Avoiding The Weakest Link

Hudsons Bay Map circa 1917
Hudson Bay Map circa 1917

If you don’t already read RetailWire, you should go sign up now.

One thing they really do well is ask insightful questions drawn from the day’s news.  A recent topic was Janet Schalk’s move from Kohl’s to Hudson’s Bay.  It really got me thinking about how important technology decisions are to the long-term competitive advantage of a retailer.

And that got me thinking as to why this was true.  In my view, the current capabilities of a retailer are the result of thousands of decisions big and small made over the years.  Some of the decisions made long ago constrain today’s operations.

Going forward, successful technologists will avoid creating this problem by choosing much more portable options across the board.  This could be through deployment options (clouds now scale easily and avoid the lock-in from buying hardware), payment options (subscriptions with short cancel clauses vs. enterprise software or long-term subscriptions), and better user experience (much shorter learning curves and smaller switching costs).

The first two are now very widespread – it looks like security concerns are the only real barriers at this point.

I’d say the third is where many battles will be fought.  Its so easy to create applications these days that functionality will become a commodity.  Great user experience driving short learning curves and nominal training requirements will become a huge point of differentiation.

By being portable, avoiding lock-in, and being easy to use, we’ll avoid becoming the pain point for CIOs and drive faster and more widespread adoption.

Image by Wyman Laliberte used under CC BY 2.0

Hello (again) world!


So it looks like ignoring my site for a while has caused fatal errors, including incompatibility between my backups and current WordPress capabilities.  So time to start over.

The timing is good, given I’ve started a new gig as CMO and co-founder of associate.io, a platform for mobile workforce management.  More to come.