Monthly Archives: May 2015

IBM isn’t about dark suits and starched shirts anymore: focused on providing tailored customer experience

Beginning of last week I was in San Diego for IBM’s Amplify customer and partner conference. While I have been fortunate to have had traveled to some interesting places in our world, this was the first time I had been to San Diego. One of those oddities of my travel. It certainly did not disappoint, unfortunately I was not able to visit any of the beaches nor were the Padres in town. But I digress.

IBM had over 3700 attendees and large number of their partners in attendance at Amplify 2015. Not surprising for a company of IBM’s stature. The show kicked off with Alex Banayan, Author; Venture Associate with Alsop Louie Partners on stage followed by Deepak Advani the General Manager for IBM Commerce. Nothing of great notice other than the fact this is IBM and you had a millennial hosting and IBMers presenting wearing denim rather than the pin strip blue suits and starched white shirts! But this contrast is not lost on what IBM is looking to do with retail and eCommerce. From main stage the message was clear – we are here to empower our clients to provide their customers with an experience that is second to none. IBM is gambling that their wide breadth of offerings, from software to services all tied back to powerful analytics powered by…you guessed it…Watson is a winning formula. A timely message for a market that is ripe for new business models for addressing customer demand and desire. Hardly a gamble, but more a sound strategy to gain market share within retail.

So how is IBM ready to provide the framework necessary to meet this growing need? Deepak outlined 6 pillars that IBM is building their solution around. They are split between customer engagement and partners & suppliers. Around customer engagement they are:

  • Marketing
  • eCommerce merchandising
  • Customer analytics

Focusing on the partners & suppliers portion, IBM is focused on following three areas:

  • Procurement
  • Payment
  • Integration B2B


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Deepak and IBM are betting on the belief that these areas of focus will allow them to provide retailers, and really anyone in the commerce supply chain, the framework to address many of their business issues as well as allow for new business models. These pillars allow IBM to leverage their large portfolio of products and more importantly – services – in a well-articulated offering.

The one area that is lacking is with regards the retail execution and fulfillment portion. An aspect of the commerce supply chain that during my numerous hallway and formal conversations was not lost on both IBM executives as well as customers. It will be something to watch as they have a partnership with the likes of JDA and Pitney Bowes that should address this gap in the their offering. In the long term it will be interesting to see how these partnerships evolve. Does IBM stand to lose some control of their relationships with certain opportunities if they cannot also offer these execution and fulfillment offerings from their own suite? How could this impact both their sales forces and those of their partners, aka who will lead in certain deals? What happens if an implementation of the solution does not live up to expectations, which side will shoulder the responsibility?

Clearly IBM is not shy about partnering to augment their offerings or fill in gaps. They announced during the event a partnership with Facebook, which coupled with the partnerships with Apple and Twitter, demonstrate that IBM is not averse about pulling a wide variety of players into their ecosystem. These partnerships are cleaner since for the most part they are to provide IBM with some powerful and rich data sources to feed their growing analytics machine. When it comes to filling out the pillars Deepak mentioned, in the long run will IBM want to have the remaining pillars to be IBM blue or can partnerships suffice?


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Filed under Current Events, Retail, Supply Chain

Digital Disruption from the Peach State – but where can you buy peaches in the future?


Last week I was in Atlanta with our founder Ray Wang as well as with my colleague Alan Lepofsky. We were hosting a successful second road show event for Ray’s wonderful book – Disrupting Digital Business. During the event we were able to listen to leaders from Adobe and Infosys about how they are dealing with the rise of digital in their businesses. Of course we also heard from Ray on main stage about the key findings of his book. Click here for a link to the tour information.

Alan and I had the opportunity to host two round tables. Alan focusing on how these trends will impact the future of work and collaboration while I focused on retail and the supply chain.

As for my round table, both sessions had lively discussions around how this digital revolution is fundamentally changing the retail and overall supply chains. Here are some take aways:

  • Digital is impacting the future of the store. What is the role of the storefront? eCommerce, mobile, social were a few areas that have had deep impact on how we trade and the role of the store front. We covered such areas as stores becoming multifunctional assets – acting as both traditional stores as well as distribution centers. Or even becoming primarily show rooms. One of the issues that this creates is how the financials will also have to change. Revenue per square foot may not be a true measure of a store’s usefulness with these new functions. Savvy CFOs need to be aware of this shift and figure out how to navigate those waters.
  • Can players within the supply chain work to do a better job with data sharing? A question we have been dealing with as long as there have been supply chains. Anyone who has played the beer game can attest one of the biggest hurdles is to have better data exchange amongst all the players in the supply chain. While all the parties know that conceptually this would help all their causes, the ability and desire to actually share data continues to be an issue. Clearly based on our discussion at the round table this has not been adequately solved. An ever increasing infusion of digital technology within the supply chain is not a panacea. The ability to have players within the supply chain to share more information is all about process change, cultural transformation and trust. What digital and data can provide, are some hard numbers to demonstrate the value of being more open. But remains a challenge.
  • Our shopping experience has only seen the beginning of disruption! We spent a good amount of time thinking ahead, what will the retail experience look like in 10 years. Everything from virtual reality shopping, similar to what Burberrys has attempted in London, to shopping experienced leaning on driverless vehicles that would whisk us from our homes and through stores to purchasing products in customized packages, quantities, sizes – true customization for the individual. All great examples, all that could come true due to the digital revolution we are in the midst of. Of course few CxOs are willing to invest capital in futuristic concepts that do not have a tangible ROI. As with many of these changes, CxOs need to focus on the use cases that can provide returns and benefits in the short term, build on these use cases to lay down the digital rail road tracks that will be necessary for the more futuristic opportunities.

A whirlwind tour last week, between being in San Diego and Atlanta, but the Digital Disruption tour was a wonderful event. Selfishly it was great to spend time with companies such as Coca Cola, Carters, Adobe and Infosys to name a few and discuss how digital is impacting their businesses. The road show will continue, now swinging through Europe. Well worth attending.

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NetSuite brings full retail experience to a tablet near you

Last week was a tad crazy when it comes to conference season, there were at least 4 conferences I could have and should have attended. However until I can figure out how to be in two places at the same time I had to pick which events I could attend. One of those events was NetSuite’s SuiteWorld in San Jose. Unfortunately I was only able to attend the first full day, but what I took away from the time I spent was their new offering for retail.


They announced SuiteCommerce InStore – a next generation POS (point of sale) and retail reporting tool that bridges the online and brick & mortar experience. Click here for press release. This new offering from NetSuite, which builds on their existing solutions, follows the mantra launched from main stage. Is it an ERP or a web site? At the core of this statement is the belief that you must treat your business from a unified view. There is no longer a view of inventory that is for the eCommerce engine versus one for the traditional brick and mortar world. There is only one view – one that takes a view at ALL inventory, regardless of what channel it is destined for. What this means for retailers:

  • Retailers, by providing a more complete view of customers, can now empower their stores to better satisfy customer needs. For example, if Lawrence Williams walks into a Williams- Sonoma store to purchase a new Cuisinart mixer, if equipped with this solution, the store manager and associates will have access to all the data associated with Lawrence. Did he search the web site for the mixer? What color? Which model? Did he look for other products? The store associate can now anticipate and deal with Mr. Williams’ needs more effectively.
  • Much better coordination between the online and physical world. One of the most frustrating issues retailers face is have a promotion for a product in a store that could also be fulfilled online, but not having that full view of the inventory. Companies that leverage SuiteCommerce InStore, will be able to react with much more flexibility to fluctuations in demand or inventory, regardless of where the drivers are coming from. This unified view of inventory and customer is key when it comes to meeting the demands of consumers.
  • A greater understanding of what is happening on the ground. Retailers have always struggled with gaining a richer sense of what is happening within their stores. POS (point of sale) data is nice, so are orders and even advanced video technology. But what if you could add a rich layer of information that tied in the online and in store experience of the consumer? Retailers will not only be able to empower their stores to better manage the customer experience, but they will also be able to collect behaviors of those customers.

It will be interesting to observe how this solution progresses. It fits into our Matrix Commerce model that looks at the places where digital has allowed the customer and the supply chain to converge. This, edge of the retail network, at the store level, is one of these intersection points. NetSuite retail customers should see this as a positive evolution of the retail solution. Over the past few months, many of the retail executives we have met with expressed the desire to provide their store locations with a complete view of the customer. NetSuite’s SuiteCommerce InStore solution addresses the needs of the retailer to gain greater channel agnostic insights.

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Filed under Current Events, Retail, Supply Chain

Meet me in Atlanta to discuss digital disruption

Digital disruption is all around us, how is that for a bold statement! But the reality is we are in the midst of a business and supply chain world that is being transformed, in ways we could never imagine, by the digital revolution that is underway.

We are all aware of these changes in our personal live – Uber, Facebook, Airbnb, Twitter, Amazon are a few examples of how digital has impacted our daily lives. But what about in our businesses and supply chains? In these areas we are also seeing disruptors emerge – 3D printing and IoT are the latest to capture the headlines. But we have already seen mobile, social, big data and the cloud have major impacts on our businesses and supply chains. These forces are both disrupting but also empowering the supply chains of today to move forward.



Join my colleagues Ray Wang and Alan Lepofsky in Atlanta on May 14th as we discuss how digital is impacting business. Ray will highlight and delve into his recent book – Disrupting Digital Business. While Alan will lead discussions on how the intersection of analytics and collaboration tools will power the next generation of productivity software.

I am excited for the event which will undoubtedly be a smashing success. If you are in the area and want to join us for what will be a lively discussion and enjoyable event click here to register.

The is open to VP or C-level executives and is free of charge.

The team at Consteallation Research and our sponsors from WiPro and Adobe look forward to seeing you there.



Filed under Current Events, Supply Chain, Technology