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Enterprise hits and misses - Grocery stores get their COVID-19 report card and Snowflake wins the IPO lottery

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed September 21, 2020
This week - retail grocery chains get a COVID-19 digital gut check. Snowflake almost breaks the stock market with an outsized IPO. Fall virtual event season revs up, and I have some fun with AIOps - and flights to nowhere.


Lead story - COVID-19 as a catalyst for change - a tale of two grocery chains

MyPOV: Stuart examined two grocery store chains - and how they are faring in the COVID-19 economy pressure cooker. Start with A tale of two grocery stores Part 1 - how Tesco rose to the challenge of COVID-19:

The overriding theme? Toilet paper hoarding for the apocalypse How digital transformation was forced into overdrive. One enduring change: stores morph into localized fulfillment centers. Stuart quotes Tesco's CTO:

We are basically transferring now excess space we have in some of our largest stores into an automated solution called an Urban Fulfillment Center, which is substantially smaller than any traditional automated warehouse you might know.

But Tesco's omni-push was well underway by the time COVID-19 hit. As Stuart reports, the same wasn't true for Kroger in the U.S. (A tale of two grocery stores Part 2 - how COVID has accelerated Kroger's omni-channel retail reality). Stuart quotes Kroger's CEO Rodney McMullen:

Even before the pandemic our digital business had become a tailwind. The pandemic certainly has accelerated customer preference for seamless offerings.

How do you know if you've crossed into omni-fluency? McMullen again:

What we're expecting of ourselves is we will get to the point where we're indifferent if a customer connects with us digitally or a physical store.

As Stuart notes, Kroger's digital business has yet to be profitable. Will their recent tie-up with Ocado will help them achieve that? Time will tell. The grocery industry has been put to a massive stress test. Unlike some retail segments, at least there it the relative luxury of persistent demand. But: mediocre digital services are getting exposed.

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:

Inforum 2020 is in the (virtual) books, with notable trends on cloud adoption - even in industries and logistical areas of the business that were once reluctant:

A few more vendor picks, without the quotables:

Jon's grab bag - Stuart looks at the intersection of clean energy and next-gen tech in Powering up the transition to a new energy world - E.ON, AI and digitalisation. Neil continues his critique of the AI ethics status quo in Unethical AI unfairly impacts protected classes - and everybody else as well.

Chris pushes a necessary conversation in Why the AI industry urgently needs more uncomfortable conversations about BAME representation - though the BAME acronym is potentially awkward also. What matters are the issues behind it.

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

Snowflake's IPO is a bet on companies using AI for everything - If you're head-scratching how Snowflake achieved their ridonkulous eye-watering valuation and $3.4 billion IPO, this explanation of their AI sex appeal offers clues (may require email sign up to read). Motley Fool was on board the IPO hype train; they didn't let product confusion slow them down:

I read through the S-1 and the business description top to bottom and I said, I still don't really know what they do.

Hey - no reason not to invest. Tell your friends. I'm sure Amazon, Google, and Microsoft won't bother to challenge Snowflake's competitive offerings that sit on their clouds going forward...

On cybersecurity, a deepfakes roundup:

Honorable mention

And yeah, nothing on Oracle + TikTok this week, waiting on some decent analysis to dig into. You'll get your fill in next week's edition...

Overworked businessman


So a couple that loves Olive Garden is going to name their child Olivia Garton. Hey, at least they didn't have a boy... The town of Asbestos is also struggling with a name change - any chance enterprise marketers can pitch in and help?

I touched off some Twitter debates with my satirical takes on "travelers" who are lining up to take flights-to-nowhere...

Call it sightseeing if you want. I believe it's about "normalcy nostalgia." Whatever the motivation, the (modest) consumer demand seems to be there. Whatever gets you through the night, is all right...

On the serious side of whiffing, my colleague Phil Wainewright pointed me towards a couple of problematic algorithms with apparent racial biases. Twitter is one:

Finally, I had some fun with my favorite buzzphrase-to-nowhere, AIOps:

When the CEO of an AIOps company agrees with me, maybe I'm onto something after all:

See you next time...

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. 'myPOV' is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.

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