Last week we spent a few days in Minneapolis with about 200 retailers attending the 2019 Oracle Retail Cross Talk conference.  This year, Oracle went back to their roots and put the event’s focus purely on retail.  This was a well-received change by the attendees, and we all had great interaction with colleagues, partners, current clients, and new acquaintances.

The event kicked off with a consistent theme presented by Geoffrey Moore centered around the crisis of prioritization and getting to and through the transformation zone. Prioritization is consistently something Parker Avery talks about with our clients, and it is one of the harder conversations to get alignment on, especially alignment at the leadership level, which is critical.

The retail sector changes constantly, and prioritizing what is next within the strategy can easily become the most argued point among leaders, especially with capital and resource constraints. Sometimes you have to make the decision to ensure your foundational processes and solutions are ready to support growth and, in other cases, retailers may be ready to try more innovation and test bigger change. Either way, prioritization is key and can make the difference between success and creating bigger challenges. Not all changes need to be transformational, they just have to be well thought out, in the right order, and have the right support.

Much of the conference was also spent talking about evolving the way we think about basic processes and solutions: Fit Analytics vs. size profiling, markdown avoidance vs. markdown optimization, and of course going to the cloud. We explored and discussed such questions as:

People and roles and responsibilities was also a topic we heard retailers talking about. For example, buyers must now understand and think about not only the item, but how it will be managed, viewed, displayed, and ordered to fit all commerce needs. A merchant can no longer just consider brick and mortar when they buy, but rather must curate for all modes of commerce and consumer shopping habits:

  • How will the item or collection look online? 
  • Can that translate to the store and vice versa?  
  • How will it be seen on mobile or on a tablet? 

These are all considerations in the fast-moving world of retail and force evolution and new rules of engagement. In our experience, this evolution in roles brings up large change leadership needs and a new approach to leading in retail. So now, not only do you have to consider a new software solution or new business process, you must consider the change impact and how your organization will navigate.

Oracle Retail, as with most solution providers today, is touting their strategy and emphasis on moving solutions and customers to the cloud. This has numerous advantages for retailers, and cloud solution adoption is increasing from just analytical and planning solutions to full core solutions. However, it’s worth ensuring your team understands and is prepared for the differences.

  • Configure vs. customize moves from a philosophy to a hard rule, with the clear advantage being that you are assured of remaining on an upgrade path. 
  • For the business, managing the change is more important than ever without options for customization, we must be ready and able to take the leading practice software as it is, and process adoption is a must. 
  • With cloud solutions, the typical weighty implementation with large system integration (SI) teams should become a thing of the past. You will likely still need partners, but the heavy IT investment is less, while business process and change management activities will be a clear focus.

Overall, it was refreshing to hear how retailers are adapting to the changes, but the reality of thinking about the next process vs. best process definitely felt daunting to some. There are many ‘shiny new objects’ coming to market, but who is really ready? Those that hunker down and make investments with alignment and priority will likely come out ahead.

We continue to coach our clients to ensure changes are not made in a silo and the interconnectivity of retail is now more important than ever. Learn from each other, pick the right partners, and have a clear strategic vision of the end goal and your journey will be considerably less bumpy.

Amanda & Clay