Retail is an innovation game. But resources are limiting, and the need for ROI is constant. How does digital set the agenda for a CIO and what are their main concerns? And more specifically, how does the merging of LoB and IT priorities lend itself to the evolving priorities of a retail CIO today?

For starters, a recent study from i-scoop.eu found that “45 percent of CIOs will shift primary focus from physical to digital and move away from BPM and optimization by 2018 to deliver scale, predictability, and speed.” We are seeing shifts in the way retailers do business to drive ROI- BOPIS, rising ecommerce, associate productivity, new payment methods, figuring out how to drive that omni-channel shopping experience and play up targeting, are just a few.

This is driving CIOs to carefully consider the delicate balance of IT maintenance and innovation, as this balance is crucial for success but is becoming more difficult to strike than ever before. IDC predicts that by 2020 the IT spend and business IT spend will have parity, simulteneously giving the CIO a louder voice. Therefore, the CIO will have to shift the role of IT away from just a leader bringing a business together, to an enabler of what technology can bring for a business’s future.

Which brings us to our second point- CIOs are expected to adopt technology for their retail business that will help scale their business quickly. So what areas of technology are taking precedent for choosing which innovation projects to invest in?  From a study done by RSR of surveying retailers that experienced growth of over 4.5% y/y.

93% of Retailers viewed cloud computing as the most highly valued technology player in their org's innovation.

In order to meet the rising digital needs of the consumer, a retailer’s online presence that compliments a physical experience is also a retailer’s greatest weapon. Which just makes the conversations that CIOs have with IT managers that much more important to ensure maximum operability and digital innovation keeps their business top of mind for consumers. A key item to highlight is that those who have the budget tend to make the final decision. As retailers move to a cloud-focused world, it is much easier for sales teams to go directly to the business and sell their ideas to them—and this is happening more and more. The idea of software as-a-service is making it harder for IT teams to have veto power. The CIO needs to help nurture that partnership and get ahead of the game with the lines of business. Some of the key areas in retail that have yet to cross the chasm that CIOs and IT departments need to focus on are AI, AR, VR, Chat Bots, Grab & Go, Wayfinding, Circular Economy and many others that are just breaking the surface today. Then to top it off—is it on-prem, hybrid or multi-cloud that you will do it all in?

Technology is ever-changing, and business requirements are being driven by the employees and the customers to create the ultimate experience. When the business priorities and IT path are aligned, that is when true success happens. The first steps to crossing this chasm between CIOs and IT managers is creating a programmable network. A seamless cross- architecture approach with Cisco advances operability and lays the foundation for this chasm to remain closed, enabling retailers to get ahead and stay ahead.

For more information about our Retail lifecycle in IT adoption, please see images below.

Product Lifecycle - Definitions along the curve


Cisco Retail Product Lifecycle - Detailed


To read more about how retail innovation rises or falls on IT infrastructure, check out our whitepaper,Retail Innovation Rises or Falls on IT Infrastructure.” 



Ron Kjelden

Managing Architect, Retail & Hospitality

Business Transformation Team