July 18, 2007

Multichannel Retailing Week: Information Technology

Three experiences illustrate the challenges facing information technology experts in multichannel retailing.

Experience #1: I attended a meeting where a multichannel business wanted to implement a marketing idea on the website. The information technology individual told the attendees (some were executives) that IT would not implement the idea, because it "wasn't a good idea".

Experience #2: Earlier this week, a representative of a vendor told me he had "143 low-cost individuals over in India, just waiting to do whatever I tell them to do."

Experience #3: Recently, an IT staffer told me I could call him at any time of the day, whether he was at work or at home, that he would go to any length to take care of me.

Multichannel retail information technology is not sexy work. Would you rather try to scale the Facebook platform, or would you rather modify COBOL code for an antiquated point of sale system?

Our challenge as multichannel business leaders is to create genuine ways to incorporate information technology experts as true business partners. We've largely failed to do this.

When a crisis occurs, we demand that IT is there to support us, 24/7/365. When IT becomes overwhelmed, they push back. When IT pushes back too much, and becomes too expensive, management sends the jobs to a lower-cost alternative.

To fulfill the multichannel reality that vendors, consultants and research organizations propose, we must integrate technology individuals into our business processes. We see the necessity to integrate technology into our processes, but we fail to integrate technology individuals into our processes.

Over the next decade, expect to see better integration between business leaders and information technology leaders. When people communicate better, our systems will begin to integrate and communicate better with each other.