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Can we write off disk if tape isn’t even dead?

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1004.Day 2 Batch 2

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Session Name: Release Cycles In A Real-Time World

Ratnakar Lavu
Audience Member 1
Audience Member 2
Audience Member 3

Announcer 00:04
Completing the 360 view of both vendors and analysts and people using the technology, nothing beats hearing from customers. We’ve got Ratnakar Lavu who is the SVP at Kohl’s that is doing some extremely innovating things, so I think you’ll find this presentation very exciting. Please join me welcoming him out to the stage.
Ratnakar Lavu 00:29
Thank you so much. My name is Ratnakar Lavu. I head up Digital Innovation for Kohl’s. While Kevin talked about LinkedIn, a very innovative company, you would think about Kohl’s as a traditional retailer who is on this journey to making it more innovative and being competitive in the retail space. I’m going to take you through some of the things that we’re doing that we feel are compelling. First is in retail, what’s happening right now is a fundamental shift in the customer’s expectation. The reason for that is she has at her fingertips for the first time, a lot of information… a wealth of information because of all the great technology that is being developed all the technology companies out there. So, from her perspective she can get the merchandise and look at the merchandise, look at the price, look at the details either at our website or our store or at a competitor’s or a store or at a pure play that just started up and then make her purchase decisions. It is imperative, when we’re in retail, to start thinking about how to attract her to our brand. What are the things that she is actually looking for? That is where we are spending a lot of time in terms of what is the experience that we want to provide? What is the value that we want to provide? How do we want her to resonate with our brand? That’s the thing that we’re spending a lot of time and effort on.
Ratnakar Lavu 02:25
In terms of innovation the way we think about it is empowering her. We’re not a high-end retailer where we will a lot of associates who are going to service the customer. What we really want to do is we want to be able to empower her to provide her with the information at the time that she’s making that decision, in terms of the purchase. We also want to create an engaging and an entertaining experience, and a consistent experience across all channels. There’s a lot of talk about omni-channel and we’re taking that journey, too, in terms of what does it mean to create an omni-channel experience for her? We spend a lot of time thinking about what does it mean for her to come into our stores? And by the way, we have 1,300 stores and they’re not going away tomorrow even if many people that digital is going to take over. As well as create a compelling experience for her online either on her mobile phone or on the website or in social and other places. That’s what we’re spending a lot of time thinking about in terms of what is a customer decision journey and that experience that is going to be very compelling for her? In order to do that, we are taking this journey to think about we can’t be the same traditional company that we were. You know, line up all the things, figure out how to launch a rocket ship, take six months or a year, make sure everything is aligned well, and then deploy things into our environment. We’re fundamentally trying to change in how we do things. It is all about agility, it is all about experimentation, it is all about trying things out, failing fast, and failing cheaply too, if we’re going to experiment with things. The other piece of this is we have learned that the silo thinking that had in the past of we know what is really good for the customer, let’s go take six months to a year to build it out, and then show it to her and she likes it, those days are gone, too. What we’re now doing is looking at the competitive landscape, trying to understand what does she want from us? What is she looking for from other retailers like us? Then, kind of figuring out how to innovate and change very quickly. The last piece of this is done is better than being perfect. That’s hard for a traditional retailer like us. We’ve always come from the ilk of being perfect, making sure that POS deployment is really done well across 1,300 stores. We now are in a lot of test and experiment, different markets, different segments and then see what’s working and what’s not working. How do you do that really well? It’s about reducing the cycles. It is about speed of innovation. It is about pushing the technology sack and the architecture so you actually can make changes faster, put things out there, experiment with them, try it out. And then, introduce new products, new features, new capabilities and evolve that experience as quickly as you can. Some will work, some won’t. In fact, probably a majority won’t work, but those that work are really going to be very compelling. The customer will give you high marks for that. We’re taking this journey. We’re also asking the question of things like “what if?” What is we tried this or what if we did this? Our customer actually liked them. Let’s go try it out and see what she has to say.
Ratnakar Lavu 06:26
The big challenge when doing that is this whole speed of innovation and then the stability and reliability that we’re so used to and we’ve always talked about it. We talked about security. We talked about stability. We talked about robust systems. Then here we are saying guess what? Forget about change approval boards. We should be able to change things more quickly. We should be able to push things into an environment more quickly. How do you do that and how do you evolve the organization to be able to do that? That’s the bigger challenge. You have this corporate entity that is used to a structure and an element of change that has come for years and years. By the way, it actually worked really well until now where the customer is actually saying I need more features, more capability, more things from you as a retailer. And the speed of innovation needs to change. That’s a conflict that we’re facing. So, how do you do this well? Obviously, it starts first with a great architecture, a really good architecture. You have to have the right systems, right architecture, right services, highly modular in nature. Then, you have to have a process by which you can actually develop, test, and deploy. We’re doing a lot of work with a company called [inaudible] where we’re leveraging their platform to actually take what we’re building out in terms of code, using that platform to actually do daily builds, spin up a virtual machine, do the deployment, test those using our test scripts and if things fail, guess what? We kick it back so the developer has to take a look at it and address it or deploy it to the next environment. Either an integration environment or a production environment and keep moving through that cycle. Now, we’ve got some pieces there. We’re starting to evolve more of the pieces and hence, we’re also doing very agile, iterative development. Every two weeks, we want to put features and capabilities, go through the cycle and see if we can deploy them into either an integration environment or production environment. That’s how we’re driving innovation and we can continue to focus on this in a big way.

09:05 What does this lead to, right? This all leads to continuous integration, continuous delivery and this focus on deployment so that you can constantly innovate. So, take a feature and break it up into smaller pieces, do two-week iterations, build it out, use platforms like [inaudible] then deploy it into an environment, test it and make sure everything works and then deploy it into production. Then, look at feedback again from your customers, what it is and what needs to change, and then put it into that iterative cycle constantly. That’s what we’re focused on. We’re focused on innovation leveraging this across all the different channels – in-store, online, mobile, social, kiosk within the store, and trying to figure out how to evolve those experiences for our customer. When we think about the decision journey from a customer standpoint, they’re constantly expecting something new. Something that is compelling for them to actually be resonating with a brand like Kohl’s. We’re doing a lot of work here, still in our infancy. We’re also looking at leveraging this platform to deploy packaged solutions, because we use a lot of packaged solutions. Then, how do you take a packaged solution and put it into this fold, if you want to upgrade that packaged solution or you want to make changes to its configuration file and things like that? How do you do continuous integration and delivery with packaged solutions? That is something that we’re working with the [inaudible] team on. With that, I will leave it to questions. Any questions?
Audience Member 1 11:09
On performance issues [inaudible] more examples of retailers that have mobile apps [inaudible] some of the opportunities with that?
Ratnakar Lavu 11:24
If you’re talking specifically about mobile itself, there are a couple of things that we have found. One is, retailers – and by the way, we took this journey, too – traditionally haven’t built very rich capable, fast apps. So, what they’ve done is — mobile was afterthought. In the past what we did was let’s go screen scrape what you have on your website, put it into an experience, and then create an app out of that. Now, we have transitioned and aid mobile is first and we’re putting a lot of investment. We’ve created a services layer, an open API layer to be able to connect our checkout services, our product services and search services, to be able to create that fast experience within mobile. I think that’s a journey and I think you’ll start seeing a lot more retailers invest a lot more in mobile to both speed up the apps, to provide the best experience in there and we’re doing the same in that space.
Audience Member 1 12:25
[inaudible] using native apps?
Ratnakar Lavu 12:27
Yes, we’re doing native as well as type of application. So, HTML 5 using our piece of it. But native is predominantly because we also that there’s other ways we can provide value for that customer. They’re things that you’ll see from us this holiday season that we think are very compelling.
Audience Member 2 12:54
Are your server-side in the Cloud or on premises?
Ratnakar Lavu 12:59
They’re in the Cloud and a couple of things. On the [inaudible] side – it’s a SAS-based solution for build, test, and deploy. On our hosting side in terms of our .com and other things, they’re also hosted and provided by a third party.
Audience Member 3 13:25
Are you exploring any event-driven or reactive architectures for real-time feedback?
Ratnakar Lavu 13:31
Yes. We are doing a lot of work in terms of event-driven architectures. The complexity is you have a set of architectures that are highly connected coupled architecture, and now decoupling them and making them event-drive is a really hard journey. We’re taking that journey and going through that process right now.
Announcer 13:52
Thank you very much, really appreciate it. [applause] Thanks a lot. Now, obviously, time for lunch. We’re surrounded in three dimensions by amazingly fun things to do. Nuage, Contrail, SAP, and Juniper are in the rooms back there. We’ve got lunch downstairs and outside. There’s GigaOM pro-research and the important fact to remember is please be back by 1:30 PM. We’ll see you soon…very exciting agenda this afternoon, not to mention another cocktail party. See you soon.

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