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Retail transformation being held back by outdated infrastructure

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The limitations of legacy infrastructure are forcing retailers to reconsider their plans for in-store tech. According to a study commissioned by retail software provider Zynstra, 98 percent of retailers would use more new tech if deployment was simpler.

Old tech holding back transformation

20 percent of the 308 U.S. and U.K. retail tech decision makers surveyed said they’ve had to postpone or cancel the launch of new in-store tech as a result of infrastructure limitations. Technologies such as augmented reality are set to transform the retail space but are currently being restricted by the constraints of their predecessors.

Retailers are looking to new IT as a way of improving efficiency, offering a modern customer experience and enabling new innovation. As Retail Dive reports, Zynstra found most decision makers have “low confidence” that their tech stack can achieve these aims. This is creating pressure across the industry as retailers find themselves unable to implement their in-store tech visions.

Challenges to retail innovation

The survey found several specific challenges impede the deployment of new applications. Budgetary restrictions account for most of the delays, with 48 percent of respondents finding digital transformation costs higher than expected. Difficulty in finding skilled IT experts is the next biggest problem, with 35 percent of retailers struggling to find the talent needed to maintain in-store IT.

In addition to these problems, retailers are still yet to embrace distributed models for their core IT infrastructure. This makes it hard to manage and deploy the technologies that are used in their business. Almost half (49 percent) of respondents surveyed said they cannot easily make IT changes across all their branches, with 32 percent treating individual stores as their own IT installations. The lack of flexibility makes the introduction of new tech a significant challenge.

“It is clear that IT decision makers in the retail space are going the extra mile to support customer experience improvement initiatives and respond to seasonal demands, despite facing significant challenges. But best efforts and squeezing the last drops of performance out of existing infrastructure is no longer enough,” said Zynstra CEO Nick East. “With the customer experience, and particularly the in-store customer experience, fast becoming the key competitive differentiator, it is clear that retailers need a more effective way for IT to support improvement initiatives.”

Cross-industry issues

The roadblocks encountered by retailers during digital transformation will be familiar to businesses across most industries. Recent studies have repeatedly found enterprises are struggling to implement their digital strategies, with most being impacted by one or several common stumbling points.

The digital skills shortage, industry competition and restrictive legacy tech are the most regularly cited concerns of transforming businesses, so enterprises should more carefully plan and research new technologies before beginning implementation. Even strategies that look good on paper can fail if there isn’t a coherent structure that defines how they will be developed, deployed and maintained for long-term use.

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Toronto makes the shortlist for Amazon’s HQ2, alongside 19 rivals

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Amazon has announced the shortlist of cities that could host its second North American headquarters, known as HQ2. The company received 238 proposals from locations across the region. It’s now narrowed the list to a total of 20 cities, including Toronto.

Technical talent

Toronto is the only location outside the U.S. to have made it to the shortlist. Amazon opened the application process last September, giving cities across North America the opportunity to support up to 50,000 high-paying jobs.

It will be a complete second headquarters for the company, providing extensive economic growth opportunities to the successful candidate city. Amazon will invest over $5 billion as it develops the facility.

Toronto is the only Canadian location to have made it to the shortlist. Canada is establishing itself as a leader in several areas of emerging technology, including artificial intelligence. Amazon is likely to have retained Toronto as an option because of the availability of technical talent around the city. The arrival of the company would further boost the already thriving Canadian tech scene.

Amazon’s original requirements for HQ2 stipulated it must be built near a metropolitan region of over one million people with availability of technical talent. The company also wished to have direct access to commuter transit and an airport not more than 45 minutes away. Toronto has evidently satisfied these first requirements but it will now be in competition with urban areas across the U.S.

“Enthusiasm and creativity”

The other 19 shortlisted cities are distributed across the U.S., including locations on the east and west coasts. Pennsylvania is the only state that features twice on the list, with both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh potential candidates. Across the country, cities including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and two regions in the vicinity of Washington, DC have made it through the first stage of Amazon’s application process.

The company thanked all 238 initial applicants for their interest, saying they showed “tremendous enthusiasm.” It evaluated every proposal it received based on predefined criteria. Amazon will now work more closely with the 20 shortlisted cities to obtain detailed information on their proposals. It needs to establish whether the community can feasibly support the scale of its building and hiring ambitions.

“Thank you to all 238 communities that submitted proposals. Getting from 238 to 20 was very though – all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” said Holly Sullivan, Amazon Public Policy. “Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”

Amazon’s currently headquartered in Seattle with regional satellite offices across the globe. The company employs over 540,000 people globally and has invested $100 billion in its infrastructure over the past five years. Amazon said it expects to conclude the competition to host HQ2 during 2018.

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Belgian telco chooses Infosys to lead its digital transformation

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Belgium-based telco Proximus has announced it is partnering with Indian IT services provider Infosys to digitally transform its business. The company will move to cloud-based solutions to improve its agility and efficiency, replacing 40 legacy platforms.

Infosys to transform Proximus IT and financial departments

Proximus and Infosys detailed their major collaboration this month, describing it as a way to “simplify and remodel” Proximus’ portfolio of products. The program, called Greenfield Excite, will take multiple years to complete and will digitally transform almost every area of Proximus’ business.

Infosys will provide technology to overhaul Proximus’ internal systems and IT methodologies. Existing IT infrastructure will be replaced with several modern Infosys-supported platforms. Proximus’ tech stack will be rebuilt around cloud-based solutions including Salesforce, CloudSense and ServiceNow.

Technology will also be deployed to streamline Proximus’ financial departments. New software will assist when generating quotes and sales, invoicing customers and placing orders. This is expected to considerably accelerate Proximus’ lead-to-cash cycle by removing old inefficiencies in its processes.

“We are committed to our program Excite that will transform the way we sell professional services to our enterprise clients,” said Proximus Chief Information Officer Geert Goethals.

“Through Excite we expect to establish greater agility, collaboration and bring in superior quality and efficiency in the way IT and business interacts. As part of this initiative, we have entrusted the co-responsibility of transforming our IT systems to Infosys, as our teams work together to deliver objectives of this program over the next years.”

Proximus switching to cloud-based systems to keep pace with competition

The digital transformation initiative will see at least 40 of Proximus’ legacy IT systems consolidated into six new cloud-based platforms.

The resulting centralization will offer Proximus enhanced management capabilities, improved security and a more reliable IT network. It should make insights more visible, enabling further optimizations to be made to the telco’s operating efficiency.

The telecoms industry is one of the most advanced when it comes to digital transformation. The Dell Digital Transformation index ranks telecommunications as the most mature industry in terms of its digital transformation efforts.

Proximus’ decision to embark on a complete digitalization initiative will enable it to keep pace with competitors as the digital economy materializes. With the restrictions of legacy tech left behind, Proximus will be able to scale more freely and start to utilize emerging technologies such as AI and hyper-scale cloud computing.

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Digital skills gap impacts 54 percent of businesses

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A shortfall of technically skilled workers is threatening to upheave digital transformation.

A new report from Capgemini and LinkedIn has found 54 percent of businesses are now feeling the pressure from the digital skills gap.

Technologies such as AI, IoT and cloud computing are evolving rapidly as they’re deployed inside more organizations. Skills training can’t keep up with the pace of development, creating a growing demand for capable digital talent.

Human talent crucial to business transformation

As reported by Diginomica, CapGemini and LinkedIn found 54 percent of 1,200 global organizations said they’ve been affected by the skills shortage. This has resulted in them having to revise their digital transformation plans, causing a subsequent loss in competitive advantage.

While many transformation strategies include automation as an element, it’s clear human talent remains critical to successful deployments.

The survey identified six key areas that firms can improve on to attract more skilled workers.

These include:

  • Align leadership on a talent strategy and the unique needs of digital talent
  • Diversify recruiting approach
  • Create an environment that prioritizes and rewards learning
  • Chart a clear career development path
  • Give digital talent the power to implement change
  • Provide flexible and collaborative ways of working.

 

Employees willing and eager to upskill

The study authors found employees are generally willing to learn new capabilities. Most respondents expressed a desire to keep their skills current, with 55 percent saying they’d leave a role with an employer unwilling to provide training.

Importantly for firms looking to attract talent, 58 percent said they’d be more likely to apply to a company that prioritizes digital skills development. Accessible workplace learning initiatives are therefore a critical strategy component for businesses looking to attract and retain digital talent.

“In an increasingly digital economy, those organizations that bridge the talent gap will enjoy a competitive edge over those who don’t,” wrote CapGemini and LinkedIn in the report. “A defined digital strategy that meets both business objectives and the preferences of digital talent is critical for a sustainable and successful digital transformation.”

With competition for digital talent only set to increase over the next few years, companies should start their training initiatives now to retain their leading edge. Maintaining agility in the digital economy will require flexible upskilling programs that encourage independent learning and improve recruitment effectiveness.

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