Everyone talks of digital transformation (DX) but it is especially hard to make a direct connection between IT infrastructure and how it supports digital transformation. Let’s look at a first-hand experience where it fails.
Best Buy is one of the retail companies that’s lauded for being a survivor in the retail industry (see Fortune magazine, June 15th, 2017 issue, p. 34, in print and online) by embracing the merging of offline and online shopping, but they still fail in many respects. Here’s how.
Trying to Buy
For example, I went to a Best Buy store and attempted to buy an item that was out of stock. I noted that you can order the item on the website since it’s available at a nearby store and they can ship to you directly but I was interested in having it sent to that particular store.
Could I just put an order in right at the time, and pick it up here? After all, they make a big deal of their “order online, ship to store” system?
But the store clerk was unable to place an order from the nearby store due to some quirk in the ordering system and told me I could go back to the website and have it shipped to me.
Can’t they just “ship to their store” as opposed to me? But they could not. I blame inconsistent marketing and a failure of their order management system. Is this a lack of coordination of their marketing and underlying IT system? Perhaps. Maybe they intend to make it consistent, but lack of agility in application development held it back from matching the marketing claims.
The store clerk was nice enough to call the other store to find out if it can be done, since apparently, there are exceptions to be made. He called the other store and was immediately placed on hold. After several minutes, the phone system dropped his call.
What could have caused this? Was it a VoIP call made on a unified communications system that just crashed? Was the call a VoIP session made over their WAN which had some unacceptable jitter leading to a dropped call? I don’t know, but it’s disheartening to see intra-company calls dropped. Was it a bad WAN circuit, a flaky PBX? Should they implement SD-WAN? I may never know.
Giving up on that store, the clerks (now there are several) looked for another store to try to see if they had inventory. Another clerk said “Hmmm, the inventory system shows store XYZ has one in stock, but it’s often wrong. Let’s find a store that has more than one so at least there’s a chance they have it in stock”. Great. I guess there are inventory issues, but I thought modern inventory management systems along with RFID were supposed to help. But I’ll let that go, as I realize that merchandize does disappear or fall off trucks.
So this person called another store, and got through to a live person! But it was a person not at the store they called. Apparently if nobody answers, it gets forwarded to a central switchboard far from the intended place, so the operator patched the call to the intended store and the clerk got put on hold again.
I was ready to give up, but the store clerk finally got through on the phone and managed to get the item shipped to that store.
The lessons here: Lack of agility may have made their order management system out of date from their marketing claims. Unreliable unified communications systems and/or networks drop calls. Inventory management systems are incorrect, losing the trust of the employees who try workarounds The end result: Almost lost a customer.
And this is in a retail chain that’s supposed to be at the forefront of innovation. I can’t even imagine the experience at one of the retail stores that’s contracting or is on the verge of bankruptcy by not adapting to modern times. Many people can easily understand why customers choose to purchase from Amazon.com instead.
The lessons: Omnichannel retailing via on-line and off-line assets works if the back-end systems work to support it. Just because someone in corporate strategy convinced the marketing and web teams to roll it out does not mean that all the back-end systems are up to snuff.