How to be a disruptive IT leader in Fashion

“The role of CIO and being a leader as a CIO is changing. It’s about working in partnership with the business. Speaking the language of the business, being a leader. You are no longer minions doing the bidding of others. But transformers that use technology to lead.” - David Willis, CIO, Gartner

How to Be a Disruptive IT Leader in Fashion

According to the Business of Fashion and McKinsey&Company 2018 ‘State of Fashion’ report, value chain digitalization has become a top priority for fashion executives. However, this is often hindered by the lack of cultural and behavioral transformation needed in companies to accommodate change. Other reported barriers include limited knowledge on digital trends and shortage of talent within the organization. While some fashion companies are still struggling to embrace technology, others are going full speed ahead. Disruptive brands such as Warby Parker, Everlane, and Comme des Garçons are launching their first direct-to-consumer only brands later this year. Luxury powerhouse Gucci just launched its innovation lab, Gucci Artlab, for leather goods. This goes to show - being an IT leader is no longer just about embracing and implementing technology – it is about helping companies disrupt.

Don’t Just Embrace, Disrupt

The new fashion consumer has reshaped the entire fashion landscape, with their demand for faster delivery times, personalized products and omni-channel retail experiences. Consumers are fickle, and fashion companies need to take risks to stand apart from their competitors. In this cutthroat environment, the element of surprise is essential: companies that are able to thrill their consumers with a new digital experience, a product made out of next-generation materials, or, small, on-point collections are the ones who will win their attention and maybe, even their loyalty.

Fashion companies don’t only have to compete with traditional competitors, they also have to think about outdoing smaller labels and startups that are riding the technology wave. One example is AwayToMars, a British/Portuguese company that crowdsource designs and crowdfund their production. Their followers can upload their designs to the site, and whichever receives the most responses will become candidates for crowdfunding. In order to compete with innovative brands such as AwayToMars, CIOs have to rethink their processes from A-Z – not just internally but externally as well, from their ERP systems to the online customer experience.

When it comes to embracing technology – IT professionals have to source for new technology to improve existing processes. But when we talk about disruption, it is about having a vision first and foremost for the company, and then looking for the right technology to put it into place. CIOs play a pivotal role in providing their companies with that vision. This may mean having the courage to challenge the status quo, stepping outside their comfort zones to look at what other competitors are doing and pushing for riskier IT investments.

How to Lead in a World of Disruption

To help their companies stay ahead of competition, CIOs must do what it takes to cultivate an environment that is ready to accommodate disruptive technology. In order to do so, CIOs must transform collaboration, further streamline supply chains, speed up time to market, and create enticing omni-channel experiences. They must have three skill sets:

  1. The Ability to Lead Strategic Business Innovation

By fostering forward thinking, embracing curiosity and elevating all user experiences.

  1. The Ability to Consolidate, Clean, and Analyze Big Data

By using creativity to capture data, managing fragmented data, and forging actionable strategies from data

  1. Champion the Digitalization Process

By ensuring seamless integration of data, processes and IT systems, identifying high-function in current systems, energizing and getting buy-in from leadership

Embrace or disrupt? Or both? It is up to the CIO. CIOs are ambassadors for change – those who are willing to step out of their comfort zones, understand their consumers’ needs and experiment with new technology are the ones who will succeed eventually.