Web-based task management technology combined with web-based workforce management is helping retail chains bring store operations to a new level of consistent performance, industry analysts say.
“The most significant evolution of task management initiatives over the past eight months has been the convergence with workforce management,” says Rob Garf, retail industry analyst at AMR Research Inc. “Retailers are using the granular task information, combined with understanding how long it takes to accomplish certain tasks based on labor standards, to fuel labor forecasting systems. This enables more accurate forecasting of demand by balancing both customer service priorities and home-office driven mandates.”
The leading web-based task management systems on the market are from Reflexis Systems Inc. and StorePerform Technologies Inc., with new offerings from BlueCube Software Inc., Garf says.
The ability to deploy these systems over the web is also helping to make them financially appealing, because that makes it possible to coordinate a chainwide task and workforce management system without expensive infrastructure costs, experts say.
In a study conducted in September 2004 of how retailers are working to improve in-store operations and customer shopping experiences, “The Empowered Store Benchmark Report,” Aberdeen Group Inc. found that a large majority of retailers, or 81%, cited their biggest challenge as cost-effectively creating differentiated offerings, and nearly the same percentage, 78%, said the best response to that challenge was through new web-based task management systems that supported employee training and monitoring. “They felt this was critical to creating differentiated service offerings, consistency in execution across broad geographic areas, and doing it all in a cost-effective way,” says Paula Rosenblum, Aberdeen’s director of retail research. “The key is zero deployment of new infrastructure at the store level; that’s a big deal.”
The technology is still in early stages of deployment and success, however. The Aberdeen study, based on a survey of 100 retailers in July and August 2004, found that 61% of respondents had been focused on improving in-store operations for more than a year. It found that 51% had yet to improve in-store operations, but it noted that 71% of best-in-class retailers found that these efforts had contributed to their improved financial performance.
Aberdeen warns in the study that retailers who delay implementing improvements to in-store operations will fall behind competitively. “The 9% of respondents who will wait at least a year to work in this area will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage going forward,” Aberdeen says.