DSW’s omnichannel transformation

The transformation started four years ago with a mandate from previous DSW CEO Michael MacDonald. He told the company to “make us omnichannel,” despite having no technology support within. What came next was a journey of organizational change and an enterprise-scaled transformation to the “digital mesh.”

At NRFtech, SVP and CIO Ashlee Aldridge was joined by Vice President of Application Development Allison Sutley to discuss how MacDonald's vision became reality. His directive to transform DSW into an omnichannel retailer was led by current CEO Roger Rawlins, who began by assembling the Transformation Team — which meant finding the right people, organizing them around that vision and putting them in a position to disrupt processes from within, Sutley said. The next step was to consider which “design thinking” strategies best fit the organization and figure out the biggest problems the company needed to solve over the next five years.

The Transformation Team uses three ways to organize and prioritize its approach to innovation from within.

“Our Transformation Team helps us achieve the impossible.”

Allison Sutley
VP, Application Development, DSW

Know where you’re going

“Transformation at DSW has evolved from a function that was undefined at first to something now that people think is totally necessary,” DSW Vice President of Digital Brian Seewald said in a video shown at NRFtech. Transformation to the digital mesh meant reassessing — and in many cases, overhauling — technology and business processes across the organization. Today, DSW is focused on creating a service model that will enable the company to scale seamlessly and globally, Aldridge said.

Organize for success

Look at an opportunity to transform the company as a blank slate, Sutley said, and question the who, how and the why. “When you ask ‘why’ you will probably find out that the answer typically is, ‘This is how we’ve always done it.’” Sutley stressed that the project is not a change management exercise — reengineering of people, processes and sometimes enterprise strategies. The reorganization created new “centers of excellence” within DSW – a renewed focus on aspects like data, integration, quality assurance and analysis.

Be accountable

"Once we have a project that is cross-functional with major impacts, we use the Transformation Team to help transform the entire process," Aldridge said. But transformation does not stop at implementation. Each quarter, Aldridge’s team goes back to analytics and compares with business objectives to reevaluate approaches and successes, and determine whether DSW can move on to the next big thing.

Even though so much radical change has been achieved, DSW’s Transformative Team has much more “digital mesh” to weave. Today, Aldridge and her team are envisioning what the world looks like on “the other side of omnichannel.” Sutley seems very confident DSW will get there. “Our Transformation Team helps us achieve the impossible.”