Enterprise hits and misses - retail gets a digital report card and AI incrementalism gets a debate

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed May 30, 2018
This week - retail gets a digital transformation checkup and the AI incrementalism debate is joined. Also: are lean, agile, and design thinking useful, or slick selling tools? Your whiffs include a close encounter with my LinkedIn doppelganger.

Cheerful Chubby Man
Lead story - Digital transformation in retail - four use case progress reports by Stuart Lauchlan

myPOV: Every retailer known to humankind is transforming into omni-channel goodness. That is - if you Koolaid their press releases and earnings calls.

Sober help is on the way; Stuart's on the case to separate the digital overachievers from the underperformers. In the win column? Kohl's, with stats like these:

  • 19 percent digital revenue bump year over year; mobile makes up 70% of total digital traffic, and nearly half of digital sales.

But the stat that jumps out at a "crusty-channel" retail dude like yours truly is:

  • Offline stores fulfill around 30% of digital sales. That's the online/offline blend that shows you're getting real omni-chops.

Things are going well at Urban Outfitters. Stuart reports digital is outperforming offline stores; double digit growth levels make up 40% of total revenue.

But it's not so swell with Ralph Lauren, where digital sales are down 18 percent. The GAP has had a low end (Old Navy) propping up high end (Banana Republic) problem, but Stuart sees a crack of light in the CEO's candor. For another retail digital surprise, check Stuart's Target keeps on track for omni-channel transformation, even if Wall St is impatient. And that's your retail digital roundup.

Happy children eating apple
Diginomica picks - my top two stories on diginomica this week:

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

A few more vendor picks, without the quips:

Jon's grab bag - After blaming articles-not-written on craptastic companies we haven't heard from in years who were never welcome in our freaking email in the first place GDPR inbox overdose, Brian gives us a one-of-a-kind whirlwind event tour in Brian's half time score aka tech event season frolics, spiked with snark for vendors whose idea of the factory-of-the-future is a twenty year old bar code reader.

Speaking of GDPR, Den's got more media fallout in Media in a post-GDPR world - hint: the zombies still walk the earth, as we find out which media outlets have an opt-in business model and which ones scraped our data and sold it out of the back of a van don't.

Den wrote a weekend brunch special in Solving for the right talent is a hot mess. Here's why - with quotage from HR tech maven Naomi Bloom, whose retirement hasn't lessened her fire to fix that which is broken. Finally, I offered an aromatic bouqet to PR/comms folks in "I get to review this before you publish it, right?" A media day botch job we all need to avoid.

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer
Lead story - Design thinking, lean and agile were supposed to be about customers all along. Pieces by Joe McKendrick, Hank Barnes, and Jonny Schneider.

myPOV: I've always thought of design thinking, lean and agile more as common sense. But in larger companies cutting through the layers of BS takes real skill - and a well-defined methodology. So it makes sense for us to try to define and understand what these overused terms mean. Are they relevant to customers, or just slick-sounding puffery that helps service firms grease the contract wheels?

In Design thinking, lean and agile are finally converging, Joe McKendrick argues that the convergence is needed/useful. I'm not sure these terms were ever in conflict, except in the noggins of purists who need to get out more. McKendrick references a nifty illustrated piece by Jonny Schneider, Understanding how Design Thinking, Lean and Agile Work Together. Schneider's piece is an expert breakdown of the differences between the three.

I see it a bit differently. I see a valuable aspect of each:

  • lean thinking - the minimum viable product (MVP) model as an antidote to over-budgeted, waterfall clunkers.
  • design - a modification of MVP to remind that most MVPs should have design smarts and user experience chops, even in early stages.
  • design thinking - understanding your customer/audience won't happen if you don't involve diverse voices from outside company walls, early and often. Done properly (which is rare), design thinking imposes that discipline.
  • agile - how you deliver in an iterative style, turning the pretentiousness of "continuous improvement" into actual products people can use.

Hank Barnes nails the customer angle in Customer Understanding is Essential for Every Role:

By understanding your customer deeply, you are better able to anticipate needs, create solutions that matter, and display empathy throughout the process. Sure, some teams may have more formal tools for collecting and managing customer information, but today, customer understanding is the responsibility of everyone.

If these terms don't get you closer to that, they don't matter.

Other standouts:

  • Is the I in AI incremental and dumb? - Nothing beats an old school blogging chain for getting to the heart of things. In this case, IBM's Vijay Vijayasankar takes on Den's prior AI incrementalism piece. Vijayasankar thinks we can overcome the sloppy AI terminology issues that Den calls out. He reframes the incrementalism issue with this vital point: "AI – or any tech for that matter – doesn’t need to do everything a human can do for it to be extremely useful for a business."

Honorable mention


Overworked businessman
Shall we start with some garden variety boneheads?

Speaking of daring GDPR to come after you, Scavo doesn't think it's compliant for LinkedIn to somehow send connection invites to everyone in my email contacts, but that's exactly what LinkedIn did, resulting in: an invitation to connect with myself.

I'm still pondering the pros and cons of accepting the invite.

If you need a bit of GDPR catharsis, check this. You may have to click through to see the short clip:

Oh, and Den thought my snarkphrase for AI/tech vendor cure-alls, project pan flutes, deserved it's own Twitter handle. Suddenly I was interacting with my own catch phrase:

Is it just me, or are we circling a giant cosmic bowl? I guess we'll know more next week. See you then...

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.