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KEDGE Business School - Shanghai Jiao Tong University Global MBA Programme
Amer Sports CIO in Asia Pacific region (Amer Sports is a worldwide sporting brands management company that provides advanced sporting technology goods for professional athletes and sports enthusiasts. The enterprise owns Salomon, Wilson, Atomic, Arc'teryx, Mavic, Precor, Suunto and other internationally recognised sporting brands).
In Tony’s point of view, nowadays, as the digital transformation is sweeping the globe, the IT department has become one of the functions that are greatly influenced by the trend. Therefore, he holds that the practitioners should not only master the latest IT technologies but simultaneously look into the demands for business development to build up a comprehensive knowledge base. To this end, Tony got full participation in the e-businesses and frequently visited the offline stores to intuitively experience the impact of digital transformation on business and to better understand the consumer behaviour patterns. In the meantime, he took time and efforts to attend the KEDGE – SJTU Global MBA programme to get to know the outstanding alumni from different industries and different functions. Via the communication with professors, coaches and alumni, he stored new knowledge, discovered the latest information and developed new strategies to meet the challenges brought about by digital transformation.
Business practices: When the digital transformation is no longer a choice but the only way forward
In the era of rapid digital transformation, the digitalisation process differs from different types of enterprises. But it is no longer a choice but the only way forward for any growing business.
When I lead my team to operate the IT departments in modern retail enterprises, I deeply think of the following questions: What else can we do after the completion of a solid foundation of information systems (such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), etc.)? Actually, "new retail" is not a new concept for us, but to what extent our information system has directly improved the customers’ experience? The so-called breakthrough is to go beyond the IT realm. As a department leader, I chose to visit offline retail stores, communicate with the sales clerks and observe the consumers’ behaviours, to find out whether what we believed to be the advanced systems "helped" the retail businesses. Actually, we will always be astonished by the answers because the salesclerks still complain that the system is not suitable for actual use. The users’ experience is always one of the biggest motivations that drive me to improve the professional service that we provide.
As for the e-business, the young consumers have become the main audience for online retail. The Millennial Generation has drawn great attention and the reasons are as follows: they fully enjoy the benefits of China’s economic growth, and their growing environment greatly influenced by the one-child policy enables them to have easy access to the purchasing power of their parents and thus their consumption capacity becomes significant; they emphasize the individuality and are willing to try new things and characterised by the strong awareness of the brands’ reputation. They are the “Internet generation” and the traditional customer services can no longer fully meet their needs, so we begin to take "the artificial intelligence (AI)" into consideration.
Besides the AI-based Chatbot, AI is helpful to retail businesses in many aspects. For example, it can intelligently recommend the right products to satisfy the customers’ need on the e-shop website according to their historical searching data and online behaviours. It helps the marketers to learn the consumers’ needs at a more micro level based on the detailed information such as social profiles, activities, weather, and behaviours. It can provide more accurate sales analysis and manage the supply chain by analysing the existing business intelligence systems and tons of available data. More importantly, customers can thus have an experience of "targeted" and "personalised" services.
In fact, the business IT innovation is a pretty big problematic issue. Prior to the specific technologies, the positive and open thinking mode should be considered at first, which requires that we select some backbone members in the first place as it is not easy to change the mindsets of all the members of the existing team.
Secondly, an innovation monitoring mechanism should be built up. In the past, the realisation of an IT innovation idea was an extremely long process. From idea to prototype to final commercialisation, the whole process takes at least 9-12 months including all the time spent on the approvals and lobbying. However, it seems that this model is no longer able to adjust itself to the current situation. Nowadays a more agile and efficient model is a must to achieve the realisation of the IT innovation ideas from 0 to 1. After all, the innovation is not an idle theorizing. Ultimately, it should be down to earth. In this regard, the domestic enterprises have done more and the environment and achievements of innovations in China are better.
As for the development direction of the business information system, several aspects of innovation should be noted including cloud computing, artificial intelligence, block chain etc.
Stay open and embrace change
As for me, keeping an open mind is crucial because it allows me to learn from merits of different people when communicate with them. It is exactly the open mind that encourages us to achieve the technology innovations.
As head of the IT department, I also exerted my great efforts to look into and learn the latest technology. For example, many people are talking about the block chain, but how many people can clearly explain how block chain helps the enterprises to solve the problems occurred in the process of development? In addition to the daily reading, a better understanding of the technology can also be gained from going out of the office and communicating with the technical service vendors and experts of different fields. In an age of lifelong learning, the IT managers should be equipped with an open mind to actively embrace changes and the ability to pick up the good plans that can really help improve the core competitiveness of enterprises.
What’s more, keep exercising is also a must for success because health is wealth. Indeed, the leaders should have senior qualifications and competitive abilities, but the physical health weighs the same. From Senior Business Solution Manager in Adidas to Director of IT/IS in China of LVMH Fragrance and Cosmetics Department, and then to CIO in the Asia Pacific region in Amer Sports, the business trips have become a very important part of my daily work. Different time zones, irregular routines, and high-intensity work, one can hardly face these challenges without good health condition.
Every minute that you spent on exercising, every calorie you burned, and every effort you make, will lead you towards success. As the old saying goes, "All efforts are not made for nothing and difficulty is the nurse of the greatness."
Reprinted from Shanghai Airlines Apr. 2018
Original Chinese copy by Ms. BIAN Lingli