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Eliminate the Line Between Physical and Digital Retail

phones using augmented reality in a living room

Author: Maggie Bolt

Shopping isn’t simply just going to the mall anymore. Lines between the physical and digital worlds are blurring and shoppers are growing accustomed to the benefits of digital technology. We are living in the age of Amazon, where artificial intelligence, machine learning, and digital innovation are the norm in retail, and customers in other industries such as grocery are starting to expect the same standards. Savvy retailers are winning by leveraging technology to enhance the shopping experience and meet consumers’ evolving desires, and other retailers must be proactive in their strategies to compete.

The Pace of Change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again.

– Justin Trudeau

Retailers who have found success have embraced the blur that is shopping today, where online and physical stores drive each other and are not mutually exclusive. While it may have been an easy assumption to think that all shopping is moving to digital, innovative retail leaders acknowledge the fact that the relationship between consumer, retailer, store and online has evolved to be more fluid, with the line between in-store and online is almost non-existent. Consumer preferences may include looking in-store and buying online, looking online and buying in store, or anything in between. Embracing the new while continuing to stay committed to their customer base, brand vision and message has allowed some of the following retailers to thrive in this environment.

  • Ikea allows you to choose the furniture you want and see it in front of you in your own home using an augmented reality feature on their mobile app.
  • Bonobos clothing encourages customers to be a part of the brand by sharing their clothing stories and featuring them on the website. Their personalized retail stores allows customers to make an appointment with a shopping guide who will help you find the perfect fit and ship it directly to your house. They also offer free shipping both ways and a flexible return policy – acknowledging the fact that consumers want fast and affordable service that fits their lifestyle
  • Converse also lets you see what shoes look like with the outfit you are wearing using augmented reality and their mobile app
  • Away luggage has a direct-to-consumer approach, eliminating the middle-man to provide customers high quality products at a lower rate
  • The Gap allows you to look at an outfit on a life-sized mannequin by putting your measurements into the app. If the customer likes it, they can click and buy it.
  • Sephora makeup and beauty brand is customer-centric and digitally focused with their virtual mirror that allows customers to try on makeup, innovative loyalty programs, non-traditional storefronts and mobile POS in pop-up shops.

Chat bots, 1:1 dynamic content emailing, and more accurate customer segmentation are all made possible through AI and ML. The use of mobile apps and smart homes bring the brands within reach of the customer, and mobile kiosks bring the customer closer to the store. By better understanding the customer journey, they have shifted from being everywhere to everyone and, instead, are focusing on singling out the most critical friction points regardless of how the customer decides to shop. These innovations allow retailers to meet the demands of consumers in the new age where customization, speed and convenience are highly valued, and continue to be competitive in the ever-changing landscape of retail.

As demonstrated by these retailers, gaining a more well-rounded view of the customer, integrating digital into physical stores and adopting customer-centric strategies will enable businesses/retailers to capture the benefits of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and Augmented Reality (AR) and provide their consumers a seamless shopping experience in-store, online and everywhere in between.

However, technology will never be a substitute for the basic elements of a great shopping experience, including innovative store design, ample selection, fair price, executional excellence and exceptional service and convenience. These are key drivers of store choice for consumers, and retailers need to show shoppers how they are delivering these values in every interaction, no matter where it occurs.

While many have tried, It is not about trying to out-do Amazon, but it is rather about leaning into a once brick & mortar-only retailer landscape and developing new capabilities accessible by new technologies. When retailers can embrace the new change and adapt their business plans to the evolving world, that is when they can make a difference in the moments that matter. As it turns out, in most circumstances, when done right, physical retail isn’t dead after all, it just got a face-lift.

TPG’s experienced team tackles ongoing retail consulting projects with various big-name retailers and grocers in North America. Let us help your organization transform your processes to embrace the blur of the shopping experience.

 

Why Your Company needs Process Mapping

process mapping image


Author: Cody McCullough 

Every business can benefit from improving their processes to reduce waste, identify cost-saving alternatives, speed up process lead time, or standardize commonly repeated activities. Although many businesses know that they want to implement these improvements for valuable time and money savings, many are unsure of how to get there or where to start.

This is where we come in. As continuous improvement practitioners The Poirier Group (TPG) is often hired to help document and map our clients’ workflows into repeatable systems and processes to identify where they can find more value in their organization. By visualizing these processes, we can decide what areas need to be altered or improved while aligning with current business structures.

To achieve these process improvement goals, our team engages in process mapping.

What is a Process Map?

business process is a collection of related activities or tasks conducted by people or machines in which a particular sequence results in a product or service.  A process map is a planning and management tool that visually depicts the workflow (or sequence) in which this transformation occurs. Process Mapping can greatly improve any process improvement project by increasing the understanding surrounding the flow of activities, information, people, and resources.

Why do I need a Process Map?

Our clients often wonder how process mapping the existing workflows can be of use to them. In answering this question, it is important to understand the needs of the business, and what the ideal state of their company will look like in the end.

Clients will often request process mapping as a service for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Standardizing a process – By documenting a process, a business can standardize it so that it’s always performed in the most optimal way, reducing confusion and inefficiency
  • Training employees – Process mapping provides a standard training document for both new and tenured employees
  • Improving a process – Once an existing process is mapped, it can be analyzed for bottlenecks and other inefficiencies
  • Communication – Process mapping provides a visual representation of the process that may be easier to understand than narrative text
  • Internal audits – Businesses want to ensure that they are meeting their company standards, and that their processes are aligned with their mission and goals
  • Compliance with International Organization for Standardization, called ISO 9001 – Used to conduct third-party audits of an organization’s quality management
  • Compliance with the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or SOX – Also known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act

What are the Benefits of Process Mapping?

Besides having a visual representation of how your business operates on multiple levels, a successful business process mapping (BPM) initiative will typically result in one or more of the following direct or indirect benefits:

  • Productivity – Process improvements like removing bottlenecks, introducing parallel processing, and eliminating redundant steps can be easily achieved with BPM
  • Efficiency – Because BPM gives organizations the opportunity to work more efficiently, they are able to save their resources
  • Compliance & Transparency – When you adopt BPM, you integrate compliance into the process life cycle. This also implies that organizational processes will become transparent and visible to employees.
  • Employee Satisfaction – Since process automation cuts down on a lot of repetitive work and makes information access easier, BPM eliminates a lot of red tape in organizations and allows employees to focus on their work 100%
  • Process Consistency – With an optimal process in place, identical problems are addressed the same way and there is no need to reinvent the wheel, even if roles or staff change
  • Sustainability – Business processes are continually improved to adapt to changing organizational conditions so that they can deliver the expected results
  • Measurability – All processes can be measured end-to-end and compared to expected/benchmarked results
  • Technology Integration – BPM, when implemented with technology, provides reporting and analytical tools for making executive decisions

What Does This Look Like in a Business?

The following business scenarios describe ways in which our team applied process mapping to solve a business need:

Scenario 1: Implementation of a New Call Center

The challenge: The client hired us to implement an entirely new Call Center that would be operated by a team of 20 new employees.  The client understood the types of customer calls they would receive, but did not know how to effectively train their employees on how to resolve these calls.

The process mapping solution: In this circumstance, our objective was to create simple flow-charts that were applied by the Call Center employees to resolve customer issues.

Benefits: The client received standardized process flow charts that start with a customer calling into the Call Center and end with the issue being resolved. This process is now being used on an ongoing basis to guide the resolution of customer issues, resulting in a happier clients and more efficient call center employees who can focus on the solution instead of “re-inventing the wheel” for each call.

NOTE: every process map should begin with an event or trigger, and in this case, it was a customer calling in with an issue.

Scenario 2: Confusion around Roles and Responsibilities Within a Process

The challenge: The client had a massively complex business process that required input from 5 unique departments and over 30 individual employees

The process mapping solution: In this circumstance, our objective was to document a very detailed cross-functional process map.

Benefits: Employee capabilities, roles and responsibilities were clearly outlined for each sub-process in business process workflows. This established accountabilities within the team and made organizational processes more transparent and visible to employees.

NOTE: A cross-functional process map (also referred to as a swim-lane map) groups components into a distinct sequence, or lane, in the visual presentation of workflow and process charts.

Conclusion

Process mapping is an extremely important method of improvement, but it is just as important to appropriately understand why the process map is being created in the first place. It is therefore not a “one-size-fits-all” solution, but rather a methodology, that can be applied in many different ways to solve a multitude of business challenges. The value is therefore not in the process map itself, but rather in what the map reveals.

At TPG, we are uniquely skilled in our ability to map complex businesses and processes to identify areas of improvement and implement solutions to address these. In the scenarios above, the types of companies, the issue being addressed, the approach taken, and how the process map added value varied significantly. However, each client saw tangible improvements in the way their business operated.

Let The Poirier Group find new value in your organization. Contact us today

 

Does Anybody Actually Enjoy Being Surprised?

man pulling back a curtain to reveal whats behind it

Author: Maggie Bolt

The anticipation is exciting: a “Ta-Da!” after a dramatic drumroll. These “Ta-Da’s” are usually most effective after the audience is kept in the dark, unaware of what lies under the velvet curtain. While contributing to dramatic effect in a magic show, drumrolls and big reveals should remain on stage.

When talking about a client who has decided to make a fundamental change to their company, and entrust a third-party contractor with this change, their reaction to a surprise is a lot less positive.  Now, when the unknown thing under the curtain could potentially alter a company’s financial, organizational and operational wellbeing – even if this change is a good thing—the worst place for that client to be is in the dark.

We have a saying here, at TPG – “No surprises, good or bad”.

This means that, while there can be good news and bad news that we share, this news should never come as a surprise. This is achieved by keeping the client in the loop through the entire process. Open, honest and direct communication throughout the project builds trust with the client and instills the confidence that the projects are on the right track and we know what we are doing.

It may seem exciting to hide away in an office only to return to deliver a “Ta-Da” presentation to show off the exciting solutions that were found. But the reality of it is, when working with a group of people you have just met, it is often difficult to figure out exactly what they need and what their vision of “done” looks like.

More often than not, your idea of where their company should be, and their idea of where their company should be, are drastically different. Therefore, working in a vacuum will likely result in the client group and the contracted group being misaligned, and the drumroll moment to end in a flop.

Requiring key stakeholders to be involved throughout the decision-making process ensures alignment and adjustment as a project goes along.

The people who will be directly affected by the change (i.e. the people who actually work in the company) will have some say in their own solutions, making for a seamless transition when the project is over and the solutions are handed off to the client.

The downside to this approach, is that at the end of the project, there is no “Ta-Da” moment. However, it drastically improves the likelihood of sustainability and both short-term and long-term profitability of the recommended solutions.

When talking about a company, versus a dramatic show, we have found that tangible cost savings and realistic solutions are often more exciting than a big surprise ending—even if it doesn’t involve a velvet curtain.

TPG has developed a unique approach to management consulting that has proven effective, centered around building trust with open, honest and direct communication. Get in touch with one of our industry experts to learn more!

 

Third Party Risk in the New Economy: New Technologies and An Old Problem

graphic image of cloud computing

Author: Rob Brickman

My inbox is always jammed with white papers and invitations to webinars and conferences on the latest technology, security threat or imminent global crisis. Each one calls out new winds of transformational change that are swirling around our organizations. Each implores us to take urgent, immediate action or suffer disastrous consequences (like lost competitive advantage or foregone opportunities).

Purged of hyperbole, this much is true; cloud technologies, pervasive data, machine learning and cognitive computing, like many previous waves of innovation, have the potential to profoundly change our business models, reduce operational costs and enhance productivity. But they do so with hidden risks.

It’s All About Trust and Hidden Risks

Rachel Botsman, author of “Who Can You Trust?” has wisely pointed out that “the currency of the new economy is trust.  Money is the currency of transactions. Trust is the currency of interactions.” In the fervor to create value from the new economy, organizations often miss three critical, trust-related considerations:

  1. Most new business models force us to rely on third parties, including some which are untested in supporting enterprise-level needs.
  2. Reposing trust in third parties can come with unknown and unquantified operational, financial, regulatory and compliance risks.
  3. Studies of outsourced relationships show that most organizations do not manage third party contracts and their attendant risks effectively enough.

For most organizations, relying on third parties is nothing new.  For decades, companies have entrusted others to manage onshore and offshore logistics, professional and engineering services, IT infrastructure, customer support and dozens of other key business functions.  Over the past decade, new pressures to reduce cost and enhance quality and consistency have incented buyers to shift to third-party solutions that use “as-a-service” models, AI, robotic process automation and machine learning.

New Technologies, Old Threats

Significantly, the third-party operational issues that buyers struggle with have remained remarkably consistent over time. I recently did a social media scan of buyer issues, and many of the challenges were identical to ones I first saw over a decade ago. Some of these might be familiar to your organization:  

  • “We have challenges coping with a multi-vendor environment”
  • “Our SaaS provider has no support organization. It took six emails and three submissions through their service management tool to fix an SLA miss.”
  • “Our provider doesn’t make exceptions and wouldn’t do a customized [Service Organization Control] report, which leaves us exposed on new filing requirements from our regulator”
  • “Our working relationship was fine when they wanted the deal, but now it’s toxic”
  • “The vendor has missed the past two monthly operational reviews and there are errors in its reporting on SLOs, SLA’s and KPIs. We’re fed up but it would take six months to transition to another vendor”
  • “Our vendor doesn’t adapt well to our changes in strategy”

Four Basic Questions – A Foundation for Effective Third-Party Management

So how do we anticipate and mitigate third-party risk?  Whether you rely on third parties for traditionally outsourced functions or in support of transformational business models using new technologies, start by asking four basic questions:

  1. How well do we monitor our providers’ performance and delivery of services?
  2. How well are our providers complying with the contract and managing change?
  3. Are we realizing the benefits we envisioned and are we aware of all material risks?
  4. How committed and aligned are providers to our organization’s evolving needs, values and goals?

These basic questions are a solid foundation from which to assess the maturity of your third-party risk management.  A fully mature organization typically builds a structured, effective and adaptable third-party risk framework consisting of business processes, policies, plans and controls.  Properly designed and implemented, a risk framework will:

  • Reduce enterprise risk
  • Drive greater operational effectiveness
  • Lower the costs of services provided and;
  • Increase the providers’ innovation, responsiveness, transparency and commitment to your organization’s success.

How Can TPG help?

TPG offers unique insight, experience and value in helping clients manage third-party risk.  We start with rapid assessments of process maturity in managing third-parties, and then address gaps and formulate policies that protect the business. We bring our structured framework for managing third-party operational risk, including over 40 pre-defined processes, policies and plans that should be in place for effective oversight.  If you’re struggling with third-party relationships, please get in touch with me at rob.brickman@thepoiriergroup.com

 

The Future of Industrial Engineers: Adapting to a Changing Landscape

industrial engineers animation

Industrial engineers (IEs) entering the marketplace today are in an interesting position because the advancement of technology, the prevalence of automation, and the accessibility to technical information has changed the landscape of Industry and Manufacturing in a way that Industrial engineers in previous generations have not had to face. This is going to reshape the role of Industrial Engineering and therefore the skill sets that IE’s require to be successful.

You may not think that the medical profession and engineering profession have anything in common, but that’s where you may be wrong.

There are many differences on the surface between the two professions, including working environment, technical skills and clientele, but dig a little deeper and the two professions have an underlying commonality. That is, the impact of the internet, emerging technologies, and access to technical information at the consumer, client or patient’s fingertips at all times.

Lets break this down a little more:

Improved access to medical information through the internet has changed and challenged the role of the doctor or medical professional. Before, they were the knowledge base for their patients, having sole access to symptom and diagnosis information from their years at school and in practice. Today, many patients come into appointments having thoroughly researched what their condition is, and the doctor’s role is more about facilitating the decision, correcting their assumptions, suggesting alternative treatment plans and providing access to a network of specialists. The information is readily available, but the use and application of it are what doctors are needed for.

Similarly, this trend is happening in the industrial engineering and manufacturing fields. The tools IEs have been known for will be readily available to others through a simple search query on Google or another search engine. Learning about Lean Six Sigma methodologies, cost analysis, and quality control procedures is no longer exclusive to those who studied industrial engineering in school. Just about anyone can look up how they can make their facility operate better, but the use, application and interpretation of them will require expertise that IEs will need to provide.

Additionally, Simulation and Analytics tools have automated many processes that IEs were previously responsible for. These emerging technologies are becoming cheaper and easier for companies to integrate. Robots can now work around the clock, delivering faster productivity cycles and meeting the rising demands of customers. The use of Industrial Internet of Things can monitor stock of raw materials in real time, leading to continuous productivity and avoiding a break in the chain when supplies are getting low. Manufacturing 4.0, data automation and cognitive computing also give companies greater access to mass amounts of data previously unavailable in a short amount of the time.

As we move to a more knowledge-based global economy (KBE), competitive advantage relies less on natural resources and more on what we can do with those resources. IEs will now have to interpret, analyse and apply this knowledge to better understand and improve businesses. Their relationship with technology will therefore have to change.

What does this mean for new Industrial Engineers entering the workforce?

Almost every industry is going through significant changes with the introduction and prevalence of new technologies. These changes can be intimidating when they threaten the future success of your career. The common presumption is that robots will take over and wipe out all jobs. While it may be true that robots can and will improve productivity through their ability to perform repetitive tasks for hours without loss of concentration or risk of error, the human element is still needed to keep things running. What will shift, is the way humans and technology interact, and the experts that interact with technology will need to adapt their skill sets accordingly.

The mass amount of data being captured by new capabilities will provide companies complete visibility of operations and the ability to capture every process in the form of data. This information, which will make production more efficient and in turn, drive cost savings, is ultimately analyzed by humans who must have the critical thought and decision-making skills to determine how automation can most effectively be used to solve a problem. Automation will also need some form of human response or interaction to run smoothly. Although many previous responsibilities of the Industrial engineer may have been taken over by automation, these experts must now learn to manage operations or do more challenging problem-solving work within an organization to remain relevant.

They key to combating disruptive forces such as emerging technologies is not to stand back and let them take over, but to adapt and work with them instead of against them. Skill sets will need to be developed to be more sophisticated, and the knowledge base of the Industrial Engineer, much like a medical professional, will need to be expanded and adapted to accommodate this shift. We must continue to learn, think critically, network with peers and experts in the industry, and apply what we learn in everyday practices. Remaining flexible, adaptive, and acknowledging change instead of ignoring it will aid in preventing the field from becoming obsolete in the presence of cloud computing, AI, and automation.

We are in the midst of a new world, but there will always be demand for human thinking at the centre of efficient operations. How will you adapt?