Jason sees that no one else is about to commit commercial suicide and put the e-Trolley project in a chair with a bright light shining in its eyes and give it the third degree so he does so himself. He raises the challenge for Bob to justify his project in benefits terms partly because it shows him to be a fearless member of the team able to put his own career behind the good of the company and partly because he convinced Bob two days before the meeting that it was essential for the e-Trolley project to be well argued. Jason has learned a lot about internal politics.
Bob agreed to let Jason question him in this way on the proviso that Jason helps with the benefit case. So Bob is able to list all of the benefits he and Jason had been able to dream up in pretty general terms for the e-Trolley project.
Jason almost succeeds in keeping a know-it-all smile away from his face.
The first benefit, ‘says Bob’, is in improved customer satisfaction though quicker and easier checking out. I read a survey carried out by one of those Watchdog TV programmes recently. By the way, they are called watchdog programmes because most of the audience are family pets’
A dutiful chuckle circulates the room despite the poor joke.
‘Anyway, the survey showed that the single most annoying element in the whole shopping experience is the check-out process. People dislike the queuing and jockeying for position and are convinced that other queues seem to always move faster than their own.
‘People spoke about feeling harassed into unpacking and re-packing quickly so as not to delay others. Everyone hates having to unload all of their purchases and then repack them. In addition, our own very simple preliminary survey shows a surprisingly low fear of the technology (except amongst the older group of customers) plus a good measure of support for an attempt to do something about the check-out problem. We got nearly 100% support from the disabled customers.
‘To complete this first benefit there will be better service levels as the customer should know how much they have spent so far and can price any item using their own barcode scanner. This will save both our staff and our customers some considerable time.
‘Secondly we will increase the sales of certain items especially in the hygiene and pharmaceutical areas. We believe there are a significant number of people who do not buy personal things from us because they have to be counted and displayed for all to see. Some people are intimidated by having their depilatories, suppositories, prophylactics and even hair dye displayed to their fellow shoppers. I estimate a 0.05% increase in sales due to this change.
‘Thirdly we will be able to reduce the number of check-out points in many stores. This will release floor space for display shelving and reduce the number of staff we need to keep each store running. I estimate a 7.5% reduction in both check out staff and required floor space in the stores that take on the e-Trolley. It will be like expanding every store, something that would normally cost us thousands at a large store and even more on a superstore.
‘Fourthly we lose a lot of goods by breakage at the checkout. A significant quantity of goods, and especially fragile items like glass containers including jars and bottles as well as cakes and soft fruit, get trashed at the checkouts. As a policy we replace these items free of charge to avoid the inevitable arguments about whose fault it was. I estimate this to save us £500,000 per annum.
‘We will use this new technology to generate some good public relations and publicity. We’ll be seen as a progressive, thinking organisation that does its best to help our customers to make their lives easier.
‘Finally I think we are going to reduce shrinkage. We lose a lot of goods through various forms of carelessness and theft and I do not expect this new system will add to the problem, it should bring about a reduction. Customers will not be able to use a check out station operated by a neighbour or friend who kindly misses a few items. We will lose about the same quantities under people’s coats and in their bags as we do now. I will be conservative and not put any value on this. All of these benefits need work but I hope you can see the trend.’
Bob has made a strong case and knows it. He has been weak on some numbers but his authority and confident delivery make up for any shortfalls in facts. Within the SpendItNow hierarchy this has been the best-presented and most explicit case for undertaking any project there has ever been and that by some considerable distance, so whilst it may not be perfect it is far better than any other previous attempt. Jason smiles inwardly and glances round the room. Oddly he finds himself wishing Anna had been there to see it.
Once the collective jaws of the directors have been scraped off the conference room floor and whilst still on a high they adjourn to lunch, a part of the day’s proceedings many had been looking forward to. No one was looking forward to lunch as much as Jason had been looking forward to Bob’s justification of the e-Trolley.
With Jason’s help and after a great deal of discussion, they break down the overall strategy into three programmes and Jason’s diagram now looks like this on the whiteboard:
The e-Trolley pilot project stays in the list of projects to do and they come up with a general list of initiatives but decide to leave the acquisition to one side recognising that the window of opportunity might soon slam shut on the stubby fingers of delay.
After some discussion and defensive statements from various directors a complete list is drawn up. Jason fiddles around with his computer whilst the others drink coffee and he assembles a diagram showing the current level of knowledge about the projects and programmes, and highlighting the gaps that need filling in. He projects this onto the screen for all to see.
They realise that having worked on a more rational basis they have set themselves on a route that actually makes sense.
They note that there is a cross functional project in the Stores Systems Project which supports and plays a part in both the Stores Building Programme and the Stores Operation Programmes. They decide after some discussion that responsibility for the project must lie clearly somewhere and eventually plump for the Stores Operation Programme.
Jason draws the result of the discussion on the whiteboard.
The IT Director feels slightly mollified as his workload has been shown as being difficult to manage.
Jason makes a rare mistake by congratulating them and almost as hastily steps back to cover his tracks. Directors and senior managers do not like to be congratulated or castigated by any young man but Jason manages to both in one sentence. : ‘Well done everyone – we’ve managed to bring a clear vision out of chaos…..ah…. I mean that this morning we had…. I mean I had….. a great deal of confusion about where the organisation is going and now I am much clearer. Thank you all for that.
Jason thinks to himself that first he belittled them, then he insulted them and finally he made it seem that they did all that work for his benefit.
He is really glad that Anna wasn’t around to see that.
Bob touches Jason on the shoulder and gives him a warm smile as the event closes and the directors set off for home in the gathering gloom of evening.
Thanks to Geoff Reiss for contributing this book