In addition to serving as the point person working with the third-party outsourcing partner, the new hire will play another critical role given the latest chapter in Plum Organics' growth -- the now 90-person company was bought in June by Campbell Soup Co. "The IT manager will be the person on the ground working with our teams to figure out how to best leverage the technology and existing infrastructure Campbell has," Meyer describes. For example, Campbell has a data center packed with file and email servers that Plum Organics can use as well as a fully staffed help desk.
"This gives us the opportunity to have someone with technical skills on site who can help us leverage [Campbell's] larger and established infrastructure," Meyer explains. "At the same time, we can remain nimble and continue to leverage cloud capabilities to grow and be competitive in the market."
Idea No. 4: Fail fast, stay agile
At jewelry maker Alex and Ani, the internal IT group, at just under 40 people, is more akin to a traditional organization, but there are still real differences in its approach to technology. The 300-plus-employee company, founded in 2005, hired its first-ever CTO about a year ago to oversee both internal IT, including a recent on-premises ERP implementation, as well as customer-facing initiatives, such as a new mobile point-of-sale system.
"It's fun to have the blended role, and it creates a much better and more cohesive technology stack for the company," says CTO Joseph Lezon. For instance, Alex and Ani has a sizable digital team focused on e-commerce and social media, which benefits from some of the initiatives undertaken internally, Lezon says. "When you have the CTO and CIO role blended, it gives you a cross-functional view of external and internal initiatives," he explains.
Another stark difference between traditional IT shops and Alex and Ani's is that the team frequently test-drives technology and doesn't hesitate to pull the plug if something doesn't meet expectations. The company has that kind of flexibility, Lezon says, because with few enterprise systems in place, there are no integration points to create challenges.
"We have the ability to be nimble and do trial-and-error pilots," he explains. "If something works, great, if not, we move on to something else." It took multiple iterations, for example, to get the mobile point-of-sale system working to satisfaction, Lezon says. And an initiative to put video displays in stores, to help promote the brand, products and events, changed midstream to a different product when the initial implementation didn't work as expected, he says.
Without the legacy baggage and red tape that are the hallmarks of old-school enterprise IT, companies in startup mode have a lot more flexibility, allowing them to push the envelope and be far more innovative with IT.
"Corporate America is risk averse and is not encouraged to fail," Lezon says. "We, on the other hand, are moving at battle speed and are going to make mistakes. We just have to learn from them, pick up the casualties and move forward. We have a lot more leeway in what we can try in terms of innovation."
Frequent contributor Beth Stackpole last wrote for Computerworld about companies courting customers with mobile apps.
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