- 6 Jun 2011
What Merchandising and IT teams can learn from one another
Having been in the pretty unique position of transferring from Karen Millen’s merchandising team to the IT team, I believe there’s a great opportunity for these departments within retail businesses to learn from each other and deliver greater results for the company. As customers became more demanding and trading conditions more difficult the Merchandise teams rely increasingly upon the IT department to provide flexible, responsive systems which support fast delivery of product to market and provide product performance data as soon as possible.
IT teams are involved in all aspects of the supply chain and wider business, resulting in an in depth knowledge of the processes and systems as a whole. Tapping into this knowledge offers the merchandising teams a great opportunity to ensure a holistic approach to resolving issues and improving systems. The IT team aid the merchandising team when any system change requests are made and any systems training required. However it is important for Merchandisers to recognise the challenges that developments pose, alongside the opportunities created by them. The highly logical and process driven nature of IT departments can be invaluable for Merchandisers when planning user groups, reviews and planning future best practise.
Equally; understanding the business from the merchandising perspective means a greater understanding of the wider trading challenges. Ensuring that IT strategy is aligned with the needs of the key business drivers is crucial in ensuring that IT developments support the growth of the company and the ability to trade competitively. Due to the highly seasonal nature of the retail industry, IT teams must recognise the life cycle of products and how they drive process. Also they must appreciate that this cyclical environment affects merchandising strategy and the way that the team works; meaning that some of the demands they make on the IT department will be high priority, and require an immediate response. The merchandising teams tend to be highly driven by their department performance, sales and margin, and any IT applications need to facilitate easy visibility of this. The IT team are tasked with providing systems that cater to external customer expectations, such as multiple purchasing channels, alongside internal requirements.
So in summary, many merchandising and IT departments at large retailers are already adept at recognising each others’ key requirements and motivations. However, the more the teams are able to work together and the more closely their strategies are aligned, the more joined up and ultimately the more successful the retail business can be as a whole.