Retailers often use the term ‘technological debt’ when their systems become increasingly misaligned with their business. The term implies that their IT foundation suffers from missing functionality, poor speed, low data accuracy, and inability to access information in real-time. Retailers then start thinking that they need to introduce a new system, or add more parts to the existing one.
In the early 1990s I worked at McEwans, which later morphed into Bunnings. To learn more about the business and how it operates, I would help out every Saturday on the shop floor at a branch located near where I lived.
One Saturday, I noticed dirt on the shelves in the paint department. My initial reaction was to clean them myself, but then it occurred to me: what if other stores have the same problem?
Some years ago a small brewery in the UK became increasingly successful. The manager of the local supermarket called them to arrange for an additional delivery on Fridays, because the beer had become so popular that it sold out by Saturday each week.
Recently, I walked into a retail outlet and, while pondering upon a product, a sales assistant approached me and uttered the magic words, “can I help you?”
At first glance, the radical corporate cultures that frequently make the headlines appear progressive, perhaps even revolutionary. But don’t be fooled. Bean bags, undefined workdays and unlimited leave policies don’t drive business success – quite the opposite. They only become possible when a business experiences an extraordinary upsurge, reflecting a ‘philosophy of success’ created after success has already been achieved.
When asked by business owners or senior executives how to improve their business, I usually give the same answer: adopt Deming’s Management Method, known as Total Quality Management (TQM).
TQM helps businesses evolve towards higher quality management. The effectiveness of the approach has been well proven and, though it can be a difficult management methodology to adopt, the results it delivers far outweigh the work required.
If opportunity makes a thief, then the internet and our increasing reliance on digital media deliver unprecedented opportunities to those with the skill and desire to break into other people’s systems.