May 24, 2022

Digital Transformation is Here to Stay


Gale Blank, Chief Information Officer, Reitmans Canada

It was 2007, 13 years ago, the iphone was introduced and our world changed.  There has been lots of analysis of why or how, but it changed.  The universe was now running its life on a platform that enable all your digital needs. Included in that change was IT.  This is what we will explore.

Technology has moved the world into the next level of industrialization, from the information age to the digital age.  The impact of this transformation is ubiquitous.  Cisco’s Digital Vortex has IT as number one, followed by Media & Entertainment.  There are other sources, all of them have IT in the top 3. What is the nature of this disruption? There is obvious technical architecture transformation (iaas, paas, saas), this is capability IT has today. However, the move to saas, is a move to service-based IT.  This has an impact on the corporate P&L that IT will have manage, this is new.  I’d say this will be the biggest challenge of our collective lives (professionally). There is good news and challenges.  I believe this is in an inflection point and we are ready and able.  Below I’ll talk to the why, the what and the how.

Before we go there, I would like to share my view on our destination.  Twenty years ago, we may have called our destination utility computing, using the evolution of electricity as the model (enterprise, shared, ubiquitous).  Today we know that IT is a much more organic than electricity, changing with every innovation and dream.  The task on hand is to move our enterprises to a platform architecture, reducing partners, increasing software utilization, and simplifying data flows.  Enterprise computing must create the IT platform that enables our enterprises to grow and adapt.

So why now? Our sector has matured. Our vision remains the same, be part of the enterprise value chain bringing value operationally as well as strategically.  Below is a roadmap of capabilities enterprise IT created to move forward.  In the beginning we didn’t know much, you can thank y2k on the fact that in the ‘70s and ‘80s there was this belief that all software would be rewritten every 5 years…. then 10 years and it wasn’t until  y2k did many us realize …technical debt.  That’s one example of the maturing of an industry. 

“Today we know that IT is a much more organic than electricity, changing with every innovation and dream.”

What has changed?

• Technical constraints removed (memory, io, cpu, storage….),

• automation of foundational layers (IAAS, PAAS)

• Architectural shift to ‘headless’

Architecture discipline.

That’s the good news, here is also what has changed that we must adapt to

  • Technology market is now consumer driven

    • Strategy required to be heard

  • Business model changed from asset based to service based, no sweating of assets, and no control of economies of scale.

So this covers the ‘why’ now, now let’s talk about the ‘what’?  Below is listed what I believe will be the levers to transform.  There is still focus on security, project delivery and operations, but this is the future. 

So this covers the ‘why’ now, now let’s talk about the ‘what’?  Below is listed what I believe will be the levers to transform.  There is still focus on security, project delivery and operations, but this is the future. 

Governance:                                      shared assets require explicit rules, shifting resources

Architecture:                                     need a reference to determine fit and value

Partnership with the business: transformation is in IT and the business, (for me it is an IT transformation embedded in the digitization of retail)must be in sync

Partnership with vendors:           consumerization of IT will require influencing and understanding your critical saas providers roadmaps

Financial excellence:     accountable for the transformation from asset based to service-based costing

QA:        automation critical to ensure speed &agility

These are critical for the transformation of IT, but not sufficient to digitize the enterprise.  As there is investment in replatforming the operations, there ought to be equal investment in creating the ecosystem for which includes Information, analytics and AI. 

As my team and I focus on the IT transformation, there is another team focused on the creation of value from data.  This team is accountable for business services associated with information, analytics and AI. The thinking is simple: IT’s mandate is to manufacture the data; my colleague’s mandate is to create value with it. The goal being that we can bring our customers into our operational processes.  These two groups differ with respect to its scope of data.  Enterprise IT’s data scope is operational data to run our business.  The new group (Data, Analytics and AI)’s data scope is internal and external data (social media) about our customers.  Similar to ecommerce, in the early days, all functions were independent (IT, merch, support) to allow for creation, operations and support of this new business.  Overtime there was movement toward an omni-approach as capabilities matured.

Bottom line, digital transformation is here (thanks covid). Technology is the instigator as well as the recipient.  Enterprises need to transform to a technology ecosystem that is ever-greening, agile and cost effective.  Enterprises now need the capability of turning the data into insights, value and in the end a better experience for our customers.  This is what a customer driven enterprise looks like, and for me a digital retail transformation. 





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