand these technologies – nor do they want to be on the bleeding edge of adoption – they need to be aware of how to incorporate into their overarching digital strategies.

For example, a company isn’t likely to adopt machine learning or AI overnight. However, they can begin by capturing good data across their customer and value chains. The next step might be to migrate to more sophisticated use of business intelligence and predictive analytics. Most ERP vendors are investing heavily in these areas, which may be more feasible low-hanging fruit to adopt while more advanced technologies mature.

The importance of a solid digital strategy and roadmap

Rapid technology change and a proliferation of options lead to many of our clients becoming overwhelmed by strategic alternatives. This makes it difficult to prioritize and focus. It also makes it difficult to move forward with a clear path in mind.

This is why defining a very deliberate digital strategy and roadmap is so important. It is important that technology decisions are made in the context of longer-term needs. Too many CIOs are reactive in how they plan, which a long-term roadmap can help with.

The below video provides a framework to get started on your digital strategy. This is also something that technology-agnostic digital transformation experts like Third Stage Consulting Group can help with.

YouTube player

Organizational change management: the missing link to digital transformation

Although he doesn’t mention it in the interview, organizational change management is often the missing link of digital transformation initiatives. The rate of change is accelerating for most organizations and industries, yet people’s ability to change hasn’t kept up. This is especially true for multi-billion-dollar, global organizations with thousands of employees operating in a disrupted industry.

As the rate of industry and customer change accelerates, CIOs will need to invest more in organizational change management. Traditional ERP projects are already guilty of underinvesting in this critical success factor, so this is truer than ever. Here are a few tips to manage change on your global digital transformation.

What are your thoughts and opinions? How are you or your colleagues raising the bar with your digital transformation initiatives? I would love to hear your comments below!

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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