Jean-Pierre Ullmo, VP EMEA Sales at Changepoint looks at three key barriers to retailer agility, and explains how they can be overcome.
Online retailers are navigating choppy water in recent months. Well, they have been for years with the advent of e-commerce, but following Amazon’s roll-out of a full online supermarket service to the Brexit vote, which means benefits from the proposed EU Single Digital Market may never be realised by UK retailers, the already volatile environment is becoming even more threatening. As e-commerce evolves and the UK political climate unfolds, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are at risk of being taken by the current and dragged onto the rocks.
To weather the storm, retailers must be agile–not just to get ahead, but to survive. And, good news, retailers—above all other verticals—know agility is key to business survival. That’s why you’re hard-pressed to find a retailer that doesn’t have an e-commerce play in place already. However, when we spoke to retailers for a recent survey, we found the vast majority lack the IT agility required to adapt to the continually changing marketplace. In fact, when we spoke with more than a thousand project managers and executives from medium to enterprise-sized organisations, only 10 per cent were confident in the ability to pivot their business as needed.
For retailers, the biggest internal pain-points of managing business transformation come from a lack of real-time transparency into resources (43 per cent) and projects (29 per cent). This is unsurprising when you note that a whopping 69 per cent still rely on spreadsheets to manage projects and resources despite the error-prone nature of spreadsheets and their inability to offer real-time information.
Specifically, our research revealed three key barriers to being an agile retailer:
1) Lack of effective communication tools
The first step in becoming a truly agile IT organisation is laying a foundation for effective, instant communication, with information sharing happening automatically.
It’s worrying to learn that that almost one third (29 per cent) of retailers lack tools for managing better communication across teams and projects. More than half (54 per cent) of retail professionals cite communication, both intra and inter-departmental, as the most difficult aspect of managing a project. There must be an initiative to open lines of communication within the business. Once that happens, the benefits of pooling knowledge and insight will pay dividends.
2) Managing workloads and schedules
Retail project managers spend the majority of their work day managing team workloads and schedules, with 43 per cent citing this as the most difficult aspect of project execution. The majority, 60 per cent, spend more than three hours a day managing people, and 68 per cent spend more than three hours a day establishing and managing processes. With Project Management Offices (PMOs) in larger organisations charged with keeping the plates spinning for hundreds of projects at the same time, issues surrounding workloads and schedules are amplified many times over. This drain on time and brain capacity is a serious barrier to business agility; retailers must put manual processes, such as spreadsheets, behind them and embrace systems that better support the work they’re doing.
3) Multiple, disconnected systems
In the current environment, retailers need to be careful to not become overrun with hundreds of different, disconnected applications and systems. When it comes to a number of internal projects, a project portfolio management (PPM) system that integrates with multiple core systems becomes a live overview of all activity. For our respondents, the most important functions of a PPM solution are not only project management (43 per cent), but also real-time analytics and reporting (21 per cent) and resource management (14 per cent). Retailers are hungry for intelligent, insightful data they can use to make more informed business decisions. Without a collective means for managing projects and resources, nimble execution is compromised and places PMOs and larger organisations at risk. To do their job more effectively, project managers need a connected system for project management, portfolio management, and resource management.
The hard truth is, at any moment, a business is likely either disrupting or being disrupted. But without effective communication tools, managing workloads and schedules in a simple manner and ensuring internal projects and programmes run effectively will be an ongoing struggle.
While online retailers may be tempted to batten down the hatches and attempt to ride out the storm, those who are slow to act will find themselves on the rocks. Retailers must open lines of communication and connect disparate project and resource management systems. Digitalising and enabling real-time insight must be a priority. Those who continue to work in a spreadsheet-dominated, manual-processed world will continue to suffer through slow, confusing, and lost information sharing. Without this preparation, retailers are setting themselves up to fail when faced with an ‘evolve or dissolve’ situation.
By Jean-Pierre Ullmo
VP EMEA Sales