As a graduate of the information system, John never thought that one day he is leading a business unit and will be responsible for P&L of online and atrium sales for a cosmetic and personal care company. Although he is no stranger to this sector but driving sales through digital channels was a learning curve and new battleground for him. He started as an analyst programmer in Watsons Singapore and quickly climbed the ladder became the IT manager of Singapore operation. 6 years later he joined SaSa as the head of IT overseeing Singapore IT operations & digital developments. Working at Watson gave John a good exposure about retail business in a fast moving consumer good environment as well as being exposed to different IT projects such as ERP, WMS, Store Systems, CRM, and e-Commerce. Entering the retail industry at the time where digital transformation was growing, helped John to understand the importance of business and IT alignment.All of John’s hard work culminated in his appointment as the commercial manager of SaSa Singapore, The idea was to give him the opportunity to move beyond managing IT, get his arms around an entire business unit, learning what it meant to head up a unit with the help of his senior executive team, and take his leadership skills to the next level in a situation free from complicating problems but adding value to current retail sales. In addition, the commercial role enabled John to pilot new ideas and processes and to test if the campaign or service works and helps him iron out any unexpected impacts.
Unlike John transformation from IT to business, many IT executives trip when they shift from IT function to managing a strategic business unit and for the first time taking responsibility for a P&L and oversight of business across corporate functions. John’s immediate challenge was shifting from leading a single function to overseeing the full set of business functions such as supply chain and customer engagement. In the first couple of months, John developed the new supply chain process to further improve the stock availability and cost efficiency in Singapore operations. On top, he mapped out a new partnership with online marketplaces such as Lazada, Qoo10, and Perx in Singapore and Gemfive, Hermos, and 11 street in Malaysia.
John’s hard work paid off when he hit milestones in late 2016 and registered new records by achieving over 400% revenue growth on Singles Day, over 300% revenue growth on Cyber Monday and over 200% above target on the first Member Closed Door sales. He also accomplished a new record of sales for SaSa Singapore in the 3rd Member Closed Door event. Technology played a major role in John’s success helped him to converge physical and online through marketing automation, social channels, and analytics. John believes that IT has a tremendous opportunity to lead the digital transformation for retailers and creates new revenue streams for a marketing organization to drive value to the customer and, ultimately, increasing sales for the business. However, without strong competency in IT domains, this connection often doesn’t happen, and the overall business suffers as a result.
John is also planning to launch the first SaSa pop up Outlet in Singapore on February 9 to boost retail sales while keeping the operation cost low and offer value for money to SaSa customers. He thinks while the current retailers in Singapore are heavily focus on product discount campaign to improve the sales revenue, it’s important to think like startups and look for emerging retail business models. John is planning to open up another two pop up stores in Singapore, differentiating it from conventional SaSa store by using different pricing strategy and SKU. Pop shops could be an alternative for those retailers who want to create a short-term store with low set up cost to build awareness and brand exposure using digital channels to pull the traffic from online to offline.
Transitioning from IT to business leadership requires the capacity to see beyond the horizon and being able to gauge the business value of IT and aligning new technology investments with future disruptive technologies. Transitioning from a technology executive to a business executive is an increasingly popular move driven by the growing trend among retailers to align technology with business, which is blurring the lines between the two disciplines. This means more technology professionals are becoming business savvy and building the skills they need to one day run another department, or perhaps the company. However, IT professionals looking to make a transition into business should start learning about problem-solving in more than just investing in technology.