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Enterprise hits and misses - retail transformation meets reality, Wall Street is (still) grouchy about enterprise tech, and AI overreaches

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed February 14, 2022
Summary:
This week - retailers re-imagine, but is better automation enough? Enterprise tech stocks run into a Wall Street tech correction, but is it warranted? AI's overreach remains a major theme of content - and whiffs.

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Lead story - Are we re-imagining retail, or headed for an automated dsytopia?

MyPOV: The retail sector is the proving grounds where high tech digital fantasies clash with the realities of demanding consumers, automation imperatives - and (often) disgruntled store associates.

Stuart's latest missive shows online grocer Ocado getting a market reality check: Ocado losses triple as CEO Tim Steiner commits to the long game of re-inventing retail. But Ocado isn't taking their digital toys and going home. Stuart quotes Ocado CEO Tim Steiner:

The grocery market is at an inflection point. A huge market opportunity exists online for grocery retailers who can deliver the best customer proposition with the best economics across every customer mission.

But, as Stuart rightly points out, investor patience is tested by "retail re-envisioned" strategies that aren't there yet:

One issue that might raise its head however is that the Re:Imagined vision is just that - a vision for now, one that will be realised over a period of time. While the new generation of 600 series bots at the heart of the strategy sound incredibly impressive and boast some significant benefits for retailers, they’re not ready to roll just yet.

This is a major theme of my future-of-retail-tech redux: Retail dystopia? No. Better shopping and associate experiences? Yes. Qualcomm's future of retail in review. I question whether retailers, including online/offline grocers, are approaching automation in the right way. And the "digital delivery" grocery "experience" is undoubtedly compromised at the moment, particularly in the vexing matter of inventory substitutions, a continual headache for today's grocers.

I question whether tech advancements, on their own, will rescue "big box" retailers from a flawed premise:

I do believe, however, that the big box retailers must resolve their automation obsession and figure out how to raise up their store employees to better careers, and better standards of living. Specialty retailers are much further along this path. If that's not resolved, then our experiences of this technology will continue to be highly impersonal, with improved technology in the hands of employees who don't want to be there, and don't want to see us.

Better bots, such as Ocado's 600 series, will surely drive efficiencies and improve bottom lines by reducing headcount. But unless I can get the groceries I actually want, rather than some hodge-podge of supposedly appropriate substitutions, I question whether delivery will prevail over the more precise trip to the store, masks included. Next time we re-envision retail, let's include the store associate, rather than fantasizing we can do without them.

Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

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

Jon's grab bag - Chris explores the UK's data protection options post-Brexit in Why any changes to GDPR need to be dynamic and centered on trust. Barb asks: Can automation and AI help create better emails? They certainly can't create worse marketing emails than the spray-and-pray "sorry to see you go" unsubscribe festival we get now. A paradoxical opportunity perhaps?

Neil asks Can AI be an effective tool against disinformation and hate speech? A geopolitical view. Finally, Meta is keeping Stuart a wee bit cranky on Mondays (Monday Morning Moan - Meta might take its ball home if Europe's regulators don't make the 'right' decisions).

Best of the enterprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top seven

  • IRS To Ditch Biometric Requirement for Online Access – A predictable outcome, but also the right one: "ID.me has been problematic for many legitimate applicants who saw benefits denied or delayed because they couldn’t complete ID.me’s verification process."
  • Crashes caused by Tesla Autopilot are piling up, and there are consequences – Yes, self-driving cars are a familiar flog target in hits/misses. But it's a textbook example of Silicon Valley omnipotence tech Fantasia why overzealous automation and AI overreach is fraught with peril - a situation that can be avoided by more modest goals, and better "human in the loop" designs.
  • What Skills Are Most Important to CIOs By Enterprise Technology Adoption Profile - Readers liked this data reveal from Gartner's Hank Barnes, which includes a nifty graphic on tech skills demand from CIOs. Top of list? Depends on whether you are a leader or a laggard. Leaders are extending their tech advantage with APIs and microservices.
  • Hybrid-Agile ERP: Agile is No Substitute for Discipline - Via UpperEdge, one of the most informed/balanced pieces on the tensions between Agile methodologies and ERP project management I've seen.
  • Real-Time Data: A Key Cloud Trend for Enterprises in 2022 - Constellation's Dion Hinchcliffe makes the real-time data case: "Instead, to compete today, it's simply not enough to capture and store bottomless streams of data from the hundreds of applications that power the typical enterprise, then hope to eventually mine it for intelligence at some later date. A new approach is growing in popularity: Tapping into the streams directly as the data moves." I'm still an advocate for "right-time" data rather than a real-time purist, but this is a good source for the purist argument.
  • Metaverse - The Return of the Undead - We can count on Thomas Wieberneit to grapple with hype-infested trends, rather than dismiss them.
  • Why ‘the future of AI is the future of work - A well-considered future of work post, without the usual hyperbolic rhetoric.

Overworked businessman

Whiffs

So New Zealand has been playing Barry Manilow to repel parliamant protesters - stick with the tried-and-true tactics, I always say...

Hard to ignore this collective botch job of swindlers and suckers on the slip n' slide of crypto mania:

We also found out that the metaverse brings insurance perils:

Finally, why not end with some good ol' game-changing, AI hand-waving:

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.

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