CIOs are looking at their tech stacks with fresh eyes as they embrace hybrid operations and seek better customer satisfaction. In the process, most are grappling with tech that just isn't up to the task.
Nearly six in 10 CIOs think at least half their current tech stack is serviceable but could be improved, and 21% want to replace almost all of it, according to Lenovo's Global Study of CIOs.
Nine in 10 CIOs would definitely or probably consider adding new as-a-service offerings over the next two years as a result of a changing business model.
The pandemic has played a role in tech stack dissatisfaction, and the need for change. "You could see [change] was coming, but the pandemic thrust us forward," Kyle Mark, CIO at WOWorks.
Executives are taking efficiency, synergy and regulatory compliance into consideration amid a broad reassessment of the components that make up an enterprise tech stack, from the software providers to tools that power daily work.
CIO Dive spoke with two companies undergoing tech stack transformations, about what's driving modernization, and what they've learned so far.
WOWorks finds a new platform for efficient growth
Before the pandemic, WOWorks could already see customer behavior changing. "Even if you looked in 2019, you could see the upward tick of online ordering," mostly through the rise of third-party delivery platforms, said Mark.
In 2022, WOWorks hired Mark for the newly created CIO role, specifically with upgrading the tech stack in mind.
"We had four separate brands that had been brought together within the past two years and all of them were using different systems. It was unscalable," Mark said. WOWorks was losing efficiency on everything from training to operations down to how the company ordered food and food costs.
"If we could improve our tech stack while also reducing costs, it was a no-brainer," he said.
WOWorks looked at the four tech stacks its brands already had, what worked and what didn't work, and assessed what other quick service restaurants were doing. The company then picked what it knew was already successful in operations, and combined with outside technologies that suited its needs across all four brands.
For example, the company is using Qu's point-of-sale system, which integrates loyalty and online ordering and manages menus across all four brands; Olo's Rails to dispatch to manage third-party orders; and loyalty technology from Punchh that integrates both Qu and Olo.
Additionally, the company uses Wordplay, a solution built into the POS system to enable easier online payments.
The tech stack overhaul is about 70% complete, said Mark, and will also include replacing apps that "worked but didn't have the newest technology in it." Each of the four brands will have their own apps, but with similar foundations.
The result is beyond a digital transformation and instead an operational transformation. "The business transformed over the last 24 months beyond anything anybody could see," he said.
Chico's FAS strategy
Like most retailers, Chico's FAS, which includes brands such as Chico's, White House Black Market, and Soma, had to rethink how to meet its customers during the pandemic.
"It's fairly common, especially in some traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, that COVID[-19] thrust us into the digital world," said Jay Topper, chief digital officer at Chico's FAS.
Each brand was focused on its own products, without the kind of linking between them that would lead to more efficiency and sales. A customer couldn't, for example, buy a t-shirt from Chico's and also pick up a t-shirt bra from Soma as part of the same order — or get a prompt from the website that they could do such a thing.
This flexibility has been standard at retail brands like Gap Inc., which also owns Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta, for years.
Chico's FAS was also using a tech stack that was no longer supported by its parent company. "The platform itself is old enough that by 2024, we'll start running into compliance issues because we won't be able to upgrade the operating system," said Topper.
The company hired fabric, Inc to create the new tech stack for omnichannel order management and inventory systems.
Topper anticipates that phase one will be done by this summer, and phase two by the end of the year. In early 2022, Chico's FAS also released updated mobile apps for all three brands.
The new tech stack will better support omnichannel ordering, inventory systems, and inventory management and visibility across all three brands.
Topper said it will also allow the company to ramp up things like virtual fashion shows and virtual stylists, "things that we have right now but haven't scaled."