Resisting ‘Scope Creep’ Ensured Hot Topic Merchandising Upgrade’s Success

Reporting today at Oracle Industry Connect in Boston, guest blogger Adam Blair captured insights from retailers:

Hot Topic’s IT team was determined to make the retailer’s merchandising systems upgrade clean, simple and logical, as well as on-time and on-budget. They achieved these goals by “religiously” avoiding scope creep and involving business users early on in the 10-month process.

“We really managed the scope of this. It’s vanilla – not even French vanilla,” said Hassan Youssfi, Vice President of IT Applications at Hot Topic. He and COO Don Hendricks presented their best practices for a smooth systems upgrade and integration process at Oracle Industry Connect for Retail here.

“You will hear from users who want to add ‘flavor’ to your vanilla project,” Youssfi noted. The IT team addressed this issue by providing its business users with early “sneak previews,” designed to bring issues to the surface and “tackle them early in the process,” he added.

Another important success factor was that Hot Topic, which also includes the Torrid brand, spent three months doing a complete data cleanup on the retailer’s legacy system prior to beginning the upgrade itself, which was completed in February 2013. “The data from the old system had never been purged, and the style/class hierarchies had grown over the years,” Hendricks explained. “We wanted to clean up the data in the old system’s format so that people could see the changes and not attribute them to the implementation of the new system.”

Hendricks and Youssfi also credited the functionally rich Oracle systems, powered by Exadata, with allowing them to keep the overall upgrade “vanilla” while still offering internal users an improved experience. Solutions include Oracle Retail Merchandising System, Sales Audit, Price Management, Invoice Match and Analytics.

Benefits include creating a single system of record where there had previously been separate siloed databases, and providing easier access to data by the retailer’s business users. “IT is not in the reporting business any longer, because users can write their own reports,” said Hendricks. Hot Topic has also gained efficiency, speed and enhanced capabilities: “Certain promotion types that had not been possible with legacy systems are now capable of being done,” he noted.

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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