IKEA Strives for Excellence in Customer Service through Mobile Technology

Niamh Madigan

Paolo Cinelli, Chief Information Officer, IKEA, discusses how mobile technology is helping IKEA to increase operational efficiency and productivity and explains how they are moving towards an integrated enterprise architecture.

He also expands on the change of mind-set that IKEA has taken in the last two or three years, to connect decisions about information technology to business drivers that really lead to recognised value.

Enterprise Mobility Exchange (EME): How can mobile technology help IKEA to achieve best in breed customer service and increase operational efficiency and productivity?

Paolo Cinelli: Mobile technology is really helpful to IKEA and in general to retailers in the entire industry. It specifically helps IKEA by providing customers and our co-workers with up-to-date information, more exciting views of our products and stores, and the possibility to interact based on a different type of communication. Customers are appreciating that; they are very much using the possibilities we offer and we see that we have just actually started to scratch the surface of the possibilities that are there. So we will have a lot more opportunities in the future.

EME: What would you say has been your greatest achievement to date at IKEA?

Paolo: We rather look at things that we still have to do in the future as a company. Culturally, we're humble and focused on what remains to be done, which is quite a lot. Definitely, the information technology agenda in the company has evolved in a positive sense in the last few years, and we've made some mistakes, as most of our colleagues have done in other companies, I am sure. Nevertheless, we have learnt a lot from them, so we are now making choices that are much more connected to the business. I think this is the biggest change - a change of mind-set that we have taken in the last two or three years, to connect our decisions about information technology to business drivers that really lead to recognised value. This is a journey we have started, so we have a lot more to do, but we're convinced that this business leadership in all parts and stakeholders involved in IT related decisions is the key to getting much better value from information technology.

EME: Leading on from that, what are your three biggest challenges?

Paolo: Certainly, one of the biggest challenges I see is information management. For a global company that operates in different situations, facing different clients, different customers, different people and business processes, the ability to have reliable business views depends heavily on the quality of information management. Having clear data definitions and using them with discipline in all our systems and processes is a key challenge, and also an exciting opportunity.

There is also the challenge of moving towards an integrated enterprise architecture. This is also a journey that will not happen in just months or even a few years. It will take time. However, it is very critical for us to be able to control our value chain and to really utilise the possibilities that are now currently in the market.

A third challenge is to make sure that our competence is available as we need it in order to make the right business-driven decisions regarding information technology.

EME: And to expand on the previous question, what do you think the solution provider community enterprise mobility and beyond can do to help you address these challenges identified?

Paolo: They can certainly help in connecting, in the ability provided by mobile technology to connect information together and bring that information to the fingertips in a simple and usable way to many, many possible users. Mobile technology should help, to focus on what information is really needed, and to connect it or bring it to the attention of the end users.

There is also the possibility of ubiquitous information, available when and where needed, and that can definitely improve our work processes. We operate in a complex environment and in an ecosystem of many suppliers - we have more than 1,000 suppliers just for, say, the manufacturing of our products. The ability to be always in sync with the information is something that is definitely enabled by mobile technology.

And, last but not least, we see a tremendous growth in developing markets, developing countries, where mobile technology is ahead of traditional internet browsing through personal computers. The latter are less mobile than smart phones and tablets, etc. So that leap into mobile technology in developing markets makes mobile technology the primary internet access channel in those countries. We can take advantage of that by again providing the possibility to our customers to get access to our stores and product information.