Redesigning In-Store Processes to Improve Efficiency, Save Time

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How one of the world’s largest retailers created a scalable digital platform that’s now used each day by more than 1.5 million team members in six countries

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Snapshot

Operations leaders knew there was an urgent need to rethink the daily floor walk process inside of its thousands of stores across the country, thus giving store leaders a redesigned system through which they would be able to more easily and efficiently identify, manage, and delegate all of the critical, day-to-day tasks required in order to keep their stores running smoothly. Much needed change eventually came via a custom, digital task-management platform that allowed all store leaders and employees to collaborate much more efficiently.

Created a daily time savings of nearly one hour for store management

Services

Research

Strategy

Prototyping

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Technical Architecture

Product Development

Change Management

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We were brought in to help Operations leaders reimagine the daily floor walk process. Essentially, each and every morning, store managers are responsible for walking the floor, looking for things that are out of place. Their goal is to find things that are out of place on the floor…basically critical tasks that need to get done. Those notes were then jotted down in yellow legal pads, via pen and paper, then handed off to department managers who are responsible for delegating that work to their team members.

— Mason McClelland Sr. Product Owner, RevUnit

The Challenge
What We Were Up Against
female retail worker/manager with short hair and glasses completing tasks on a tablet.

Ops needed to rethink in-store task management 

There was a tremendous desire to completely rethink the floor walk process inside of the stores smaller and supercenter locations, thus giving store management a redesigned system through which they would be able to more easily and efficiently identify, manage, and delegate all of the critical, day-to-day tasks required in order to keep their stores running smoothly. Doing so meant creating a new system that allowed store personnel to co-manage critical store operations and key daily tasks in real-time.

The existing process was inefficient and inconsistent 

Store management was reliant upon an antiquated, analog system that actually had become more of a burden than a benefit. They had reason to question both the efficiency and usefulness of the floor walk, a daily ritual for leaders at each location across the country. In effect, store management was stuck between a rock and hard place — the daily floor walk was critical for daily operations, but it also took too much time, created unnecessary back-and-forth communication, and often created more headaches.

Consequently, store leaders often spent an hour each morning walking the store, jotting down notes, typing them up, and then delegating those tasks to department managers. And when hourly team members were finally assigned those tasks, there was no easy way to determine whether or not the task had been completed. What’s more, there was little-to-no uniformity in the process itself, which created a system full of inconsistency and irregularity.

Spotlight ———

In effect (and largely through no fault of their own), both store leaders and hourly team members were handicapped by both process and tools, and as a result, the primary actors responsible for running day-to-day store operations weren’t working together efficiently.

The existing process was time-intensive and disjointed

We quickly found out the existing process was entirely dependent on a manual, inefficient, and rather tedious daily process. Each morning, store leaders would survey the store floor, looking for things which were either out of place or needed improvement. He or she would make note of these needed changes, and then pass them on to department managers, who would then delegate those tasks to hourly team members. This process was almost entirely paper-based, yet one of the most central to daily store operations.

There were a few, obvious limitations to this approach: First, the system itself lacked both accountability and consistency. That is, store management mostly relied on the “honor system” to determine whether or not these tasks were completed. Second, there were no uniform guidelines which governed how these tasks were documented or shared. This created a great deal of variability and inconsistency between stores (there wasn’t a standardized process that could scale across the brand’s massive footprint). Third, the process itself became a “time suck” for store management often creating gobs of unnecessary back-and-forth communication between various groups.

We noticed a few other critical issues, too
01—
There were some inherent biases that all involved had to overcome from the start

Many of the leaders making decisions back at headquarters had been former store managers themselves. Thus, there were some inherent biases that weren’t necessarily representative of what was actually happening inside the stores. What’s more, the floor walk process was inconsistent from store to store, so it was difficult to project research or qualitative findings across store locations.

02—
The existing process didn’t provide the level of accountability or intelligence desired

The existing, largely manual process didn’t give store management the type of accountability needed in order to know whether or not critical tasks had been completed. Consequently, the Ops teams back at headquarters also didn’t have access to the type of critical business intelligence that would help them quickly identify inefficiencies across its stores.

03—
There were unique, underlying data challenges that needed to be resolved quickly

Not surprisingly, getting access to store-level and employee-specific data proved difficult. At the time, most of that data was housed on a server inside the store. As a result, connecting to those systems was a significant challenge. Additionally, the sheer volume of available data (thousands of stores across the country) required a database architecture to match the unique, complex needs of such a massive organization.

04—
Resolving these challenges required close collaboration with various internal teams

While the Ops team was the “torch bearer” for the initiative, success was largely dependent upon the ability to work collaboratively with a number of other business units in order to test, build, and deploy a solution that met the incredibly unique needs of such a complex organization. Doing so was not without its own set of challenges.

Doug Mitchell profile picture, white male smiling with short straight dark blond hair and blue eyes

It was such a close collaboration from the start, because, well, it had to be. The sheer scale of what we were trying to do required that everyone be “all in.” In fact, there was literally a period of time where our two teams were working shoulder to shoulder each day. We worked together and learned together for nearly four years.

— Doug Mitchell, Director, Product, RevUnit

The Partnership

How We Tackled the Challenge, Together
Phase 01: Research + Prototyping
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Timeline: 8-10 Weeks
Key Activities:

→ Participated in countless store visits across the Midwest over the course of several weeks, including interviews with both store and regional managers across the country in order to better understand their roles, responsibilities, and workflows related to the floor walk process

→ Created a prototype that could be used to test initial hypotheses, elicit additional user feedback, and drive more meaningful conversations between the various internal teams; the prototype formed the foundations of our MVP build.

→ Worked with various internal teams to create a standardized design system, identify requirements for MVP, and performed a multi-week technical feasibility assessment that was then used to inform data and technical architecture decisions for MVP

Phase 02: Product Development
woman holding phone and taking notes
Timeline: 12 Weeks
Key Activities:

→ Outlined all requirements necessary to build MVP, identifying critical dependencies, technical requirements, architectural considerations, and potential blockers along the way

→ Worked in two-week sprints, working collaboratively with a variety of teams to determine priorities, remove blockers, and show quick progress (continuous release cycles)

→ Deployed critical functionality often, soliciting feedback from store management that was then used to validate or invalidate core features and functionality prior to system-wide rollout.

→ Tested all critical components prior to launch, worked predominantly with internal tech and systems teams, respectively, to plan and execute a nation-wide platform launch

Phase 03: Change Management
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Timeline: 2-4 Weeks
Key Activities:

→ Documented all critical platform components, including business requirements, technical architecture, and system components; provided end-to-end documentation for seamless ownership transition

→ Held multiple training sessions with internal teams to review critical systems, operational processes, and best practices for platform management; these sessions included critical technical support that enabled internal staff to more efficiently expand the platform in the future

→ Led ongoing training sessions to answer questions, provide guidance, and collect critical feedback from client stakeholders and associates; these sessions (including the resulting feedback) were then used in future platform enhancements to improve technical architecture and feature development.

The Solution

What We Created Together
A task management platform to power in-store collaboration

Together, we transformed the in-store task management process into one of real-time collaboration, allowing all store teams to work more efficiently together. The end result was a dynamic, centralized digital platform that replaced the antiquated pen and paper methods that store managers had come to rely upon in order to keep track of daily, in-store activities. 

We first designed and built the extensive data infrastructure which was needed to house, secure, retrieve, and surface massive volumes of data in real-time. Moreover, the newly-built technical infrastructure allowed other critical systems to more easily and securely consume critical store-level data, providing a next-level business intelligence capability that was previously inaccessible due to system constraints. As a part of this process, we jointly designed a set of data governance practices and policies which were then implemented so as to create standards for how store-level data was to be utilized by all of the various systems involved. 

The underlying technical infrastructure gave store leaders the ability to create and assign tasks to other team members in real-time; it gave all staff a clear, accurate, and up-to-date view of exactly which tasks needed to be completed in order to keep the store running efficiently throughout the day. Most importantly, it made the assignment and completion of those tasks much simpler, effectively creating an activity trail which was both documented and trackable at the store level. Lastly, for the first time ever, it gave team members the ability to provide constructive feedback about the application directly within the platform itself, a feature that’s now a requirement for all internal applications.

phone screens showing task management tool, check list, and a guy checking scanning products in a warehouse
dark skinned woman wearing glasses with short curly black hair smiling

Very awesome tool!!!!!! It certainly simplifies the direction given and makes it very easy to walk the store and follow up and check the notes off as complete.

— Store Manager

New Capabilities
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Allowed team members to create and assign store-level tasks in real time

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Created a store-level view of incomplete tasks, providing visibility to all staff

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Gave regional managers the ability to take notes and share those with staff

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Notified team members when high-priority tasks had been both completed and verified

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Allowed for creation and assignment of ongoing, repeatable tasks in an efficient manner

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Visualized task performance trends on an ongoing, daily basis for next-level reporting

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Jointly created a set of data governance practices to manage store-level data usage

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Created shared accountability to routine tasks critical to normal store operations

two phone screens showing completed tasks and a task management app
Spotlight ———

The average time between task creation and task completion is less than one hour. What’s more, the platform has democratized task management at the store level, reducing the amount of time that store managers spend creating, assigning, and ensuring completion of key operational activities. In fact, the new platform saves management a minimum of an hour of time per day, each day.

The Results

What We Accomplished Together
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Created a daily time savings of nearly one hour for store management
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At least 75% of tasks are completed within 24 hours of creation
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85,000 notes are created each day by more than 50,000 active US users
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More than 60 million notes have been created to date

Financial Reporting

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How one of the world’s largest retailers consolidated five, disparate data systems into a single source of truth and sped up the financial decision-making process from four hours to just five minutes

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On-Demand Training

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A closer look at how multiple internal teams at a leading restaurant brand joined forces to reimagine training while working closely with 25 locations across the country

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Inventory Loss

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A closer look at how the emerging tech and analytics teams applied machine learning to Operational Technology, increasing product identification accuracy to over 90%

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Get more information on our store operations case study.

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