6 Ways Best Buy's New President Defines Next-Gen IT

Former Starbucks CIO Stephen Gillett shows where IT leadership is headed--closer to the customer than ever.
4. Tie Tech Directly To Revenue And Customers

Starbucks introduced an iPhone and Android app in 2011 that let people track their loyalty points and even pay using their smartphones. The Starbucks app let customers load money onto the app, which produced a 2-D barcode that cashiers could scan at checkout. Starbucks has handled more than 25 million transactions on that app. It's one of several ways Starbucks has used mobile apps to get closer to customers.

Gillett understands Best Buy's customers: He's a 36-year-old father of four kids, devoted online gamer (see his World of Warcraft-themed personal blog), and social media enthusiast. Gillett was out visiting the Bellevue, Wash., Best Buy store Sunday afternoon -- which I know because he tweeted his Foursquare check-in from that location. Gillett, in the announcement, describes his job as working to expand Best Buy's offering into "a broad multi-channel environment that integrates stores, digital, mobile and social." Best Buy already knows plenty about those channels, of course -- its Facebook page has a solid 5.8 million Likes (Starbucks' has 29.2 million). The key for Best Buy and every company is to turn their Likes, tweets, and apps into cash.

5. Keep A Rock-Solid Enterprise Tech Foundation

The dirty secret of IT consumerization is that it's not worth a damn without hard-core, enterprise IT behind it. Employees can have amazing iPads or Droids, but if they can't reach the customer data they need to close a sale, or the production stats to spot an inventory risk, they might as well use chalkboards. While Starbucks rolled out fancy smartphone apps, it also implemented a new CRM system (which went live in 2011), a more intuitive point-of-sale system, and modern inventory management and employee-scheduling software.

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Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said this about the long-term value of those enterprise IT investments, during his fourth-quarter investors’ conference call: "Now there is a period of time in which we learn to really optimize all of that technology. And I would suggest that even the aggressive targets we've established for 2012 don't yet really begin to reflect the upside we think will ultimately come from those tools. I think the improvement that we would expect to see meaningfully across the system perhaps begins in 2012, but I would suggest becomes more visible really as we move into 2013 and beyond."

6. Recognize The Need For Speed

Speed (or lack thereof) will be one of the key reasons companies love (or hate) their IT teams. We've detailed how Starbucks developed a mobile app in a matter of months, by combining outside contractors and in-house IT. IT will never be fast enough, because business units will always want results sooner. But a safe starting point for IT is to follow Rule No. 2 on our list of "15 New Rules For IT To Live By ": Deliver projects in weeks or months, not years.

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