The last post on the Causes of Retail Project Failure, could paint a pretty dim picture. But for forward-thinking retail executives, there are clear ways to improve the odds of success.
1. Create Full-Time Process Owners. When individual functional silo’s try to create business improvements, they often do so without seeing the end-to-end impact of the process (and the changes) overall. That leads to optimizing one portion of the process while suboptimizing the entire process overall. Creating ownership for the end-to-end process ensures that someone is providing critical oversight and prioritization to improving the outcome of an entire process. (Think of the promotional process with responsibility for planning and execution down to the store level.) When someone owns the outcome of a process and not just the completion of a project, real business change is increased.
2 & 3. Create Permanent “Change the Business” Resources. It is willful self-delusion that maintains that the same resources that efficiently run the day to day retail business can create transformational (or even incremental) improvements in how work is done. Best in class retailers use a 10 to 1 ration of one person dedicated full time to changing business technology, processes and metrics for every ten running the business. This change the business role should be a required career assignment and last from 18-36 months. And NO – you cannot ask everyone to do their “regular” job 90% of the time and change it 10% of the time. I have never seen that work.
4. Develop Risk Adjusted ROI’s. To combat expectations, ensure that ROI’s are weighted for risk factors such as a historical adoption rates, project team’s success rates, technology stability, political leadership and other “unmeasurables” that can affect the project’s outcome. Create an enlightened steering committee that challenges business cases and apportions funding into digestible chunks that can be corrected for risk over time. Importantly, measure the ROI delivery after the project. Nothing motivates a project team like knowing their delivery will be measured and reported (and tied to future career opportunities.)
5. Hold Executives Accountable throughout their career. No one is going to slow down the trajectory of a high-powered executive. But setting the expectation that an initiative created under the executive sponsorship of an individual remains with the individual despite career changes will help keep executive guidance and leadership in play throughout the length of a project. The great Store Manager Training project created by the VP of Stores remains his responsibility even if he becomes the SVP of HR, for example. Or the Supply Chain Technolgy implementation remains the responsibility of the VP of Supply Chain even if she moves to Merchandising or COO.
I have seen all of these tactics implemented and they greatly improve the return on investments made to improve retail business technology and practices.