The need for constant IT upgrades

Nurdianah Md Nur

What is next for you and your IT team?
We work on multiple projects to enhance our capabilities and ensure that we continue to be Singapore's leading retailer. This includes putting in new, innovative solutions in customer-facing technologies such as POS and Self-Service Checkout and payment systems, revamping our FairPrice Online eCommerce Portal with the latest in web and mobile technologies as well as more mundane back-end technologies to improve the efficiency and productivity of our store and supply chain operations.

The role of the CIOs has evolved over the years. Aside from ensuring that the business operations are running smoothly ('keeping the lights on'), CIOs are expected to drive innovation. How should CIOs balance these two roles? And how do you drive innovation within your own IT operation?With businesses' heavy dependence on technology in today's constantly connected world, CIOs have an important role in ensuring that IT systems run smoothly for the organisation. CIOs manage information; maintain, upgrade IT systems; ensure network security for the entire company; enhance connectivity; and manage costs. Increasingly, CIOs are also expected to enhance business processes as technology is often the enabler for improving productivity and efficiency; providing insight for critical business decisions; and developing solutions to business problems.

As a progressive and innovative homegrown retailer, FairPrice continuously evolves and introduces new products and better service standards to serve its customers' changing lifestyle needs. We do this through technology to improve processes for the organisation. At the front end, we sought to enhance the shopping experience and also increase productivity to serve customers more efficiently by implementing self-service systems like SCAN2GO and Self-Checkout (SCO) to allow customers to conveniently process their own payments. We also introduced electronic shelf labelling systems where prices of products at the stores can be automatically updated, saving manpower and increasing accuracy. Retail technology like these help to enhance operational efficiency and frees our staff from mundane tasks to better serve our customers.

To improve our supply chain, we have also implemented the Warehouse Management System (WMS), a paperless and easy method for stores to order goods from our distribution center. This resulted in greater accuracy, faster and more frequent deliveries, ensuring products are on the shelves when customers need them.

Nevertheless, there is a need to temper implementation of innovation with business needs, and we assess the urgency of the need with business objectives and available resources before implementing new systems.

What has been your greatest challenge as a CIO so far?
Keeping up with the pace of innovation in technology, especially retail technology. There are lots of changes happening in the retail industry and they are coming fast and furious. Even in mature markets such as the US, we see established leaders fall by the wayside, overtaken by nimbler competitors using novel business models supported by more agile technology platforms. As CIO, my challenge is to ensure that technology does not become a millstone that holds us back, but the turbocharged engine that powers the organisation far ahead of the competition.

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