By David Dorf on Mar 28, 2014
There was general agreement at Kohl’s Department Stores that the $20 billion, 1,150-store retailer, which has been rapidly increasing its store count in recent years, needed to upgrade its e-commerce platform. “This was a high-growth area, and we were struggling because we couldn’t innovate,” said Richard Mozack, Senior Vice President of IT at Kohl’s. “In addition, the holiday season would be a kind of ‘white-knuckle’ adventure” because of concerns about site availability and performance.
Where Mozack got pushback was in the aggressive timeline for making such a major change: one year from its May 2012 start to go-live. As he told the audience during the final keynote presentation at Oracle Industry Connect for Retail here, many of his own people, along with vendors and advisors, frankly said “We’re nuts to try to accomplish this in 12 months.”
The story has a happy ending, in large part because of decisions that smoothed and sped the upgrade process. Kohl’s chose Oracle Commerce for its e-commerce platform and also used Oracle as its prime systems integrator, along with AT&T as host. The retailer also decided on a “like for like” upgrade, matching functionalities from its old site to its new one.
A soft launch in May 2013, opening up the new e-commerce site to Kohl’s employees and then to select customers, gave the retailer time to work out any remaining bugs. But Mozack knew the acid test would be the holiday season, when peak traffic can be 10 times normal volume. However, holiday 2013 provided Kohl’s with 100% availability. “We were waiting for something to break, but it was crickets,” said Mozack. “This holiday was more stable than our other platform ever was.
“Now we have a foundation that we can build on, to add capabilities for a personalized omni-channel experience for our customers,” Mozack added.
Next up is a merchandising transformation that began in April 2013, also with an aggressive 12-month go-live schedule. It’s on time and is projected to be up and running in two weeks. This upgrade also features Oracle solutions and has gone “remarkably well,” said Mozack, who credited upfront work with Oracle and Accenture in the areas of change management and in deciding which systems actually required customization versus those that could remain vanilla.
These and other IT upgrades, part of a multi-year effort to simplify Kohl’s systems architecture, have been driven by basic business needs. Mozack put it simply: “We could not continue to grow at our pace with the systems we had.”