Shadow IT inspiring a renaissance for retail CIOs

Following an article in Essential Retail looking at the rise of ‘shadow IT‘, BT Global Services’ VP, retail, services and supply chain, Derek Probert,  says retail CIOs should get creative and embrace the opportunities that shadow IT presents.

Few industries are as competitive as retail. It’s a pressure that’s felt everywhere from the boardroom to the store. So it’s understandable that when new IT innovations come along, each retail manager wants to capitalise on them immediately – often without waiting for the involvement of their central IT team.

Known as ‘shadow IT’, the practice of departments procuring their own IT solutions is now commonplace and presents opportunities and challenges for retail chief information officers (CIOs).

According to the report, Art of Connecting: creativity and the modern CIO, 78 per cent of retail senior IT decision makers say that they’re now seeing “shadow IT” within their organisations. On average, shadow IT accounts for 30 per cent of a retailer’s IT spend, compared with an international average for all sectors of 25 per cent.

Securing business

The growing appetite of retail managers to go it alone with their technology investments is inevitably adding to their CIO’s workload.

According to the report, the scale of shadow IT spending is making 83 per cent of senior retail IT decision makers more concerned about the security of their entire IT infrastructure, while the security of all of the organisations data is a concern for 80 per cent. As a result, retail CIOs are now spending 22 per cent more time and substantial additional budget on security because of shadow IT.

Despite worries about a loss of control and a sizeable impact on their budgets, the changes driven by shadow IT give retail CIOs a unique opportunity to evolve their role, capitalising on their strategic view of how technology and data are used within their organisation.

Retail CIOs can see how different people use technology to solve their individual business challenges. They can see how data is consumed and generated and join it up to create new value. They can spot strategic opportunities or weaknesses with security systems and are uniquely placed to understand the wider impact and total cost of ownership of each shadow IT solution. For example, the facilities team may be applauding themselves on their new HD CCTV solution unaware that it’s using so much bandwidth in the network, that it’s crippling the performance of a core stock management application.

So, CIOs are becoming more strategic and this is changing how their board views them.

According to the report, 70 per cent of retail senior IT decision makers feel that standing of the CIO is now more central in the boardroom and 75 per cent say that their board’s expectations of the CIO have increased in the past two years. What’s more, 80 per cent say that the CIO now owns more business than technology KPIs, with metrics around customer and employee experience featuring highly in their scorecards.

Opportunity knocks

To capitalise on these new opportunities CIOs need to get creative. In fact, 70 per cent of retail senior IT decision makers say their board now demands creativity from their CIO.

The shift to a more strategic and creative role calls for a change in how retail CIOs engage with departmental managers. Pro-active, continuous engagement and communication are now vitally important if CIOs wish to influence their organisation’s technology decisions, give advice and set governance.

Retail CIOs should also look at their own team to ensure that they have the right skills around the three “C’s” of creativity, communication and commercial knowledge. And these should be key factors CIOs consider when choosing technology suppliers too.

In many ways, the rapid evolution of the role of the CIO driven by shadow IT mirrors the scale of transformation in the retail industry itself. For many, it’s a Darwinian moment and some are not sure that their role will survive. But for imaginative CIOs, shadow IT presents an unprecedented opportunity to help themselves and their business thrive.

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