Tech Transformation Podcast: Dollar General's Shweta Bhatia On How IT Keeps Pace With Their Explosive Growth
Dollar General is one of the most rapidly expanding retailers in the United States, which is a strategy that has a significant impact on a company’s IT and tech teams. In this episode of Tech Transformation, we’re talking with Shweta Bhatia, SVP of IT applications and base engineering, about what this looks like and how they’re keeping pace.
We’re talking about some of the new digital tools they’re using to manage supply chain disruption and keep up with consumer demand, and why working in IT at Dollar General is a bit different than other retailers.
Listen to learn:
- How Dollar General’s expansion has impacted the company’s IT teams
- The biggest obstacles the tech teams have faced and how they work to overcome them
- How they put out the everyday fires while simultaneously building an infrastructure for growth
- The technologically innovative ways they’ve managed a very disruptive supply chain
- Updates on their data-driven inventory management tools
- Other technologies they’re using to manage shifting consumer demand
- Why working in IT at Dollar General is different from other places Bhatia has worked
- How Dollar General remains competitive with prospective and current tech employees
On building for growth: “We are opening over 1,000 stores every year, which equates to opening over three stores every single day. … From a tech perspective, it's really time and focus on ruthless prioritization with our business partners [that] becomes super important so that we're working on the right things that are super critical to our business today, and will be super critical to our business in the future.
On focusing on root causes: “Fire and retail go hand in hand, to be very honest, because retail has has a certain intensity and craziness and fun all at the same time. … One thing we do really well, and we are still building that muscle, is really just focusing on the root cause. It's very important to fix the root cause, not just fix the symptoms of the fire. You should always ask yourself, ‘What are we doing to stop them? Where are we seeing the challenges?’ And my personal mantra is, ‘Never let a crisis go to waste.’ You learn from the crisis, you understand the root cause, and then you remediate the root cause so that you actually never have the same issue multiple times.”
On supply chain investments: “We have invested more than $60 million in our system upgrades and technology-related initiatives to support greater supply chain efficiencies going forward. This was just last year. … And in the past few years, Dollar General supply chain has also expanded with our Fresh DC network and Dollar General private fleet. We currently have 16 traditional DCs, 10 fresh DCS and three combination DCS, which is pretty incredible how our supply chain has been able to grow into these areas. We're also adding new facilities as we speak. We've also opened different formats and businesses, including pOpshelf, including DGX, including DG Market, to meet our customer needs. We're also growing our footprint digitally and determining how to best drive in-store growth through our digital means. So all of this to say that we continuously are investing in our supply chain footprint, and technology is enabling the business strategy.
On leveraging technology to meet consumer needs: “Our customers have embraced self-checkout very well. And as a result of the success and popularity of self-checkout with our customers, we launched a pilot of stores that are entirely self-checkout in 2022, which is pretty incredible. And when combined with our data-driven inventory management, we believe these efforts will reduce store workload and drive greater efficiencies for our retail associates and leaders. So it's all just doing what's right for our customers while keeping our low-cost operations in mind that actually drives better experiences for the customers and better experiences for our employees. …
“Beyond self checkout, we are also increasing the utilization of emerging technology and data strategies. We are putting new digital tools such as data-driven inventory management, [but] now it's like we're putting them in the hands of our field leaders to free up our field leaders and store associates to reduce work workload across the enterprise. And building a digital ecosystem specifically tailored to providing our customers with even a more convenient friction-less and personalized shopping experience is where we are headed, and we are leaning in very heavily.”
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