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Powered By Technology, Driven By Experience Sky I.T. Group

thesiliconreview-jay-hakami-ceo-sky-i-t-group-17‘The right tools, with the right talent, deliver the right solutions.’

There are few sectors in which the demand for accurate data collection and user-friendly business intelligence tools is greater than in the apparel and consumer goods space. Gone are the days of ‘merchant princes’, gut feelings, and siloed retail/wholesale stakeholders. Modern retail has challenged brands to make timely, data-driven decisions when it comes to wholesale and retail operations. At the same time, the volume, variety, and velocity of data makes it extremely difficult for teams of any size to collect, cleanse, and report product sales performance.

Each week, merchandisers rely on highly granular historical data to build product assortments, merchants develop pricing strategies, and planners require broad and deep visibility across all selling channels. Sales teams partner with buyers to maximize high margin selling and to understand when and where specific styles, colors and sizes could be under-or over-stocked. The bankruptcies and store closings of this year alone have proven the value that micro-level insights such as these can have on macro-level drivers. With the goal to provide business intelligence solutions specifically to the retail and wholesale fashion industry, Sky IT Group was established.

Headquartered in NYC with remote offices in GA, MD and abroad, Sky IT Group’s flagship SaaS solution, SKYPAD, is fashion’s leader in automated global retail sales data collection, cleansing and reporting. It is an “engine” that collects retail sales data from most global retailers, validates the data for accuracy, and then presents the information with easy-to-navigate reporting views. It empowers users to determine what is selling, where it was selling, and when it was selling.

The solution combines a supplier’s style information and shipment data with their retailer’s sales and inventory data, along with the brand’s owned retail/e-commerce stores sales data. This gives “C” level executives access to secure, timely and accurate insights into their products sales performance across sales channels based on geographic, time, and product attributes (such as seasonality, product category, color, fabric, etc.).

Dawn of Sky I.T. Group

Sky IT Group was established in November 2000 by Jay Hakami. The core concept was that understanding the industry is more important than the specific business tool used. The company was successful in deploying business intelligence solutions at many fashion companies, but it was looking to build a SaaS solution that would address a very specific area of “pain”: retail intelligence. The solutions that were available at the time were not advanced and mostly relied on outdated spreadsheets.

During the first few years Hakami established a business intelligence practice focused on the fashion industry. Under his direction, Sky I.T. Group has also joined the IBM midrange hardware platform channel program and also became an authorized business partner Mercury Interactive (purchased by HP in 2006) for selling and deploying automated software testing solutions.

The company’s mission at the time was to solve complex business problems with a perfect combination of hardware, software and exceptional technical expertise. At that time, with such a small team in place, it put a strong emphasis on its staff - education, certifications, training, seminars, and customer service is what drives innovative solutions to exceed customer expectations.

Over the decade that followed, although the team has grown and its business practices have evolved, its core values have not changed. Each Sky I.T. Group employee embodies superior professionalism, a thirst for knowledge and a passion for innovation. They are considered Sky I.T. Group’s biggest asset.

The firm has elected to utilize the most advanced web based technologies, in-memory BI tools from Qlik for data discovery, extremely fast databases from Vertica, an HPE company, and scalable ETL tools among other state-of-the-art technologies. It has brought together a diverse team of retail professionals, data scientists, and database developers to create the robust, accurate, intuitive, and secure SKYPAD platform. SKYPAD enables sales and merchandising professionals to view “actionable data”, which enables decision making to take place promptly and based on a single version of the truth.

Crown Jewel-SKYPAD

SKYPAD started as a literal back-of-napkin sketch that became a PowerPoint presentation. Contemporary designer brand Theory and mid-market brand development group Chaus USA were among the first presented to, and remain subscribers to this day. SKYPAD’s features and benefits have grown along with its client base, expanding first domestically then globally. Today, it provides data from 10,000+ stores on 6 continents to 1700+ users at 100+global brands and these stats keeps on growing from month to month. The number of brands subscribed to SKYPAD has much more than doubled each year since Theory has elected to be the first to utilize it for its wholesale and retail data collection and reporting.

SKYPAD eliminates the burden of data collection, validation, and reporting for wholesale apparel/luxury/consumer goods brands. It does so by integrating style and shipment information provided by the supplier with sales data provided by the retailer, along with any other publicly available data sources. This combination of the data sources provides the insights needed by everyone from assistant-level to C-suite.

SKYPAD is a SaaS offering that features a rich graphical user interface and customizable features geared toward each client. The key benefit of SKYPAD’s wide and varied user community is the latest version of SKYPAD is an amalgamation of all the enhancements super-users have requested over the years. Today’s users have access to best-practice dashboards, style-focused reports, location-based tables, geographic-based interfaces, and customizable ad-hoc reports.

Remarkable Attributes of the SKYPAD

  • SKYPAD’s unique technology can “scrape” what is presented on retailer’s web portals and compile wealth of sales performance data for the supplier. It utilizes product images, graphs, charts, and geo-mapping for a visual view of product sales performance and can integrate any commercially available data source, such as weather data or demographics.
  • In addition to numerous reports and charts, SKYPAD provides users with ad-hoc functionality to customize and save frequently used reports, as well as to distribute reporting throughout the organization.
  • SKYPAD is a secured online tool that allows clients to set ‘user permissions’ based on data specificity. It provides its customer with “Best Practices” when it comes to retail intelligence. Behind the product, there are a host of “customer success” staff members with deep retail expertise who can respond to questions and relay enhancement requests to the development team.
  • Sky IT Group’s creative products management, data scientists and R&D teams are continuously and tirelessly searching – with customer input - for new value adds and innovative ways to extract and integrate data from other sources to provide insights that can benefit not only the SKYPAD community of users, but also other industry segments.

Drawbacks Answered By Sky IT Group

The single, biggest challenge facing “C” level executives at companies that supply products to the retail industry is the inability to quickly and accurately analyze selling performance across all of their selling channels. The volume of sales data can overwhelm an out-of-the-box data warehouse. At the same time, each retailer provides data in a variety of file formats and structures that can be difficult to normalize. On top of these factors, the velocity of data required by decision makers also contributes to a lack of “retail intelligence”. The inability to react quickly to consumer trends can have a devastating impact on the financial performance of any company.

SKYPAD provides automated data collection across all suppliers’ sales channels, validates the integrity of the data down to the most granular level and provides a web-based, secure dashboard and reporting views. SKYPAD is updated first-thing Monday morning so that business users can see their products’ sales performance and quickly make facts-driven, analytically-minded decisions.

Clientele Club

While SKYPAD has seen the most traction with global luxury fashion brands, the company’s current client base represents all corners of retail including: brand/licensing groups such as: Caleres and G-III Apparel Group; multi-channel brands such as: Michael Kors, Lacoste, and Eileen Fisher; luxury conglomerates such as: Kering and LVMH brands; consumer goods such as: Yankee Candle and Berkshire Blanket; and fashion brands such as: Rag & Bone, Burberry, Alexander Wang, and Alice + Olivia among many others.

Case Study: Testimony of Success:

The Problem:

Each week, fashion apparel suppliers are inundated with retailer selling reports in the form of Excel spreadsheets, PDFs, vendor portals, EDI 852 transmission, and flat files. The reports are challenging and time-consuming to sift through but the data is essential because it provides a window into how their product is performing across all store types. As brands continue to sell broader-and-broader product assortments to wider-and-wider global geographies (for both wholesale accounts and their owned retail stores), the process of accurately normalizing this data could take days each week to answer even simple questions like “what is selling?” and “what isn’t selling?”.

The Solution:

SKYPAD has become a mission-critical application for business insights and consumer trends that impact the bottom line. SKYPAD customers have not only enhanced their collaborative abilities with retail customers, they have also benefitted from increased merchandise sell-through and significantly improved margins.

Here are what industry leaders are saying about SKYAPD:

Andrew Rosen, founder and CEO of Theory and Helmut Lang, described SKYPAD as a “great partner for Theory. They are a trusted resource for brands, giving them the ability to monitor sales performance and aggregate data across selling platforms considering multiple variables and performance indicators.”

Jason Epstein, senior vice president of operations at Alice + Olivia, said the ability of SKYPAD and the Sky IT Group team “to collect data from so many different data sources accurately not only saves us significant time and money, it provides us accurate insights into trends early in the season so we can take action to maximize selling and profitability with our retail partners.”

David Meir Sasson, chief operating officer at Derek Lam, said SKYPAD’s initial benefit to the company was to “streamline the customer reports and create a central repository. Prior to SKYPAD, we received numerous weekly reports in different format types, which would take several days to analyze and process to create a summary report.”

Venerate the Visionary

thesiliconreview-saas-cover-17Jay Hakami, Founder, President, and CEO: Hakami’s more than 30 years of successful executive leadership roles have always focused on in depth understanding of business challenges and solving them with deployment of creative and practical IT solutions. Prior to founding Sky IT Group, for a period of 10 years, he served as Senior VP at large system integrator with overall responsibility of operations, marketing, sales, and services delivery of ERP and business intelligence solutions to the apparel manufacturing and distribution industries.

Hakami - with the help of data scientists and industry experts – launched the development of SKYPAD - Big Data collection, cleansing and reporting for suppliers to the retail industry. SKYPAD is considered today to be the most comprehensive, scalable, and secure global SaaS solution platform for multichannel sell-through data capture, validation, and insights. He is an alumnus of The Hebrew University.

"We are extremely proud of our exceptional people, strategic partners, and innovative solutions, all of which contribute to the continued success and growth of our customer community."