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Enterprise hits and misses - retailers search for their omni-channel swagger, and generative AI is everywhere as enterprise event season hits fever pitch

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed May 22, 2023
This week - Walmart and Target seek that elusive omni-channel balance, but with different results. Toxic workplaces remain an impediment to talent retention. Enterprise event season hits a supersonic pace - and the diginomica team fans out to sort the substance from the AI hype festival.

King Checkmate

Lead story - Walmart and Target in pursuit of omni-balance - an updated report card

Walmart and Target are two of the most instructive retailers when it comes to omni-channel excellence - and the obstacles in the way.

Stuart tracked their pursuits throughout the pandemic - and now issues an update: Walmart and Target provide a reminder that the omni-channel retail re-balancing is a long game. And, in Target's case, pandemic success doesn't necessarily translate into the Vaccine Economy. Stuart starts with Walmart:

For Walmart, the headline news was that Q1 2024 e-commerce sales were up 27%, the highest year-on-year growth since Q1 2021 when they hit a high of 37%. (Both numbers are still well behind the staggering 97% growth level in Q2 2020 at the height of the pandemic, but comfortably better than the one percent recorded in Q1 2022.)

Walmart's made strides in the pickup and delivery game. And, as Walmart's CEO John Furner says, their supply chain logistics have improved. Target, as Stuart reports, is another matter:

Over at Target, the mood wasn’t as upbeat as the retailer warned it is losing around $500 million a year to rampant shoplifting. Comparable stores sales grew 0.7 percent year-on-year, offset by a decline in comparable digital sales.

Target's CEO cites the macro-economic conditions; the goal is to get that omni-channel balance right. Stuart quotes CEO Brian Cornell:

The mix of in-store shopping has been growing for well over a year now as consumers have become increasingly comfortable in public places. This has led them to choose more in-store visits, causing in-store sales growth to outpace digital in the first quarter, both this year and a year ago.

Cornell sees brights spots - by putting the store in the middle of the digital experience.

Notably, even within the digital channel, our same-day services, which rely entirely on our stores, expanded more than 5% during the quarter. As usual, this increase was led by our drive up service, which saw growth in the high single digits.

As Stuart concludes, this is the long game. But one thing is clear: the pandemic economy gave big retailers excessive confidence on their digital approach. Vaccine Economy consumers expect a more fluid integration of digital and store than most retailers are yet ready for, despite their digital commerce investments.

Diginomica picks - my top picks from our coverage this week:

  • "Zero tolerance" for hallucinations - Dr. Vishal Sikka on how Vianai builds AI applications, and the mixed emotions of the AI hype cycle - In the first installment of my interview with Dr. Sikka, he shares his candid reaction to the massive AI hype cycle around him, how he defines responsible AI, and what's next: "Where we are headed is: we can make the entire application dynamic; we can make the entire application virtual, and replace that with human language. You will see us make announcements on that front in the next weeks and months."
  • Rolls-Royce's low-code digital transformation steps up a gear - Mark Samuels files a fresh automotive use case: ""That design-led approach helped as other uses cases were developed. Early adopters became “champion super users” and spread the benefits of the approach across the organization. Hughes’ team worked alongside users to refine the platform."
  • Guru adds verification to generative AI to speed up the capture of trusted enterprise knowledge - Phil probes another generative AI refinement, this one from Guru: "Answers, initially rolled out in a limited private beta, uses generative AI to source results from enterprise content that's been linked to Guru, and then those answers can be passed through Guru's verification process to be checked and regularly updated by subject-matter experts. The breakthrough for Guru is using AI to make it easier to surface this knowledge from enterprise content, while still ensuring robust verification of the answers produced."
  • Big problem - why half of tech workers are planning to quit their job due to toxic workplace culture - I don't tend to take the numbers from "I'm planning to quit my job" surveys too seriously (there is a huge difference between intending to quit and actually taking the leap). That said, Madeline is spot-on: there are far too many toxic workplaces in tech: "The tech sector is still in the midst of talent shortages, meaning companies need to take measures now to address the toxicity and retain their best people."

The diginomica spring event roadshow rolls on! We fanned out across the UK and US to catch a motherload of enterprise shows - and, in particular, make sense of the generative AI news extravaganza. Start with our ServiceNow Knowledge 2023 coverage, with Derek on deck in Las Vegas:

Meanwhile, I was in Orlando for SAP's Sapphire 2023, along with a revealing speaking session with customers at the co-located ASUG Annual Conference: Sapphire Orlando '23 - are SAP's AI ambitions in line with customer priorities? Inside the SAP SuccessFactors generative AI news. With 50+ pages of news items, it took me not one, but two podcasts to make some sense of what just happened:

Meanwhile, Chris was at PTC LiveWorx in Boston:

The event analysis continues: it didn't stop there.

  • Planful Perform 23 - the post-event update - Brian: "Planful’s acquisition of Plannuh has made a material difference in Planful’s offerings (see this story). The reason Planful did this deal last Fall is that Finance team members do not necessarily understand where the money that Marketing groups spend goes and how effective that spend truly is. As a result, you get a lot of spirited debates and dueling spreadsheet data from each side of the table."
  • IFS CEO Darren Roos - in a downturn, think opportunity, not efficiency - Phil: "Many vendors will talk about productivity gains and cost savings in generic terms but without specifying detailed outcomes. Rather than what Roos calls "a desktop spreadsheet exercise," the IFS approach is to run a detailed value engineering exercise that specifies where costs, risks or emissions will be reduced, or revenues will rise. He gives the example of making the case for a field service team to adopt its scheduling and optimization tool."

A few more vendor picks, without the quotables:

Best of the enterprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top seven

  • Enterprises move to the edge, but the edge may not be ready - Joe McKendrick on the problems/opportunities on the computing edge: "At the same time, the edge simply may not yet be ready for all the computing power and data moving its way. 'Much of the data being generated has yet to be leveraged in a way that incorporates AI and meaningful outputs,' Compton cautions."
  • Navigating The Road to Retail Analytic Success - Hyoun Park of Amalgam Insights shares findings from his team's retail research. One bullet point? Retailers won't solve problems with retail data alone - they must go broader: "To solve these analytic problems, retail and CPG organizations need to allow line-of-business, logistics, and sourcing managers to act quickly with self-service and on-demand insights based on all relevant data."
  • The Pessimism Problem Continues to Grow - Gartner's Hank Barnes on enterprise buyer pessimism and regret - factors that should ideally be going down, but - surprise, surprise - are not.
  • Why Organizational Alignment is Critical to the Supply Chain Response - Lora Cecere on how organizations can move the supply chain needle, and why her data shows that organizational alignment is the biggest culprit: "In this report, I call for a supply chain reset: a need to redefine supply chain thinking. The goal is to improve the resilience of metrics performance in times of high demand and supply variability. For most, this requires the unlearning of traditional supply-centric concepts."
  • Can Watsonx Rebuild IBM’s AI Relevance? -  RedMonk's Kate Holterhoff with a balanced analysis of IBM''s complicated Watson/AI pursuits, where successes and failures are hard to unravel. "I think the more significant work Krishna’s statement accomplished involves that of convincing the press that IBM has something relevant to say about AI. Krishna not only primed the pump for Think’s watsonx debut, it also reminded the public, which had become wrapped up in the rival offerings of Google’s Bard and OpenAI’s ChatGPT, of IBM’s leadership in this space."
  • Meta open-sources multisensory AI model that combines six types of data - Meta's decision to open source their AI model has proven very controversial. I'm still sorting my position on it, though I lean towards "open-sourcing allows third parties to scrutinize the systems for faults and ameliorate some of their failings."  - what say you?
  • Economists Show AI Bringing Positive Impact to Workplaces - The New Stack's David Cassell parses some interesting AI-for-customer-service data. And no, as per this survey at least, it's not a job loss bloodbath. "The introduction of AI tools apparently also improved the retention of employees — in every skill group."

Overworked businessman


So WeWork is doing its job to claim the mantle of most-tone-deaf "future of work" startup - from a $46 billion valuation to 50 cents a share.

As a lucky health care customers, I've had the exquisite joy of experiencing this PR bumbling of an epic data fail firsthand:

Oh, and Facebook had a bug that sent a friend request to a profile you visited. Valuable Internet lesson: lurking is never as discrete as you think. For a monthly fee, LinkedIn is happy to share the peepers of your profile with you. Peeping remains free, but not without its consequences... happy social networking, then, and 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.

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