NEW YORK: Health food retailer Whole Foods has taken a business-oriented approach to digital transformation rather than simply adopting cloud and modern technology services to modernise existing IT infrastructure.
Walter Robb, chief executive of Whole Foods, said during enterprise software firm Infor’s Inforum 2016 conference in New York that the retailer approached its digital transformation in such a way as to have a direct impact on the firm's core business.
“When we took inventory a few years back we realised we were just not where we needed to be with critical systems. So we pretty much put everything up on the operating table,” he said. “We’re replacing everything in order to give our customers a better experience.”
Whole Foods started the digital transformation in late 2015 by working with Infor to build a cloud-based digital system that allows the retailer to manage its outlets across the world.
The two companies with expertise in two different industries have built a retail IT system that links the back-office systems of individual stores with customer-facing systems to provide a connection between business operations and how the retailer delivers services.
This has ensured that the company's push towards digital technology transforms the business rather than simply evolves the IT infrastructure.
Such partnerships usually involve a technology vendor simply offering a tweaked version of existing products or services.
However, the relationship between Infor and Whole Foods is more collaborative, and involved the impression left on Whole Food’s leadership by Infor executives, according to Rob, rather than the technology the software firm had to offer.
“The moment we walked into the Infor [boardroom], we met the girl we wanted to marry,” he said. “We feel a cultural connection.”
Digital transformation is the buzz phrase du jour in the enterprise IT world, backed up by major projects, and collaborations between technology companies and organisations from different sectors will become more common as new approaches are explored.
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