Target hits the bullseye with agile tech and operations
The retailer has had to rise to the demand of the 21st century — a blend of "digital, home and store."
Is it possible to go to Target and only buy one thing? Certainly.
But when there is about 135,000 square feet of retail space with products spanning from peanut butter to bookshelves to baby wipes, it's easy to see how shoppers can get carried away by convenience.
Retail has undergone several transformations over the decades: the evolution of department stores, point of sale and now e-commerce.
Technology and people have been at the root of innovation and Target has been putting down more roots. Modernizing operations to evolve with customer preferences and maintaining the ability to innovate is the only way Target can stay afloat amid bankrupting retailers.
Target's staple "growth pillars" include stores being built around customer experience, developing new brands and interactions, and digital strategy.
"Everyone has a digital strategy," said Tom Kadlec, SVP of infrastructure and operations at Target, while speaking at Service Management World, in Orlando, Florida last week. And right now Target's digital strategy is focused on bringing retail to mobile to serve as a "companion" for customers to go from e-commerce to stores.
The retailer is investing $7 billion in a refresh of its stores over the next two years, which will include capabilities like drive-up delivery. "It's a simple proposition," said Kadlec, "I want something, I need something."
Customers will be able to order goods by phone, confirm the order and pick it up at the nearest Target. "It's faster than buckling and unbuckling your child" from the car seat, he said.
Target has nearly 1,900 stores in the U.S. and has had to rise to the demand of the 21st century — a blend of "digital, home and store," said Kadlec.
Optimizing the workforce through tech
Target is continuously stitching together services, including support for its employees. All calls for change keep customer experience top of mind.
But a better experience for customers comes from improved engagement of employees.
Before, Target's problem "domain" was focusing entirely on operations, outsourcing work to suppliers, a lack of collaboration, a lackluster amount of confidence, and suffering from "change fatigue," said Kadlec.
"There's no way you can draft any change if your house is not in order," said Kadlec. He had to make sure Target owned its "house" instead of its suppliers.
Three years ago about 70% of Target's team members were contractors and today it's the opposite, according to Kadlec. "We chose to define the DNA of our team" and that has helped enable hiring more in-house engineers.
Hiring the right engineers laid the foundation for a diverse team to work around a framework, including product model, agile and DevOps, and work for modernization.
There were a few things envisioned for Target's technology change:
Invest in talent to establish a global and diverse team
Move toward the "always on" model of operational services
Connect customers and employees with end-to-end technology products
Deliver value to Target's bottom line
Kadlec acknowledged that achieving these goals is "anything but simple and anything but easy," but when in anyone in an organization can clearly articulate what needs to be done, successes and failures are shared.
Target started putting up "Demo Day" about 18 months ago. It's a small fair where employees can talk about services they've been able to provide and share user stories. About 2,000 people across Target's lines of business attend and the "CEO insists on being present," said Kadlec.
Cultivating a ubiquitous experience
When business value is clearly expressed by the employees working to deliver it, leadership takes notice and wants to participate in the conversation. This way of working helps redirect an issue if team members get stuck.
A team that is homogeneous and views a task through the same lens is more likely to overcome a setback, said Kadlec. Curiosity and prioritization help build that sense of unity.
With enabled and diverse talent, Target can focus on achieving a ubiquitous experience for employees and customers. Harnessing connectivity, data, devices detached from suppliers and computers that support developers' innovation contribute to this experience.
Having strong talent will only get a company so far. It's important for that talent to be able to thrive in an environment that's open to change where coding and operations can combine. In-store team members shouldn't be assigned to troubleshoot technology, he said.
Target's application platform was the largest project for engineers. A strong focus on APIs, continuous integrations and continuous delivery, metrics, IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and software-defined infrastructure all helping looking at infrastructure "through the lense of software," said Kadlec. Doing so doesn't just reduce costs or employee frustrations, it eliminates them.
Every change that made the lives of team members easier came down to understanding the viewpoint of the customer. When this is done, Target can better understand how to change. "Don't look at the problem through the lens of yesterday," Kadlec said.
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