In today’s business climate, innovation is critical to business success, and IT leaders are pressed to consistently innovate at a pace that the business has come to expect.
IDG’s Derek Hulitzky sat down with Eileen Mahoney, global CIO at PVH, at the CIO 100 Symposium and Awards virtual event to discuss her approach to IT innovation and how her team delivers business success.
Mahoney’s role at PVH, which owns the iconic brands Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, extends beyond the technology suite to include business process and program enablement and transformation. The company won a 2021 CIO 100 award for the project “Accelerating North America E-commerce.”
Following are edited excerpts of that conversation. The full video of the conference session is below.
Derek Hulitzky: What does it take to be a leader in an organization today where innovation is so critical?
Eileen Mahoney: I think first, making sure you really understand the business that you’re supporting is pretty critical.
The second thing is trying to go through and look at what the “to be” should be or you’d like it to be. However, how you’re going to get there in stages. And from those learnings, make course corrections and really try to allow the innovation to also happen a bit organically. Because it’s not only the change of the technology of the solution, but you also have to read your business partners to make sure that they’re on board the journey for the innovation.
It’s also really critical to make sure that that innovation really hits on a business problem or a use case, and it comes to life relatively quickly. So then you get the energy and the momentum going.
Can you tell us about the “Accelerating North America E-commerce” project that won our CIO 100 award and how it delivers business value?
The infamous March of ’20, everybody’s world changed, and now our retail stores were closed. So now we have inventory that’s sitting in our e-commerce warehouse, but the majority of our inventory is sitting in our stores, which are closed.
When we initially approached the business and said, “Hey, we have an idea…. We’ll build technology and allow you to fill orders from store.” They initially said, “No,… you know what, I don’t know how long we’re really going to be closed, maybe we should ride it out a little bit.”
So it was that convincing journey that we had to go on, and we decided that we would stand up an [MVP] and show them how it would work. So, in a very short period of time, 2-1/2 weeks from when they agreed that they would allow us to show them how it could work, we took a number of styles in the Calvin Klein underwear group (everybody was in leisure, they’re at home, they wanted comfort). And we said, okay, let’s use those styles and turn those on so that we could fulfill from store. The very first day that we did it, we had 1000 orders that went to the store.
The business could not believe it. Now all of a sudden, you had the inventory available that was in the full chain, not just what was in our e-commerce business. And then it was okay … what other styles can we add?
Looking back, can you tell us what the organization is learning from this project?
I think the first thing is, we’re not really sure what is in our consumers’ head and how they want to come back shopping. So we really have to look at and understand and set some key milestones and metrics to really see how we need to operate going forward.
Also starting to see with our owned and operated businesses, but with our wholesale partners, how their businesses are trending, and again, how we want to partner with our wholesale partners to be able to help them enable and unlock some of the possibilities, where before this, it was, Okay, well, we’ve shipped to our wholesale partner, that’s sort of on them.” It’s much more of a collaboration now of understanding how consumers are shopping and how we want them to shop our brands.
So we’re also sharing a lot more of the insights and data that we have with our partners to be able to make sure that we’re all sort of [learning] from the journey and moving forward, and it’s a win for both.