IT's New Mission in the CG Industry

Retail teams, marketing execs and c-level officers all expect near-instant access to seamless data derived from a variety of resources. And who does the CG organization turn to? IT. In order to balance their daily IT problem-solving responsibilities with their ever-growing data provision responsibilities, most CG organizations purchase a demand data solution. But here’s the rub — what scores high marks for IT, doesn’t necessarily score high marks for the people who actually need to work with the data.

CG organizations are increasingly becoming “learning organizations” — relying on accurate customer behavior data and insights to drive their S&OP strategies. CG organizations are also focusing more on accountability — holding teams and individuals responsible for attaining business metrics that are aligned with specific business objectives using timely data that drives strategic business decisions. The question is, does IT understand the requirements of each team’s analytics needs?

When reviewing demand data solutions, IT departments tend to focus on the technical side of a product’s positioning. From an IT perspective, they’ll choose the product with the best database infrastructure — IT is, quite naturally, primarily concerned with getting the actual POS data into a database. If the software successfully and routinely uploads POS data into the database, IT feels their mission has been accomplished. And — to some extent — it has been.

But then look around to see how many members of the retail team are actually using the demand data solution and you’ll see a different perspective. Numerous retail team members utilize only the most superficial tools of their demand data solution. They take extracts out of the system and then build their own spreadsheets. Or, even worse, they continue to use the retailer’s portal to extract data and populate their own spreadsheets. What have they gained? Nothing.

The problem is that organizations have to communicate their business objectives. They need to clarify how “business is done” within their organization — why they need the data they need, how they analyze that data and in what format that data is most useful. Does IT understand that Target uses its own Item IDs, not UPCs? Do they realize that Target wants reports aggregated based on its unique fiscal calendar (not Wal-Mart’s fiscal calendar)? Is it clear to IT that each retailer has its own unique department and category hierarchies? While retail teams may understand that retailers each have their own unique language, the majority of IT departments do not. Inability to tailor reporting to the retailer’s business specifics is a show-stopper. IT cannot provide solutions for their organization if they don’t understand how the data that’s gathered needs to be analyzed.

Ultimately, the mission needs to change in order to meet everyone’s needs. The mission can start with “let’s be certain we’re able to gather clean data into a database,” but it has to finish with “and then make certain the analytics exist for our retail sales teams to gain insights into consumer behaviors and preferences that drive sales.”  IT business objectives need to change — with demand analytics solutions that meet its organizational and retail team specific KPIs.