Supermarket retailer, Coles Group, is gearing up for Cloud computing, the consumerisation of IT, and Big Data as the company ramps up an improved IT strategy.
Coles Group IT group general manager, Conrad Harvey, told the audience at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) event in Sydney this week that the retailer had seven major programs in place, including an internal social networking program, the rollout of Cloud computing both within Coles and its customers, and using Big Data to gather better information about customers.
Harvey said that the company was now starting to see technology empowering a change in the interface between them and their customers in a way that is revolutionary.
"If the internet and online shopping was the first wave, the way Web technology is evolving, not just in terms of social networking, but the way that people trawl other internet sites to find prices and then create a common market, is reinventing the way that retail will work in the coming years," he said.
In regards to Coles online shopping, Harvey said this sector was bringing in the revenue of about 12 bricks and mortar stores. And while he said the company had an advantage in that the products it sells are ones that people like to "see, touch and feel", Harvey said the retailer would be "naive" if it did not work out how to embrace online technology.
"We need to reach out to consumers rather than wait for them to come to us, as other businesses build applications and services," he said
Turning to Cloud computing, Harvey said the retailer was interested in using Cloud services to create compute power that it hadn't before, such as pushing data to the Cloud and using devices that would be driven by a Cloud service, rather than a PC.
"The problem with Cloud is that it is just another data centre, so if data is hosted in the Cloud and you have thousands of customers using the Cloud service and it crashes, that can be catastrophic," he said.
"The Cloud leverage into the customer base has got some way to go and has to recover from incidents such as the Sony Playstation Network hacking, but I have no doubt that it will gain traction. That's because people will become more comfortable with being able to access whatever information they need.”
However, Harvey forecasted that there would be a "splitting up of IT" as Cloud services become more available.
"One of the things we can all do better is work out what services we should put in the Cloud versus the services that are always going to be core," he said.
A big fan of the consumerisation of IT, Harvey said he used an iPad, as did many of his staff.
"The challenge for me is how do I leverage my iPad so I can reach out to my team members wherever they are, and how do I do that in a way that gains real productivity, doesn't invade privacy, and allows people to bring their own devices,” he said.