Getting Digital is not a project – it must become part of our DNA

by Annecilla Sampt

The Digital Revolution of retail exposes IT to the external customer

In many aspects retail companies are affected by Digital Transformation. Creating a digital perspective for a successful major enterprise like Visilab has an impact on business model as well as organization and IT-systems. Playing a leading role in changing the company’s DNA makes CIO Marc Besson a candidate for the title #TopCIO and the Swiss CIO AWARD trophy 2017.

In what way does Digital Transformation affect your company and your industry?

The digital transformation is leading retailers to reconsider the ways in which they go to market. As such, our industry is undergoing a massive transformation; at Visilab, our transformation was driven by our omni-channel program, which we initiated 3 years ago.

The transition to being an omni-channel company started with redefining our vision and evolving from a product-centric approach to one more focused on the customer experience.

Since starting this program, we have launched many projects and initiatives, ranging from the development of a new e-commerce platform to the deployment of an immersive in-store reality solution. Most of these projects were successful, but certain ones failed or had to be postponed. Failure was an option for our projects, and these failures were part of our learning curve.

Our success has largely been driven by change management, as we have had to be sure that the company’s 900 employees were part of the process and were supportive of the approach. We have spent a lot of time communicating and training our employees because most of our processes have had to be redesigned.

However, digitalization has a much broader meaning for us, as it also massively impacts our supply chain. We now have tight integration with our main suppliers, and our central warehouse has been digitally reengineered, including the deployment of an iPod-based picking solution, a glass-edging robot, or an automated dispatching solution.
The next phase will be to apply additional digital solutions in our brick-and-mortar shops; doing so will support interactions with our customers while preserving our opticians’ central role of providing advice.
At Visilab, digital is no longer just a project or a program; it’s part of our DNA.

What is the impact of IT for the success of the company?

For years, IT has been mainly focused at serving its internal customers. Digital transformation opens a new paradigm where we are now directly exposing our solution to our end customer.

Customer-facing technology needs to be seamless, fast and functional; it should offer convenient options that suit the customers’ needs. I work closely with stakeholders and sponsors to ensure that we are using a clear vision and set of priorities to provide the best experience to our customers.

I stand by the principles that retail should not be complicated and that technology should be an enabler to encourage customer conversion, acquisition and loyalty. If technology becomes an obstacle, customers may be lost for good, so all customer-facing products require regular maintenance and operational governance.

IT is now an integral part of the customer experience and had driven us to rethink our behaves.

Unifying our ways of working has provided consistency in our execution, communication and stakeholder management. Turning each team member into a change agent allows the business to be as informed as possible about the possible impacts of upcoming technology, functionality and releases.

What is the importance of innovation and creativity in the agenda of a CIO?

Innovation and creativity are large parts of my agenda for supporting the evolution of Visilab’s business model.

My role is to provide insight into digital trends, innovations and growth opportunities. We are now a very digitally oriented company, and this approach is embedded in all departments of the business.

I have to continually provide input on digital and technological issues; I think of this input in terms of education, as this is not a one-time approach but rather a constant discussion point that needs to be assessed strategically and tactically as the business changes.

Within the last 24 months, Visilab has launched many innovative projects by implementing augmented reality, deploying iPod-based inventory-management solutions and prototyping IoT devices.

We are now working to shift our shops from a traditional, computer-based sales solution to a mobile, tablet-based solution, and we are developing a new app inspired by gamification concepts.

What are the 3 best tips you would give an IT-manager to be successful in the digital age?

Digital technology is just another disruption; for as long as businesses have existed, they have had to deal with disruption. Technology has usually enabled disruption, but the power of IT is undoubtedly much more relevant in the digital era than it was before.

Every organization needs a single business strategy, and CIOs should provoke debate and extend capabilities.

Therefore, here are my three pieces of advice:

  • Engage with your business and position yourself as a digital expert, not just a technology provider.
  • Anticipate IT trends by develop a strong network of start-ups and by networking with your peers.
  • Launch new initiatives, develop prototype solutions and market both your department and yourself.

In summary, an IT department can’t be successful without a CIO who knows well what each user and business does. Walk in their shoes any chance you get and get involved in their businesses. Don’t just do IT for IT’s sake.

What does the CIO AWARD mean for you? Why is it important to honor successful IT departments?

Receiving the CIO Award would be a recognition of my team’s collective efforts in reimagining the retail experience in a digital world. This has been an all-encompassing journey that has included changing our business’s culture and our people’s mind-sets, restructuring our technological infrastructure, and leveraging data and cloud solutions to create simple, seamless experiences for our customers and employees.

Furthermore, gaining external recognition is key in fostering internal initiative and teamwork and in ensuring that our projects gain the appropriate traction.

Want to know who the Swiss #TopCIOs 2017 are? Meet Marc Besson and 150 more high level IT executives the 6th Confare Swiss CIO SUMMIT on September 26th in Zurich at www.ciosummit.ch



How does Digital Transformation affect your company?

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