Leveraging the Power of Cloud to Add Value to Business
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Leveraging the Power of Cloud to Add Value to Business

By Ronald Blahnik, CIO, Hibbett Sport

Cloud is similar to a data center. However, not many understand what it actually consists of. Organizations that were outsourced or dealt with those who started a data center were living this time back in the ’80s. Today, with the help of modern technologies, we can decide how the data moves. With the ability to connect multiple data centers seamlessly into a centralized platform, this new phenomenon has made cloud the place to be for today’s workloads.

The Approach to Identifying the Right Partners

Buying services from a cloud provider is not the primary consideration. Even before approaching a cloud solution provider, companies should determine their goals and evaluate not only the expected business outcomes but also customer experience. It is also crucial to assess whether the capabilities offered by the cloud vendors align with the business and operational requirements. So it’s not necessary that your cloud partner is one among the major cloud vendors, such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon AWS.

"In the event of a cyberattack, your vendor must be in a position to safeguard your data, and protect it from damage"

Strategic Points to Adopt

The ‘Build versus Buy’ conversation has been going on for some time in the IT and Finance arena. According to the new lease accounting rules, you have to treat the assets owned by the vendors almost as owned assets, and therefore, depreciation value has to be calculated accordingly. That has changed the whole conversation around how we treat our internal and external investment decisions. The common connection point for finance, human resource, and operations, however, is our core data center, which allows us to talk to all our applications from a central location. Also, organizations must keep a watch on the vendors’ investments and ask, “Is my vendor spending enough on security?” In the event of a cyberattack, your vendor must be in a position to safeguard your data and protect it from damage.

Impacts of Cloud Technology on Retail

The biggest impact that cloud can have on retail space is in the speed to market. What makes retail players successful though is their ability to observe the market and accommodate the changes as per the market behavior. So it is imperative to build platforms that refresh, upgrade, and replace the traditional, outdated ones. Given the thin margins, the idea of spending loads of capital hours at the peak time of the year—such as Easter Sunday—for retail businesses is advantageous. Retail has always been hard—it’s like forcing your decisions on how much is sufficient and how much is excessive.

Future of the Cloud Technology

There are going to be more competitions in the future, but it sounds counterintuitive given the level of uncertainty in the market. Probably, the reason why we have so many offerings out there is because of Amazon, which has taken over e-commerce. For example, many book retailers are struggling because Amazon invariably has more audience. So the idea of using Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure or any other vendor other than Amazon is often a preference among many senior retail managers.

Actually, it has been observed that Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon AWS are comparatively secure choices for almost every industry. Maybe, it’s more for manufacturing than retail, but the level of services and the agility these big players offer to retail organizations is exceptional, which in turn, helps retailers easily meet the expectations of their customers.

The Customer at the Core

If you’re in retail and you’re not serving the customer, you better be serving someone who is. It is about putting your customer at the center and creating a customer experience that engages and encourages them for repeat business. Ultimately, that is every retailer’s holy grail. However, the challenge that many of them have, particularly in the technology organization, is they tend to be technology-centric, building technology for a technology’s sake as opposed to technology that serves the business and the customer.

Stayed Updated with the Latest Trends

I’m a voracious reader. I build a reading file every week and read my trades and my journal. Of course, I’m electronically connected to many great things. There are information services that I leverage, and that continually send me information. There are companies at the cutting edge of technology that I particularly follow. And there are venues that I’m often invited to present insights on technologies and trends.

Advice to the Decision Makers

Forget the two letters “NO” and identify how to get the “YES”. The solution for me may also be “how much and when” as an answer would do instantly, but the response should not be “NO”. You might end up on a positive note even if you choose not to move forward with something.

Do good judgment, and as a business decision-maker, make sure it strategically aligns with the company’s primary goal, and it is financially sound. If you want to be effective in your company and particularly in this area, you need to handle your portfolio against high, moderate, and low risks so that when it changes, you will have some assistance.

My Thoughts on Cloud Technology

Over the last two decades, my thinking about cloud technology has broadened. Do your due diligence soon, because the cloud is an excellent path to go forward with. Lastly, your data must be protected to ensure that you are compliant and secure.

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