Forging Strong CG & Retail Relationships: A New Solution for an Old Problem
Cheryl Williams is CIO of Wakefern Food Corp and a co-chair of the CGT/RIS Executive Council.
The topic of building a strong consumer goods/retail relationship isn’t new, but perhaps considering a new approach to expanding the relationship is.
I’ve been fortunate to experience this relationship building first-hand throughout my entire career in retail. New relationships develop, existing relationships are strengthened, and others fade over time. What remains consistent is that these connections are typically founded around common goals for supply chain improvement, demand planning, product assortment, promotional strategies, and merchandising by the individuals who lead those initiatives.
What is interesting, however, is the lack of relationships between technology counterparts on the consumer goods and retail sides. It seems logical that in the current environment — where technology is incorporated throughout every aspect of the business —this represents a huge area of opportunity to strengthen relationships and build value.
It seems likely that this is also a competitive advantage for technology-first consumer goods and retail companies. There are endless opportunities to solve mutual challenges using technology and innovation.
I am often frustrated by the lack of connectivity between consumer goods front-line organizations and their respective IT departments — and I have no doubt that consumer goods IT leaders have experienced the same frustration with retail. There are a number of initiatives that clearly drive business benefit for both organizations but remain highly dependent on the right technology being in place.
Consider blockchain as an example: We embarked upon a proof of concept a number of years ago, only to struggle with identifying the appropriate contacts within the consumer goods organization. As it turned out, in every case the contact was within the IT organization. If there had been connectivity between the IT organizations of prospective partners, a lot of wasted time and energy could have been avoided on both sides.
As IT leaders, we need to work together to leverage advancements like artificial intelligence, robotics and digital technologies to build sales, as well as solve shared problems like out-of-stocks. Unfortunately, our industry lacks the necessary forums to facilitate these conversations. Events typically segregate business and IT leaders and/or offer pre-scheduled meetings between IT executives and solution providers.
I often struggle to find opportunities both internally and externally to connect with my technology peers on the consumer goods side. The new Executive Council is a first step in helping to create these new connections, which is why I have accepted the invitation to serve as the co-chair representing retail.
The mission of the Executive Council is to create a forum of industry innovators and disruptors from retail andconsumer goods to identify the latest technology and consumer value chain trends across channels. My call to action is to work together to expand our relationships to include technology leaders from both sides of the table. This will help us to be more agile, accelerate innovation and deliver more value to our collective organizations.