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August - 2014 - issue > CIO Insights
Innovation is Not a Top Down Initiative of the CIO
John Trainor
CIO-Aarons' Inc
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Founded in 1955, Aarons' (NYSE: AAN) is a leader in the sales and lease ownership and specialty retailing of residential furniture, consumer electronics, home appliances and accessories with more than 2,000 Company-operated and franchised stores in 48 states and Canada. The company has a market cap of $2.53 billion.

The broadcast and the print media with a sharp appreciation for the retail has encouraged the industry follow the stride of customer interactions with social media taking the first place and proving to be 'the vehicle' for providing relative information to customers. So in a way, the traditional media was heavily relied upon in getting information and in creating better social interactions with the customers. Also, the emergence of predictive and reactive analytics have gone on to be one of those valuable and bankable platforms in understanding the business and majorly in anticipating the demands of the customers.

The enterprise class solution with all its compatibility and powerful traits in security and in customization still has been lacking agility. It is still a great opportunity for the vendors to improve their ability to deliver updates and provide a more fluid flexible way of interaction. For example, Salesforce is a very good mention for software that is comparatively more agile.

Trade Offs have to be Properly Executed

The biggest challenge for a CIO is to facilitate the prioritization of initiatives. A CIOs role has been in leading initiatives that would help drive the organization prioritize in terms of ROI. Proper tradeoffs are to be considered because of the wealth of initiatives that are more likely to be carted in terms of strategic planning and visibility into strategic initiatives. This provides a head start in keeping up with the organizational chart and getting things done under time which has been as constant struggle for most of the IT organizations today. The economy has also been very challenging in the retail industry even for the biggest of the players with your traditional bricks and mortar retailers struggling to get through in terms of cost unlike that of a virtual organization like amazon.

Fostering Innovation

There is no one better than a CIO in fostering innovation to be able to create and determine where innovation can be embraced and valued. Innovation comes from spending a lot of time in the stores and hearing what can help make the company better. We are 80 percent deployed with a new storage system that is equipped with a lot of capabilities like the point of sales system, inventory management and with the CRM capabilities.

Moreover, there are a number of very powerful innovations that are the outcomes from the pain points we had in our store. This in turn makes lives of our associates better in turn serving our customers better. Expecting innovation is good, and providing people the opportunity to try on something and fail is even better. Innovation has to emanate from all parts of the organization and not be a top down initiative of the CIO. (As told to Benita M)

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