Omni Channel – and training the CEO

Last night (4 March) I spoke about Omni Channel retailing at the launch of the Southampton Solent University Retail Network.

I covered the obvious (the advancements being great for customers – more choice, uber-convenience and transparent value for money.) I also reflected on the stratospheric levels of investment – and the need to train the Board…

M&S is clearly topical with their much publicised £150m programme recently mobilised which is to their credit. This level of investment against a backdrop of flattish sales and profit demonstrates committed leadership from the retailer. A great example of can you afford to invest to this level – or frankly can you afford not to!

The key question though is to try to determine

what level of investment is going into people to support these programmes? 

Based on my experience as CEO of B & Q the vast majority of these multi million pound programmes can easily be absorbed by investments in hardware, software, IT service provides, supply chain investments, digital marketing and some fortunate souls who have niche skills with inflated salaries to go with them.

If we take M&S as a case study you might expect 10% of the investment to go into people programmes. So £15m to spend on the people element of the effort at M&S? – where would I spend it?

The Board – whilst Omni Channel expertise is increasingly evident in a single role on the Board, it’s vital that ALL the Board, including the CEO, REALLY understand their role and its importance to Omni Channel operation.

With more and more business delivered through non-traditional channels it’s vital that Directors are in tune with customer’s new habits, in tune with new competition and most important of all, role modelling the type of leadership that enables a trusting, agile and aligned business model.

Education – today’s business models are more matrixed, more global and more complex than ever before. Getting ALL key stakeholders to understand, engage and commit to their personal contribution to this new world is key. It could be a key vendor, a buyer, a warehouse picker or a customer service colleague – all have a vital role to play. A shared understanding of the Omni Channel goal, the desired customer experience and what does that mean for me in my role is mission critical.

Agility –  means that following the education, each individual feels ‘free’ to operate with more agility, trusted to do the right thing.

“It’s not the big eating the small it’s the fast eating the slow”. 

No room for silo thinking, functional fiefdoms, hierarchy or meetings! The days of high trust, liberation and the satisfaction that goes with it have already arrived in the fast growing, new kids on the block businesses.

None of the above is easy. Whilst implementing new systems and processes is always challenging – leading differently, changing behaviours, forming new habits and breaking outdated culture is the new battleground. Check your budgets people – once you’ve dried your eyes from the investment going into systems, warehouses and trucks make sure you’ve left a few shillings for the bit that makes the real difference – your people programmes.

Where is the budget being spent in your organisation?  Does the training spend go far enough?