CIO of the Year Awards Winners Announced

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CIO of the Year Awards Winners Announced

By Tim Denman - 10/02/2018

At the Retail Experience Summit, RIS honored six of the industry’s greatest innovators and visionaries at its annual CIO of the Year Awards.

Awards were presented in four distinct categories. In addition, RIS inducted one long-time retail technologist into its Hall of Fame. For the first time ever the scoring was so close RIS presented two awards in a single category (customer experience).

A quick look at the winners and their innovate projects is below, a more in-depth examination will be presented in the October print and digital issue of RIS.

Congratulation to all of the award winners!

Ben Pivar

CIO of the Year

Ben Pivar, Chief Information Officer, Carter’s

Ben Pivar is instrumental in driving Carter’s vision for its store of the future. Throughout his multiple-role tenure at Carter’s, he has implemented systems that have enterprise-wide impact and is the driving force behind the technological modernization currently underway at the 800-store chain. He joined Carter’s in 2015 and was key in driving supply chain costs down by implementing the Anaplan platform, which improved supply chain capabilities and inventory handling.

Following his initial success on the supply chain side, he oversaw the rollout of a cloud-based POS that was much more robust than the retailer’s previous system. The upgrade enabled a bevy of omnichannel solutions, such as, endless aisle, save-the-sale, and buy-online ship-to-store. The accelerated rollout, which used a novel remote-install process to ensure on-time program delivery, allowed the onboarding of 100 stores per week.

Next up for Pivar and the Carter’s IT team as they continue to innovate its future store concept is radio-frequency identification, integrated in-store marketing, workforce management, digital signage and further development of its unified commerce platform. To power all of this next-gen tech Carter’s partnered with Hughes to implement an aggressive store infrastructure modernization improvement program, which has resulted in fewer network outages and significant cost savings

Sherri Browning

Tech Leader Award, Innovation
Sherri Browning, Director of IT Portfolio Business Planning, 99 Cents Only Stores

Under Sherri Browning’s leadership, 99 Cents Only Stores implemented a new human capital management solution that streamlined operations and produced significant savings in both time and investment across the enterprise. Before implementing the next-gen solution, all human capital management functions at the organization were 100% manual and paper-based. With 390 stores and over 18,000 employees, including 14,000 part-timers, managing labor and high turnover rates were a challenge across the chain. A completely paper-based approach limited the company's visibility into labor costs and impacted stores' ability to manage their employees effectively. 99 Cents Only Stores was managing over 1,000 time away from work (TAFW) requests each week without a system that helped managers, HR and executive leaders to schedule, forecast or track labor.  The retailer was also managing up to 1,400 monthly new hire and termination activities.

To address these challenges, 99 Cents Only Stores adopted Dayforce. Browning’s leadership in implementing the platform resulted in all stores being fully integrated across human resources, workforce management, benefits, and payroll. The retailer had made the critical shift to automation, self-service, and on-demand reporting, and has pushed out activities that used to require manual human resources approval.  

99 Cents Only Stores saved over 20,000 man-hours annually through self-service processes, while at the same time providing instant access to information for their employees. The self-service functionality of the platform also sped up the process for adding new hires and processing terminations by 75%. The implementation has resulted in a streamlined human capital management approach, more efficient labor management, and consistency in the employee experience across stores.

John Jordan

Tech Leader Award, Customer Experience
John Jordan, SVP of Customer Experience, Total Wine and More

John Jordan leverages technology to improve the omnichannel customer experience, better support and inform staff, and more efficiently address inquiries by customers. To inform both staff and customers about the retailer’s inventory, Jordan brought vital product information to the store by integrating video story telling at all Total Wine and More locations.

More than 60 hours of proprietary video content features interviews with wine producers, breweries, and distilleries and offers educational information and best practices. Total Wine and More is leveraging this content to not only educate customers, but also to issue various calls to action. Customers engaging with the 500 in-store televisions around the country are encouraged to try a new product, or engage with employees to learn more. In addition, online shoppers have access to the video content and its supported recommendations.

Early in his tenure at Total Wine and More, Jordan developed the enterprise's first virtual customer care center. The system utilizes an intelligent voice response unit and an ACD to field and route calls with the objective being first call resolution. Last year, he integrated an ACD (Five9) with a CRM (Oracle Service Cloud) which enables screen-pops with key customer information displayed to staff handling the customer calls.

As of August 2018, Jordan is the former chief customer officer & SVP for Total Wine, and continues to help organizations who desire to put the customer first in all that they do. His mantra is "let the customer decide!"

Al Lettera

Tech Leader Award, Customer Experience
Al Lettera, Vice President, Enterprise Applications Development, Tractor Supply Company

Al Lettera and his team are critical to the implementation of the Tractor Supply Company’s roadmap as it executes on its ONETractor strategic initiative, which is focused on delivering a robust and engaging customer experience. Lettera leads the application development team, driving the development of the ONETractor capabilities.

Since rolling out its strategic vision last year, Tractor Supply has delivered several capabilities that are moving the company forward, including buy online pickup in-store, team member mobility, seamless in-store returns and subscription ordering.  The delivery of these capabilities, which directly affect the customer, are a result of Lettera’s leadership and ability to produce results quickly and effectively. 

Lettera led the migration of crucial customer data to an in-house solution. He also led the development of a robust loyalty engine to support the Neighbors Club Loyalty Program, a program with more than 6.8 million members. He has also lent his expertise to the design of the ONETractor concept stores. These stores allow TSC to introduce functionality nonexistent in Farm & Ranch retail. The team developed capabilities such as self-checkout, buy online pickup in-stores lockers, and seamless in-store ordering of the expanded assortment. 

Lettera helped further TSC’s omnichannel vision by implementing the same knowledgeable advice that customers find in stores on the retailer’s e-commerce channel. He is laser-focused on all aspects of the retailer’s web presence, from speed to the customer experience, to features that differentiate TSC from the competition. Under his leadership, Tractor Supply has delivered capabilities that are new among competitors, while also merging the customer experience across channels.

​​​​​​​Ed Wong

Tech Leader Award, Strategic Impact
Ed Wong, SVP Supply Chain and CIO, Smart & Final

Ed Wong spearheaded a merchandising and supply chain project designed to remove the complexity and inefficiency of running multiple data sets. In order to drive his vision, Wong created a new foundational data integration layer, based on retail master data, which allowed Smart & Final to run all of its downstream ERP applications on one standard data set.

Under this innovative model, instead of duplicating data for vendor managed replenishment or warehouse buying, a single set of data is now shared with applications based on business needs.   

The benefits of running one data set are numerous: decreased errors, reduced order to shelf time, increased on-shelf availability, improved service levels, and reduced spoilage. In addition, enabling store-level inventory data for omnichannel servicing of customer needs streamlines the path to purchase and produces measureable cost savings.

Under this new strategy, the organization is more nimble and reactive to the constant changes in today's ultra-competitive market. Prior to the implementation, when Smart & Final introduced a new item, it would take four days until that item was orderable. With this new system, time to shelf has been cut by 75%, meaning that new items are made available to customers much faster. With centralized data, the retailer can now manage its inventory in near real-time. In addition, the improved monitoring capability allow Smart & Final to receive immediate feedback such as the accuracy of a forecast.

Another key impact of the project is increased operational efficiencies and savings. Prior to the implementation, Smart & Final had more than 50 applications running simultaneously. Now it is running five integrated platforms. This has delivered operational savings and reduced the total cost of ownership.

Bob Graham

Hall of Fame
Bob Graham, VP IT, CIO/Warehouse Operations, Beverages and More

Bob Graham is a true retail technology innovator. He is a leader who leverages advances in game-changing technologies including cloud, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics to improve Bevmo!'s in-store experience and enterprise operations. An early adopter of cloud-based technology, Graham’s transition away from traditional physical data centers resulted in significant cost savings while improving performance and business continuity across the enterprise.   

Currently, he is working with Fellow Robots to pilot an A.I. driven robot (BevBot!) whose capabilities support inventory management, customer engagement, staff support and business intelligence. The cloud-based data/AI platform allows Bevmo! to nimbly and efficiently aggregate customer and store insight enabling store operations and management to more effectively serve their customers. A key aspect of the platform is the ability to respond to and interact with customers in real time.

Tasked with various duties throughout the day, BevBot! can check in-store inventory availability, alert staff when products are out of stock, capture images of products and identify shelf tags that need to be updated. BevBot! can respond to voice commands and questions, educate customers on different products, and even help customers and associates select and find products throughout the store.