January 31, 2023

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Pittsburgh and privately owned grocery chain giant Eagle, with 34,000 employees across 570 locations, rushed to provide new digital experiences and shopping capabilities for its customers during the deeply challenging early months of the pandemic. And this is during the time Ball joined in June 2020.

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“The pandemic has definitely accelerated the growth and adoption of online shopping, and that has definitely accelerated the landscape and breadth of offerings that we have,” he says. “We had to mature very quickly to handle the scale and scope of demand and the ability to personalize digital interactions with households and customers.”

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With annual revenue of around $11 billion, Giant Eagle also decided to dissolve its corporate office not temporarily but permanently. So this is a completely virtual enterprise, and all efforts were made to maintain the close-knit culture of Giant Eagle, as well as transform the culture into one that is more proactive and engaged with business partners. Be vocally aligned.

“We have worked really hard as a technology group to walk a mile in the shoes of our business partners, and understand what kind of objectives they are trying to accomplish,” he says. “We’re here to help you succeed, and that goes a long way in deepening relationships where they support and help us succeed and vice versa. They know we’re there for their Are there to do it with.

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Kirk Ball, EVP and CIO at Giant Eagle

giant eagle

Another evolving priority is their ability to effectively manage data and build an analytics platform that provides insight into the stories being told by the data, and in turn, reveals those stories to decision makers across various functions in the business. Is.

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“We give them more opportunity to peer around the corner to see how trends develop in their particular area so that they can either improve or accelerate in a particular way, whether it’s increasing a category of sales. or our supply chain in terms of driving some efficiency,” he says. “That analytics platform continues to grow in importance.”

CIO Leadership Live host MaryFran Johnson recently spoke with Ball about effective digital retail strategies, aligning with CEOs, and optimizing the customer experience. Watch the full video below for more details.

On the CEO as an enabler: I haven’t worked with other CEOs in the grocery retail landscape, but as a CEO, [Laura Karet] Unbelievably awesome. She is very curious and takes a genuine interest in technology. Whether it’s the ability to personalize the customer experience, creating a very rich loyalty program to interact with customers, using technology to drive efficiency and effectiveness for our team members, or her analytical abilities, she believes are inside that technology is a competitive differentiator in our industry. It is wonderful to work with someone like this. He and the entire executive leadership team have been a big proponent of investing in technology so that we can create competitive differentiation in the marketplace.

On IT talent: When I came here, I recognized that we have a lot of talented people. However, in many cases, they needed a little more help, encouragement and empowerment. I think the pandemic helped us realize that all of our team members in North America remained very productive, or even gained a little productivity, as we moved to a fully remote work situation. I think it helped set the mindset of the organization to say whether you’re in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or wherever, let’s continue to try and expand the areas in which we search for talent. We then embarked on the journey of opening a Global Competence Center in Bangalore, India as we recognized that there is a wealth of talent there. We are now up to 125 team members, but are looking for more. We will still have a rich, strong presence in North America but this allows us to build a global technology team. It highlights different cultures and approaches to technology. I think it enhances the potential of the whole team.

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On emerging tech trends: One thing I’m extremely interested in, and I think we’re curious about in our organization, is augmented reality; Virtual reality may be a bit further out. I estimate that up to 95% of the business for grocers happens in the store setting. This means there are many opportunities to continue enriching the experience. So how do you animate inanimate objects in a store to create a deeply immersive experience for customers when they walk into that store? Added to the ability to bring additional information about the product to life on the shelf is promotional information. I can tell you where the source was from, how long an item has been on the shelf, some things you might not know you can do with the product, and so on. The potential for augmented reality is pretty interesting. Once we figure out ways to put on contact lenses or glasses that can see that virtual reality and make it a hands-free experience, I think there’s something to it.

On data analytics: One of the first things we’ve done is build a master data management capability. What did this result in, for example, do we no longer have people with different reports than others on the same topic, who then spend time arguing because there is no master of record for that particular data object? The system is not. We’re also giving people introspection into different sets of data, the way the business operates, so they don’t have to take one set of data. The way business runs, you have to look at all that information together to make collective sense. Do you have the right product in the right location at the right price to make the right margin? Putting together data objects in the way the business operates has been very impactful for our business partners to better understand item and product margins, how products are moving through a particular store, and whether our Have the right products in the right stores to match the tastes and preferences of that local community.

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On leadership: I was always big about walking up to people and stopping and being informal. And I think you take it for granted a little bit. I realized, as soon as we got into the virtual world, how important it is to have that frequency of communication when you can’t do it in person. But it’s still important. So I meet with the people I work with directly three times a week, and the leadership team once a week. I also meet with the entire enterprise group once every three weeks. So there is a frequency of communication because it is important that those you work with are noticed, recognized and listened to. The whole experience with our Global Competence Center has confirmed this. It is very important for people to be able to hear their ideas and contribute to the development of the strategy so that it becomes their strategy, not my strategy. He has so much power. People buy in and get excited when they get a chance to contribute like this.

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