We all know how the story goes \u2013 an intractable individual is made to revisit his past, look at his present and recognize what his future could be if he doesn\u2019t change his ways. And now \u201cA Christmas Carol\u201d brings its cautionary tale to the behind-the-scenes business of retail.\nOf course, it\u2019s wrong to cast retailers in the role of Scrooge; while they exist to make a profit, they\u2019re in the business of giving people what they want (albeit at a price), and Christmas would be much less colourful if they stopped. But there are lessons to be learned from the past, quick fixes to make the present work better and strategies to ensure they aren\u2019t left behind in a data-fueled, mobile tech-enabled future.\nChristmas past\nAny Christmas ad from the 1970s to the 1990s shows that back then, it was all about shifting product. Delivering an \u201cexperience\u201d was left to the buyer, who was expected to brave the queues and the weather to pick up what they needed. The \u201cChristmas shopping is a nightmare\u201d trope took hold \u2013 customers were often the least important part of the process.\nChoice was limited \u2013 if items ran out, customers went without. The joy of giving was superseded by the distraction of uncertainty. Arguably, this lack of co-ordination between shopper needs and retail operations was down to the fact that CIOs didn\u2019t really exist in any officially-recognized capacity until the late 1980s\/early 1990s \u2013 the concept of using business and customer data to link departments in any meaningful way to make things easier for buyer and retailer was not on the agenda.\nThe lesson\nNo one wants to return to the days of isolated pockets of paper-based data and no specific expertise at C-suite level to make IT work and information flow throughout the business. There\u2019s no reason (or excuse) for these particular ghosts to still haunt us \u2013 even the most traditional retailers have woken up to the need to make shopping as seamless and painless for the customer as possible.\nChristmas present\nAround ten years ago, with the advent of the first of those John Lewis ads, retailers cottoned on to the fact that it pays to tap into the sentiment and wonder of Christmas rather than just selling to stressed shoppers. Today, customers buy into a feeling \u2013 they\u2019ll only invest if it reflects their own experiences and wishes for the season. Delivering that kind of Christmas means personalizing as much of the journey from browsing to purchase as possible \u2013 and that means data and experience management on an individual level. Simply anticipating peak shopping times to ramp up stock and sales resources and managing queues with mobile payment facilities can make a difference \u2013 go one step further and let staff order online for next-day delivery in-store or at home, check customer profiles and access their wishlists and there\u2019s every chance that they\u2019ll get that special experience they related to in the ads.\nThe lesson\nSmart data management is the key to a happy Christmas and a happy business year \u2013 most IT teams will have started planning for this in January, but the good news is that there\u2019s usually time to do something even if you get started in November. Application and service orchestration has opened up a world of opportunity for speedy integration, and agile project management means you can set up useful, customer-friendly initiatives such as online ordering in-store and mobile PoS in a couple of weeks.\nChristmas yet to come\nThere\u2019s nothing like uncertainty to strike fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned CIOs. Given the rapid evolution of technology with smart capabilities based on user data, today\u2019s investments could be tomorrow\u2019s expensive mistakes. But customer expectations are only going to grow, and the need to deliver something seamless, integrated and, where possible, magical, will become standard. This year\u2019s hastily-deployed campaigns to get the data flowing freely and profitably must be the basis for next year\u2019s ingrained strategies.\nThe lesson\nIf there\u2019s one thing this seasonal story has taught us, it\u2019s that nothing stays the same. While you can\u2019t plan for every eventuality, you can plan for the inevitability of change \u2013 being fleet of foot, agile of process and above all open to the prospect of doing something different with your data will place you in an excellent position to take advantage of that change.\nThere\u2019s no time like the present\nOf course, the overarching lesson is that what you should not do is wait until you have enough regrets that you\u2019re haunted by them. What you do today will make where you are next Christmas so much more interesting.