Most brick-and-mortar chains, including Penney, have considered their e-commerce sites the center of their digital universe.
But Penney has decided dot-com isn't the hub anymore. It has put information technology at the same level with store operations, merchandising and marketing when planning the company's future.
"I'm saying IT isn't the back door. It's the front door," Ullman said in a recent interview.
The new strategy involves trials of massive, neon-lit, interactive touch-screen kiosks that offer information about availability, sizes, options, and more, and will eventually take credit cards for payment, the article said.
"Our IT people are linked to the business, not like I've seen at other places I've worked. That's a real advantage," CIO Tom Nealon was quoted as saying about his team and its $300 million annual budget.
Actions will clearly speak more persuasively than words so it will be interesting to see how JC Penney's new strategy plays out. But it's clear that the company is trying to infuse new vitality and energy into its IT organization as well as the entire company with these moves, and even a small detail like the creation of the "digital center for excellence" shows a commitment to getting IT mindsets out of maintenance mode and into customer-centered innovation.
That happens to track very closely to a suggestion made recently in a Global CIO blog as part of a 10-point "New IT Manifesto" I proposed. As item #1 on that list, I suggested a vigorous airing-out of the names for IT departments that no longer really represent their goals and missions:
1) Change your team's name from the functional but frumpy "IT Dept." to "Business Technology and Customer Innovation Center" to reflect your new focus in a leaner marketplace.