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In part 1 of this SearchCIO Innovators video, Guess CIO Michael Relich talked about the IT job skills he looks for in prospective employees. Here, he chats about his conversion from iPad skeptic to iPad enthusiast back in 2010. That's when he realized the iOS tablet was potentially the perfect vehicle for a buying team that was visually-minded but also needed, well, stores of data to make the right product decisions. Retail is detail, after all.
The challenge was building a great iPad app that went beyond the standard business intelligence dashboard and allowed buyers to tap into Guess's rich store of e-commerce data.
To read a detailed account of this project, go to "CIO designs an iPad analytics app that mirrors work, speeds decisions."
With this project, were there a lot of technical issues that IT had to solve, or was the breakthrough the idea itself?
Michael Relich: I think the breakthrough was the idea itself. You know we partnered with one of our key vendors, MicroStrategy, which is actually founded by two MIT alums. We had done a lot of work with them on beta projects. And, actually, I was in Cannes in the south of France, and I heard Michael Saylor, [its] CEO, talk. At the time, I thought an iPad was a solution in search of a problem, that it was a toy.
About 15 to 20 minutes into the session, it dawned on me: Wow, what a great platform to consume data! Especially for our buyers, who are mobile and are always on the go. I actually texted back to my procurement guys and said, 'Look, buy three iPads.' That night at the reception, I went to the [MicroStrategy] product managers for their mobile venture and said, 'We want to be your first.'
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So we were one of the first ones they worked with. They probably did, I think, about 50 or 60 mod[ification]s to their core product to satisfy us. At first, it was just like, 'Let's show a dashboard on an iPad.' And we said, 'No. It has to be an application that you can actually go and drill down and you can get back to the current level or get back to home, because these aren't the most technically savvy people. It can't just be a bunch of static dashboards.'
The technology evolved and we have a great partner to do that. But I think the most important piece of success was really my team's relationship with the business. I mean, the buyers respected us, they knew what we could provide and they worked with us very, very closely.
You said you had your team shadow the business people.
Relich: Oh, absolutely. So, my guys just basically were like flies on the wall. And they sat in bestseller meetings. They sat in business review meetings. They went on store visits.
They ended up finding out where the merchandising team was spending time, where their bottlenecks were. And they learned exactly how they would analyze certain stores when they would do visits. So then we actually mirrored the application after the way they worked.
And the beauty to me? I've been doing retail IT since I've been out of college, for a long, long time, and this is the first project I've had people calling on me and begging us to use the application.
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