With unrestricted access to the UK’s top retail tech leaders, Retail Week Connect’s new report, in association with Brother, is based on anonymous interviews with chief information officers and chief technology officers at the UK’s most innovative retailers.

The role of chief information officer (CIO) has evolved significantly in recent years, both in scope and influence.

Rewind 10, or even five years and the job of IT director was largely seen as a reactive, back-office support role, whose task was to effectively meet the technology needs of the business at the lowest cost.

“A big priority for us is to step into a more modern approach to running IT, which is a little less of a small IT function with generalists running around and doing good stuff, to a more structured approach”

Head of IT and service management at a hardware and homeware retailer

In recent years, though, the shift to multichannel shopping has seen a definite change in the strategic importance placed on IT functions.

Not only is there a growing need for all board directors to be IT literate, but in a digital world where many shoppers no longer distinguish between online and offline channels, more and more CIO or their equivalents are taking their place at the boardroom table when strategy is being discussed.

Retail Week’s new report – From back room to boardroom – produced in association with Brother, reveals how the digital revolution has transformed the role of the CIO. For a unique insight into the strategic minds driving retail growth, download the report here.

The five major challenges for a CIO:

  1. Embed tech required to manage the shift to multichannel retailing while keeping control of costs.
  2. Persuade the board of the need to invest in IT in spite of budgetary pressures.
  3. Facilitate collaboration between the IT department and customer-facing teams, such as product and marketing.
  4. Exploit customer data to deliver a more personal shopping experience while also protecting that data from getting into the wrong hands.
  5. Design IT systems that will still be contemporary in five years’ time.

The most valuable decisions are the difficult ones that generally involve saying no or changing direction

Head of technology at a grocery retailer