In sunny San Diego today, you’ll find hundreds of the top retail CIOs in the country gathered at NRFtech ’12 ready to talk through the many opportunities emerging technology brings to the full retail enterprise. While these elite technology leaders will be discussing tactical strategies on how to leverage all kinds of new and evolving technology to improve customer experience, this morning, NRF SVP of Communities and Executive Director of Shop.org, Vicki Cantrell, opened the event by talking through two key challenges facing every CIO today: Access to influence and talent.
“Around the world, the retail industry has come closer to achieving true omnipresence as the long-awaited convergence of in-store, online, and mobile shopping has finally become a reality. With these changes have come challenges for CIOs. As technology becomes more important to every aspect of the retail business, you have found yourselves battling for something I call IT for short – influence and talent.
On the influence side, we often hear that chief information officers have fallen behind the times and that chief marketing officers have seized the reins of innovation. While you and I know this is just a myth, we also know that the impact on budgets has been all too real. As resources have gone to other parts of the company, CIOs have found themselves facing more demands. In a world of omnichannel shopping, your departments serve as the bridge between the different channels – in-store, online, and mobile. With more responsibilities and fewer resources, CIOs have found themselves squeezed like never before.
On the talent side, CIOs have struggled to recruit the personnel they need. With more technology has come greater need for skilled workers – people who can use data to improve customer service while also protecting customer privacy. According to a study by McKinsey Global Institute, America’s demand for people with “deep analytical skills” could exceed the supply by up to 190,000 by 2018. Meanwhile, the shortfall for managers and analysts with the skills to make effective data-driven decisions could reach 1.5 million. In the retail sector, these problems are magnified by the fact that many IT specialists continue to see us as more brick and mortar than bits and bytes. As a result, the demand for new technologies from consumers has grown faster than our supply of IT workers.
At times, I know it can feel like you are facing these challenges alone. But as you look around this room, I hope you can see that you are not alone. While your companies may be competitors, those of you here today can be partners for innovation. And I believe the NRF should be the forum that brings you together.
This is a critical moment for our industry – and we must come together to meet it. The future of retail depends on innovation, and no group better develops and drives innovation than you. With your help and participation, we can meet the challenges that retail faces and emerge as better executives working for better companies in a bigger and stronger industry.”