How retailers can use business process design for successful tech adoption

Business process design is a systematic way for retailers to introduce new technology to their enterprises with the least disruption possible.

How retailers can use business process design for successful tech adoption

Introducing new technology into your organization is like dropping a large stone into a lake – ripple. The effects ripple from shoreline to shoreline of your business.

Business process design is the legwork you put in to minimize disruption from when you implement new technology and keeping those ripples from becoming tidal waves.

Business process design is critical to successful technology adoption because, without a clear plan for implementation, an organization risks low adoption rates, high disruption and wasted capital.

 Get buy-in from the people impacted by tech changes

A successful technology rollout places the people who will use and be affected by the technology front and center from the start of the process to create buy-in and gather feedback.

“Even if someone’s role doesn’t appear to be directly impacted by what you’re doing, it’s important to consider how technology changes may impact their job,” said Prerna Mascarenhas, Global Service Lead for Business Process Design Consulting at NCR. “There’s a famous story about a janitor at NASA telling President Kennedy his job was putting a man on the moon. That’s the leadership approach necessary to really get employees on board with innovation.”

In other words, everyone from retail clerks to store managers and warehouse distributors to company executives needs to understand the change and how it will benefit the way they work.

If those changes aren’t communicated well, overlooked details can disrupt operations, explained Marie Slade, Head of EMEA training at NCR.

“I recall a retailer who updated their technology to allow returns to any store, not just the particular store where a product was purchased,” Slade said. “The cashier wasn’t alerted to this change, and so the return wasn’t accepted, which breaks that customer journey that the technology was designed to improve.”

Building a robust business process design, then, requires shadowing different job positions to understand how employees across the organization will be affected by new technology. These sessions can provide the context for how documented company policies are put into action.

 Document all company policies carefully

Before adopting new technology, a business must understand and document its current processes to avoid conflicts and contradictions with new approaches.

For example, Slade said, a retailer who changes payment systems and now carries more cash may be subject to stricter regulations or have to increase insurance levels.

“Organizations, when they’ve found the right technology and they are excited about the benefits, they get excited, you know?“ Mascarenhas said. ”They can’t wait to go live, but they have no idea the impact this is going to have on, not just their employee or their customer, but on their operating model.“

To better understand the cascading effects new technology can have on a company’s operations, it’s important to gather all documentation about how the organization runs. These materials range from the computer code new technology will interact with to training handbooks, equipment manuals, product guides and more.

Again, it’s important to put people first in a business process design because as companies grow, some documents are built ad hoc by employees.

Mascarenhas said she worked with a retailer recently where an employee tracked important information in a separate spreadsheet outside the official system because it was easier to work with.

“So you have this important work and it’s sitting on someone’s hard drive, and if you aren’t careful, that’s something that’s going to get missed in the transition,” Mascarenhas said.

 Invest in training

Effective training can make or break a successful technology rollout, which is why it’s such a crucial piece of any business process design exercise.

Some companies try to save money by using a “train-the-trainer” style program. In Slade’s experience, the person who learns the new technology will focus on what is important to them but ineffectively educate their peers on the rest of the material.

“If a train-the-trainer approach is used, it’s important that those people have a background in training, and not just be the person who is an expert in that type of technology or that process,” Slade said. “Otherwise, it’s wisest to bring in qualified trainers.”

As a retailer rolls out new technology, it’s important to work closely with employees to reinforce good habits and to provide experts who can field questions from employees about the new technology, Slade added.

 Gather feedback after launch

The rollout of a new technology isn’t over until you’ve measured its success, which is why gathering feedback is the final stage in business process design.

Mascarenhas recommended tracking the performance metrics that inspired the pursuit of new technology in the first place. Those measures may include increased sales, reduced inventory shrinkage, faster delivery and more.

“Bear in mind, though, that different roles will have different metrics and be responsive to how this technology helps everyone throughout the organization meet their goals,” Mascarenhas said.

For example, a store manager who wants to increase her team’s productivity may look for ways new technology can help move employees out of the back office handling administrative tasks and onto the floor helping customers directly.

Ultimately, retailers need to know that new technology has served their customers. So ask them, Mascarenhas said.

“Find out how their experience has been since the organization adopted new technology,” Mascarenhas said. “And don’t settle for just a survey in exchange for a coupon. If you can, take time to get qualitative feedback too.”

That feedback can come from practices like social media monitoring and focus groups. Real conversations with real customers can provide powerful data points to assure new technology has made a positive impact on the company.

 Success depends on a clear, thoughtful business process design

Digital transformation is critical to the future success of today’s growth-minded retailer. That means adopting new technologies to reduce costs, increase profits and serve customers better.

Whether retailers are implementing new forms of contactless payment, streamlining the in-store mobile experience, or integrating one-to-one marketing, the business process design approach allows retailers to rapidly adapt to the changing retail technology landscape.

Technology adoption is a team sport, and a thoughtful, collaborative business process design and training are critical components for ensuring your next rollout is a success.