By  on January 12, 2005

What’s next? What’s new? What technology trends are taking shape in your world that others may not yet have keyed in on? When WWD put this open-ended question to six senior technology executives, their responses were, well, all over the place — from radio frequency identification (RFID) to customer relationship management.

Ron Ehlers, senior vice president and chief information officer, Pacific Sunwear of California:
“We are at the very beginning stages of developing an online store for our d.e.m.o business, which is our hip-hop concept. We view our online business to be as much of a marketing vehicle as it is another channel of distribution, and that is important to our growth. The question is what do we need to do with existing systems to support that business, and what do we need to do to our hardware to support the growth we have planned, as far as capacity?”
Technologies to watch: Secure wireless communications.

Peter Burrows, svp, cio, Reebok International:
“The pendulum is swinging back to centralization of infrastructure and that requires your infrastructure to be much more robust. It can never go down. In a distributed [computing] world, you had none of your eggs in the same basket from an infrastructure standpoint. Now, you’ve got all your eggs going back into one basket. Every day we live with threats — people are going to hack us, steal things, break things. There is always the threat that something is going to attack your infrastructure. It is becoming a much more complex place for the person running systems for the company.”
Technologies to watch: High-speed connectivity to stores; customer relationship management; computing on demand; point of sale.

Phillip Maxwell, svp, cio, Neiman Marcus Group:
“A challenge is pinpointing the solution that really solves a problem and that requires a lot of analysis of the supposed ‘solutions’ that are out there. To be a good cio is to align yourself with the business, figure out what they need, come up with solutions and deliver against them. It’s more important [now] because people are watching their spending and more things are moving faster, so it’s even more critical to be in tune with where the business wants to go.”
Technologies to watch: Customer data management/data mining tools; RFID.Paul McFarren, svp, cio, United Retail Group:
“Collaboration — absolutely across the enterprise. This is where the next generation of efficiency will come from, breaking down the organizational barriers through integration technology. Clearly, business processes will have to change as well. Many executives on the business side can be territorial, though. It is hard to walk up to a gmm and say, ‘You know what? A lot of the functions in your world are having a dramatic effect across the hall. Perhaps we should look at the nature of the relationship between your organization and theirs.’ This is hard for people.”
Technologies to watch: Integrated design tools; optimization software; customer relationship management.

Michael Stanek, chief financial officer, Northern Group Retail:
“I think retail cfo’s are starting to understand technology better and both sides [financial and IT] are starting to understand value drivers. [However] I see projects crumble because IT does not want to take on a new project. My thought is: If you think it will add significant value to the bottom line, and you are the financial officer of the company, how can you accept that answer?”
Technologies to watch: Assortment planning software; RFID; solutions to optimize store labor.

Jeffrey Orton, cio, vp, logistics, Wilsons The Leather Experts:
“The extended enterprise. Collaborative processes, believe it or not, are the big deal. When you partner with another company, you open the kimono and figure out what each company’s strength is for a process and you figure out how to make that more effective. I really see that working. It just takes a lot of effort. It’s hard because you are dealing with people. We are a funny group, people.”
Technologies to watch: Web services; assortment planning.

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