Leveraging customer data
The boldest retailers are no longer targeting consumers with promotions based on what’s good for the company (for example, let’s give Joe Average, one of our best customers, a 25 percent discount on Christian rock CDs because we have to sell off overstock in that category), but instead on what the customer really wants and needs, based on past purchases and demographic and psychographic information.
The wow factor
Retailers are increasingly heeding the words of consultant-authors Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore, who advise companies in their 1999 book, The Experience Economy, that the way to gain a competitive advantage is by providing a unique and delightful experience to consumers. For example, REI, with rock climbing walls in some of its stores, has had success selling the outdoor adventure experience. Successful companies such as Best Buy and struggling outfits such as Saks Department Store Group are all looking to provide consumers with positive and memorable shopping experiences, either to sustain a competitive advantage or to bring traffic back to flagging shops.
While most retailers are aggressively discounting merchandise and promoting sales virtually every other week to drive traffic and increase overall revenue at the expense of profit margins, the boldest retailers are holding their own and not lowering their prices. Some successful retailers, such as Pottery Barn and Anthropologie, even seem to be raising prices.
What’s Bold in…Finance
Revamping a legacy IT infrastructure enables bold financial companies to increase efficiency and become more flexible, allowing them to adapt quickly to customer demand for new products and services and to more easily expand operations globally.
Insurers, banks, brokerages and the intermediaries that move money for consumers and investors are blowing apart old ways of doing business, from how they process customer transactions to how internal software applications are developed.
What’s Bold in…Government
Managing people is one of the tougher aspects of public-sector IT. You can’t fire the deadwood and hire who you want. Bold public-sector CIOs are finding ways to rejigger their staffs, to reassign workers and to outsource the work that can’t be completed with the skill set they’ve got. Public-sector unions and rules make this a veritable minefield.
Deploying new technology is a bold move for public-sector CIOs, who tend to be a conservative lot. If the technology fails, the failure is public and sometimes can have catastrophic, even life-threatening, results. Typically, public-sector CIOs are behind the IT curve. The bold take managed risks to bring in the new technology they need.
The bold public-sector CIOs find innovative ways to pay for and contract for services and applications. This typically means being a tough negotiator and a diplomat who can broker deals among groups and agencies that historically have been at odds with one another.
What’s Bold in…Transportation
From trucking companies to airlines, leaders are assuming the risks and costs associated with lessening their dependence on decades-old legacy systems, thereby ultimately increasing their agility and reducing their costs.
Increased transparency for the customer
Bold transportation companies are doing the back-end work of integration in order to improve their customers’ ability to see what’s going on. (For instance, a shipping company allows a customer to know where his package is or even to contact the driver directly.)
Mergers and acquisitions continue across the entire transportation space (airlines, hotels, shipping). Only the bold and smart survive.
What’s Bold in…Health Care
Health-care organizations across the country are building electronic medical records and computerized physician order-entry systems so that physicians can immediately call up a patient’s record, review past medical treatments, tests and prescriptions, and order new ones from their PDAs or office desktops or from laptops at the hospital.
Clinical evidence-based software
Hospitals are also building clinical evidence-based software into these systems so that doctors, faced with a particular diagnosis, can review best practices—and results—before they prescribe treatment. Some regions are also sharing patient data across hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices and pharmacies. The aim is to reduce medical errors and streamline care, thereby saving lives and money.
What’s Bold in…Manufacturing
Extending ERP systems by building Web-based portals that contain important metrics and information about suppliers, customers and the state of the business.
Creating systems that track important events—say, low supplies at a warehouse—and sending notifications to people who can do something about it. Some have intelligent notification. For example, if you don’t respond in 30 minutes, an e-mail goes to your boss.
Product data management
Getting product data integrated across the company from design to manufacturing to selling to logistics and even product returns. Hard to do, and not many companies have done it. Today, most focus on the design process. But it’s the next big thing.
Managing the outsourcing network
Many companies now outsource manufacturing, but few have good systems to manage suppliers and share information and do collaboration. Working on this piece of the outsourcing puzzle is bold.
What’s Bold in…Consumer Products
Revamping supply chains
The boldest companies are using point-of-sale data to predict demand for products and then sharing that data with suppliers and customers.
It’s still a work in progress, but the boldest are using RFID technology to achieve greater clarity about their inventory.
Note Procter & Gamble’s takeover of Gillette. Expect the bold companies to keep acquiring.
What’s Bold in…Automobile Manufacturing
General Motors is forcing vendors to compete for small slices of the GM pie and then partner with rivals on the same projects. In this way, none of the vendors can hold GM over a barrel.
Honda and Toyota have shown that alternative-fuel cars are possible to produce economically. Making hybrid cars in sufficient volume to keep the price reasonable required major changes in how the Japanese companies make cars.