Platform modernisation holds the growth promise in retail sector


Kirtan Sita | Managing Director | Technology Practice | Accenture Africa | mail me

Retailers are transforming their digital capabilities to attract new customers and stay competitive in a rapidly evolving industry. The global pandemic has shown us the importance of being able to quickly shift with changes in the environment, for example, enabling contactless payments, supporting a remote workforce, and pivoting to entirely new business models.

Platform modernisation holds the promise of flexibility, growth, and cost reduction. However, the road to a successful platform launch can be longer and more complicated.

Platforms are all about capabilities, and a capable platform has to be able to adapt to shifting customer demands, expectations, and needs.

The journey starts with getting the right platform that meets business requirements. This means examining the software’s architecture and integration points, and how they relate to your business objectives.

While there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all digital transformation, executing at scale means getting certain things right from the outset.

Based on our extensive experience helping retailers transform their digital capabilities, we have identified the success factors for digital transformation.

Getting the data right

Your retail software platform is the engine of your business. Put the wrong fuel in your engine, and your business will go nowhere. That’s why managing the data-related aspects of platform transformation is so crucial.

How does an organisation get ‘clean’ data into its system and prepare to receive data generated by consumers and channel partners?

Companies that are succeeding in their digital transformation strategies and positioning themselves for future data monetisation tend to identify all sources of data, understand the complexities of the data being converted, maintain resource readiness and convert without disruption.

When it comes to data migration, the old ‘garbage in, garbage out’ rule applies. If you find data cleanliness is a problem, data conversion might feel like a daunting task.

To make it manageable and efficient, consider starting with a smaller scope to prove value and troubleshoot issues before scaling up. It also helps with stakeholder engagement and maintaining transformation momentum.

Establishing processes that create value

Reviewing and refining processes for a new platform doesn’t have to be daunting. There are virtually infinite variations among business processes in theory.

In practice, however, they break down neatly into three groups:

  • Standard processes: These processes can be thought of as commodities. They are built on universally accepted, industry-leading practices and require minimal customisation. In our experience, they make up about 80 percent of all processes at a typical retail business.
  • Differentiating processes: These processes are not key strategic advantages for an organisation, but still differ from industry standards. Organisational design is an example of a differentiating process. These account for about 15 percent of a typical organisation’s processes.
  • Innovative processes: These are the ‘secret sauce’ of a business. They are unique to each business and are almost always the source of strategic advantages. Roughly five percent of processes fall in this category. Making sure innovative processes are smoothly transitioned to the new platform is not easy, but it’s worth the effort. We recommend using design thinking to take the customer’s view and create new value.

Solving the technology equation

Most needs can be met with a low-cost, off-the-shelf software package. Custom software development becomes necessary for strategic capabilities that differentiate your business.

We call it the ’80/20′ approach, because roughly 80 percent of required capabilities can be acquired off-the-shelf, and the remaining 20 percent call for customised development.

The 80/20 approach helps organisations reduce IT costs, but sticking to it is more difficult than it may seem. We take a co-creation approach with our clients to help focus attention on their technology needs and determine the best use of technology resources.

We run design workshops to produce a solution blueprint and a business process inventory that, together, guide future development decisions.

Managing change for the better

One truth we all recognise is that change is hard. As species, our fear of change and the unknown is hard-wired. Platform modernisation is a change that will reshape the way every member of the organisation works.

In order to follow through – and benefit from – the 80/20 approach for selecting and implementing technology, it’s essential to manage change in the organisation.

The worlds of work and retail are changing quickly. The C-suite executives in retail agree that AI will be critical to their organisation’s ability to differentiate in the market.

Yet, only a few of them say their employees are ready to work with intelligent technologies, and plan to significantly increase their investment in training and reskilling programmes over the next three years.

Retailers have an opportunity to set new benchmarks for customer and workforce experiences. It’s a change that’s much needed.

To plan and execute a journey that makes change happen ‘with the organisation’ and not ‘to the organisation’. It is crucial to forge a strong alliance with change leaders across the enterprise.

In conclusion

The people steering the ship must agree on where it needs to be and the best way to get there. It is also important to understand the mindset of employees and how they feel about the change.

The audience-centered approach also needs to be considered. Insight-driven tactics to manage the change will also help create an agile, predictable, and sustainable change process.

The future retailers will be those that make strategic investments in digital transformation, including platform modernisation and capability development, to enable the workforce of the future.



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