Yoav Guttmann – Almod Diamonds
It’s no secret: Traditional retail companies have a reputation for being behind the technology curve.
But this has to change, says Yoav Guttmann—at least at Almod Diamonds. A 25-year veteran of the tech space, he serves as senior vice president and global CIO for the company where he is ushering in incremental, manageable technology and digital transformations.
“Digital transformation marks a radical rethinking of how an organization uses technology, people, and processes to fundamentally change business performance,” says Guttmann. “You can implement something that nobody uses, and you really haven’t accomplished anything,” says Guttmann. It comes down to selling to your audience, “getting their buy-in, their interest, making sure they like what you have to offer.”
Ushering in a new retail era
Based in New York City, Almod sells diamonds and diamond jewelry through more than 125 Diamonds International retail stores in the Caribbean, Mexico and the U.S. The company focuses on the tourism industry; its customers are primarily cruise ship passengers.
Guttmann joined the international jeweler in 2013—and was fully aware of the challenge ahead of him. The company had a legacy ERP system, and tasked with taking the business to the next level, he created what started out as a simple offline project allowing insight into global online sales for top business leaders.
He made a strategic decision to use the company’s 14-year-old legacy system as a baseline to craft a new digital platform. By implementing digital workspace with IOT technologies that automatically read register receipts every 15 seconds, the platform now provides live data and analytics on in-store and online sales, customer visits, conversion rates, returns and exchanges, thus enhancing the digital end-user experience to improve revenues, productivity and retention. Receipts and certificates have also been digitized and an inventory lookup interface has been integrated, as well.
“It’s real time, online, anytime, anywhere,” says Guttmann. “It provides far more analytics than we ever had before.”
Some 150 employees across the company use it, aided by user-friendly features that include graphs, charts and color-coded metrics—red to represent returns, for example.
“It’s easier on the eye, and that’s really been to our advantage,” he says. “Even if people don’t fully understand the technology, they like using something that looks good.”
What’s more, customer information that was once handwritten and kept in boxes is now collected and stored digitally. Customers who sign on to in-store Wi-Fi, for example, provide basic information (their last name, gender and email) that is used to create a profile that also incorporates their visits and purchase history. That information can then be used to create tailored promotions and even to prompt personalized greetings when they enter a store, Guttmann explains.
In terms of digital transformation initiatives, it’s important to develop an approach that can span this divide between digital strategy and execution, Guttmann notes, so that once the digital transformation objectives have been selected, there’s a clear path to a unified architectural approach for IT and subsequent agile execution.
The company also has to keep moving forward and implementing the right technologies, he says, so that when it is able to go to an ERP, it has the capabilities to interface with that ERP.
The “market agnostic” quality of technology
Guttmann is admittedly “not your typical CIO.” The Israel native has spent more than 25 years in technology at companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s, and across the environments of publishing, media, banking and financial cash management.
“It’s a strength to understand technology across so many different environments,” he says. That varied experience also provides a broader, industry agnostic perspective. Similarly, he’s “fortunate” to have held numerous roles across IT—from systems to networking to project management.
“As a technology leader we need to have a broad perspective on the existing technology and digital tools that the market offers in order to drive a business and make a positive impact,” he says.
Operating from the philosophy that “information is power,” he has expertise in implementing full-scale ERP systems and building large private and public cloud infrastructures and data centers. He’s really been “forced to think out of the box,” he says, and work with company leaders and their level of understanding (and comfort with technology).
“We have to keep in mind where we are today and where we will be in the near future, and make decisions based on that,” Guttmann says. “It’s about understanding all of the components that help make the company move forward.”
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