Well, would you?

It’s probably not on top of anyone’s pleasurable pastimes list, yet there are numerous examples from nature where peaceful (most of the time…) co-existence, collaboration and so called ‘co-opetition’ (sorry – it’s a real word, look it up) give rise to mutual benefits for the parties involved.

As in our picture, the African Plover delicately picks morsels of food from where they get trapped in between the crocodile’s teeth, feeding the bird and helping the crocodile to avoid the reptilian equivalent of tooth decay due to its difficulty in flossing. In the oceans, fish known as cleaner wrasse perform a similar function swimming in and out of shark’s open mouths, helping to keep their dental fees down, too, and the Colombian Lesserblack Tarantula and Dotted Humming Frog enjoy the cosiest of symbiotic relationships in which, with the frog taking up residence in the spider’s burrow, the spider offers the frog protection from predators and the frog eats ants that may attack or consume the eggs of the tarantula. Isn’t nature wonderful? My Hitachi Consulting colleague Tim Puddefoot and I had a pleasant 30 minutes batting these analogies back and forth late one afternoon before all the talk of food made me hungry and I disappeared off in search of dinner.

So, what on earth has any of this got to do with the state of Retail in 2019? I’m glad you ask…

The reason Tim and I were seeking out these natural world similarities was spurred by Microsoft’s announcement of a major Cloud deal with US Retailer Albertsons, “as fear of Amazon grows among retailers”. As is so often the case, the US market is different to that we see in EMEA and particularly in the UK, yet domain trends frequently cross the Atlantic, so our partner’s identification and assertion that use of Amazon’s AWS platform is becoming an increasing source of anxiety for players in the sector appears to have credence.

I would not suggest for one moment that Amazon would countenance anything untoward with customer data but the reality is that Albertsons, as stated in the article, “chose [Microsoft’s] Azure to be its primary cloud because of its experience with big companies, history with large retailers and strong technical capabilities, and because it isn't a competitor.” Ever since Amazon announced the purchase of Whole Foods there has been an increasing realisation among Retailers that use of such a competitor’s platform brings with it risks – and as a result, Microsoft is reaping the rewards.

Tim’s position as Alliance Lead to Microsoft (among others) provides valuable insight into the organisation’s strategic thinking. As a key global partner, Hitachi Consulting discusses how to provide a clear message in answer to the question ‘Why Microsoft?’ and the response is really very simple - trust. Microsoft’s message is clear: ‘we make software to support businesses – it’s what we do’. As a prospective Cloud services provider it can efficiently, carefully and responsibly curate and manage a Retailer’s data but crucially, as a business it has no intrinsic interest in a Retailer’s customers. In support of this wholly agnostic position it will always point to its contracts on data use – a vitally important point.

Hitachi Consulting works along side our clients as a true partner. We bring Retail/Hospitality domain expertise and understanding as well as the technical abilities to leverage the power of each of the Cloud platforms, and of course the essential associated Machine Learning and analytics tool-sets – taking a balanced view, then applying it to the specific need. If you’re looking to migrate your critical operational Retail and/or Hospitality solutions to a Cloud operator, ask yourself the question: is there any potential competitive downside? We can help you decide whether you are the optimum-sized Plover bird harvesting the best from the jaws, or whether another relationship is better for your situation.

I sincerely hope that no-one will take offence if the suggestion turns out to be that you’re less Plover/crocodile and more a clown(fish) and anemone...