Managing Change, Starting With the CIO

Target Corp. is among the top three or four U.S. retailers, depending on who's doing the ranking. That's a coveted position in such a volatile industry. To continue climbing, Target has chosen expansion on multiple fronts: into city centers, into mobile, into Canada and on it goes. IT is a critical player in each move, if not a keystone.

CIO Insight: Do you have large-scale IT education and training support?

Jacob: In the early part of some of our team members' careers, we have the Technology Leadership Program where we move them throughout the organization in a series of assignments to give them diverse experience.

And we're really great, I'd say, at inviting in [vendor partners] to discuss technology and trends to help our team members stay current.

CIO Insight: How much does formal education play into improving change management?

Jacob: I don't have a percentage in terms of how much education plays into effective change management. I think experience plays into preparing for change management more than anything else. Target is a learning culture, and I think that's the mindset you need to be effective with change management.

CIO Insight: Is there is an intersection of change management and ROI?

Jacob: We always factor in ROI even if there isn't a specific ROI associated with a task. We do think about the cost of making a change in terms of the time it takes to do good training, about the cost of ramp-up time, of new tech, the cost of retiring technologies.

CIO Insight: Given how IT is at the nexus of big change, you have to make some hard choices. Not everyone benefits from changes, after all. Ultimately, the CEO signs off on major projects, but how do you decide who's going to take the brunt of a change?

Jacob: I think of change in categories: people, process and technology. It's a fairly common way to think of it. But very, very seldom does technology sit on its own. It's when you marry the people, process and the technology that you really drive wholesale change.

That's how we got the TTS Transformation done.

[Ed. note: Transformation, begun in 2009, was a strategy to create an organization that's continuously evolving to become more agile and efficient. The process is largely completed, and has impacted thousands of internal and external partners globally. The organization is reluctant to talk about any return on investment, given that the effort has influenced every project life cycle since Transformation's adoption, it has said improved team effectiveness and efficiencies and, thus how nimbly Target rolls with market changes.]

I was really looking at our resources so that we could drive a 20 percent increase in the productivity of our architecture team. We were changing the way people's jobs came together, and implementing change in a way that allowed us over the last couple of years to trend up on team member satisfaction, an internal measure that we have.

Another really great example that I think of is our going international, opening stores in Canada. That's another area where technology is a key element to our success.

But it's really about framing the move in terms of people, process and technology. We're figuring out how to operate differently given that we have roughly half of what most people's experience would suggest is needed to open the number of stores we're opening. We've untethered our team to allow them to run toward this goal, which is very different compared to how we operate traditionally.

CIO Insight: You're moving aggressively in a number of technological directions. Are there times when you are uneasy about a change you have to ask of your guests?

Jacob: I can't think of an example where we would knowingly make a change we didn't believe was right for the guest experience. We're absolutely focused on what the business strategy is, what the guest experience will be around that strategy and how we pull all that together.

So many people that I meet along the way, when I share that I work at Target, their first response is, "Oh, I love Target." That's further affirmation of the fact that we keep the guest experience front and center for us as we execute on our strategies or in our technologies.

CIO Insight: You took a big gamble there a couple years ago, when Target decided to abandon Amazon.com's e-commerce platform for one you built yourselves. How was that change go?

Jacob: It took us just over two years to get off the Amazon platform and onto our own. Overall, it went well.

Over a thousand team members were involved in the effort. We learned a lot and that goes back to the learning culture of target - the way we react to those bumps. We had a few site-stability issues, so we formed a dedicated team within our global team working to resolve those issues - literally 24/7. And we really rallied our vendors to our cause.

This article was originally published on 10-22-2012
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.

Click for a full list of Newsletterssubmit