A global retailer was investing heavily in technology, partly in response to the threat of digital natives. We partnered with RetailCo* to assess the company’s gaps, define the required investments and transform its technology operating model. Over two years we helped RetailCo maximize the effectiveness of its technology environment and deploy a new strategy for data and analytics.
RetailCo was prepared to invest billions in its technology platforms over several years, but it lacked the holistic view so critical to developing and executing a world-class technology strategy. We conducted a global assessment of RetailCo’s technology landscape that fundamentally changed the way its leaders understood the role of technology in the future of the business. Encouraged by the insights this detailed diagnostic produced, RetailCo engaged with us on a broad transformation of its technology and data functions.
A critical first step involved our review of the vast constellation of applications supporting RetailCo’s business—more than 3,000 unique apps spanning everything from back-office functions to core retail operations. Without uniform processes and standards governing these apps, RetailCo was accumulating “technical debt” (i.e., the life-cycle investments required for a healthy and modern tech environment). Our analysis helped RetailCo set priorities about which of these systems to retire or modernize. We also identified opportunities for the company to leverage systems across business units and geographies to enable specific business strategies.
Another looming problem was RetailCo’s highly fragmented technology labor supply. Its reliance on contract labor from more than 170 technology vendors meant more than 60% of RetailCo’s global technology workforce was external. While cost effective in principle, this dynamic generated unsustainable levels of complexity and risk. Managers struggled to assure quality, productivity and accountability. We performed a "should cost" analysis and created negotiation playbooks to help RetailCo address this complexity and achieve significant savings.
Identifying and resolving these issues clarified how urgently RetailCo needed a fundamentally new operating model for technology. A broken relationship between the company’s technology and business organizations meant that too often technology simply took orders from the business, or technology points of view served as stand-ins for true business direction. The fundamental lack of trust was costly, and unnecessary. So we helped RetailCo create a technology transformation and modernization plan to erase these divisions, so that business and technology stakeholders were aligned on strategy and priorities and decision making was clarified. Starting with pilots in a part of the organization, we supported the adoption and scaling of a modern operating model based on Agile, product management and DevOps principles.
These changes enabled another key component of RetailCo’s tech transformation—the development of a global data and analytics strategy, which helped it to both protect and extract value from the enormous amounts of data in its systems. Our recommendations inspired RetailCo to appoint its first chief data officer, adding a new level of technology leadership to the company’s executive ranks.
Our work has fundamentally transformed the way RetailCo thinks about and approaches technology. Executives are more able to anticipate and track tech investments, and can know with greater confidence that every technology dollar spent will serve a unified global tech vision. This empowers the company’s leaders to make better decisions. RetailCo’s technology capability is faster, more flexible and better able to compete amid the profound disruptions in the retail industry.