How Digital Reinvented Levi Strauss & Co.’s IT Business Model

How Digital Reinvented Levi Strauss & Co.’s IT Business Model

Ulrika Mann

Ulrika Mann,

The 163-year-old blue jeans pioneer is turbo-charging business processes by applying new management structures and digital technologies to match the pace of selling directly to consumers.

Roland Paanakker recently retired as the Senior Vice-President and CIO at Levi Strauss & Co., where he was responsible for managing all aspects of IT, ranging from strategy and innovation to IT portfolio and program execution, and IT operations. In volume 10 of Cognizanti, the journal produced by Cognizant, he shares his experiences from running the company’s digital transformation:

“Established retailers like Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) face a tall order in dealing with fast-evolving business models and ever-changing consumer expectations. Over the past decade or so, we’ve worked toward responding to the direct-to-consumer movement. Now, digital is changing the clock speed of the company. We need to operate at the pace of the consumer, in real time, all the time. 

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When we sold all our products through wholesalers, we had no way to access real-time insights or act in real time. IT historically operated as an island, with control and authority over “all things IT.” The need to transcend this old-world model is what makes it so critical to properly plan and deploy digital technology. IT must be integrated, agile and responsive.” 

Like many companies that deal directly with consumers, Levi’s has implemented digital tools and rethought how to manage technology.

“Business-led initiatives enabled through technology are becoming the norm. Today, it’s all about where and how IT architecture intersects with business architecture. The paradigm is shifting from ‘business vs. IT’ or ‘business and IT’ to ‘business is IT, and IT is business’. There’s no distinction anymore.”

Three-pronged mission to transform IT
Roland Paanakker describes how Levi’s has undertaken a three-step approach to fuel the digital transformation and accelerate the direct-to-consumer pace of business.

“Our ‘True North’ is to ensure IT is structured and resourced (in terms of people and partnerships) to meet the requirements of our business, in an agile and sustainable way. I think of it as ‘IT at the speed of (digital) business’.”

The company’s three change imperatives include:

  1. Bring business and technology together, both organizationally and operationally, to speed up our service and capability delivery to meet digital consumer demands.
  2. Build trust by shifting to fact- and metrics-based IT performance.
  3. Elevate IT’s strategic relevance and influence.

Read the full article in volume 10 of Cognizanti, and learn more about Cognizant's consumer goods practice here.