Best Buy Staffing Up for IT Initiatives

Susan Hall

A few months ago, I wrote about Petco's efforts to become more agile by better aligning its IT department with business goals. I quoted Herman Nell, vice president and CIO, saying:

[It's not] how good you are at executing at any one time, but how good you are at maintaining the customer experience under continuously changing demands. It's not even as simple as managing multiple channels, but multiple changing touchpoints. It's not only about aligning with the business, but about building capacity to keep up with continuously changing business opportunities.
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For Petco, that meant switching from a "build it in-house" culture to one of outsourcing development. As a result, its IT staff contracted from 150 two years ago to 50. My colleague Ann All saw that as the wave of the future.


It's interesting to now see Best Buy going the opposite direction. The consumer electronics giant plans to add 200 IT specialists over the next year, bringing its IT staff to 300. RIS News quotes Jody Davis, the company's CIO, saying:

We've largely outsourced IT. We now want [to hire] talent as Best Buy employees. We need to develop a strategy of what we're going to build. We like to take control of our destiny.

Among Best Buy's projects: strengthening its offerings on mobile devices, including at in-store kiosks; its recent launch of Buy Buy Marketplace, in which the company receives a commission on products sold by third parties; and a deal-of-the-day program sent to customers by email or text.


Says Davis:

We're finding more ways to communicate with customers. We want them to interact with us no matter where they are and no matter what device they use.

A Minneapolis Star Tribune story republished in The Seattle Times also points out the retailer's experimentation with "gamification." (I hate that word.) A partnership with game maker Zynga allows players of "Cityville" to locate Best Buy stores in their towns. The story depicts the tie-up as an effort to appeal more to female customers - placing Best Buy stores in "Halo" would make no sense. In the first foray, between Aug. 31 and Sept. 6, the company gained 1 million fans on Facebook. Best Buy will return to "CityVille" for a week beginning Nov. 6, in time for the holidays.


The story asks whether such a collaboration will actually boost sales. It quotes Alix Hart, senior director of digital marketing, saying:

"I don't know. Our first priority is to build brand consideration" among players.

Back in April, my colleague Ann All quoted a Gartner prediction that 70 percent of the world's 2,000 largest companies will use gamification for at least one aspect of their organization by 2014.

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