Customers have heightened expectations anytime they enter a retail store today. Delivering this experience isn’t merely dependent on location or store layout but means companies ensure every one of their locations is equipped with the technology needed to make customers’ trips fruitful and easy. Today’s connected retail experience relies on technology being rolled out effectively.
This is no small task for any retailer of any size, but when you have over 2200 stores across 3 brands keeping track of technology rollouts and refresh projects at every location can seem impossible. For this business in home improvement and outdoor living retail, keeping stores equipped with the most up-to-date technology is the focus of a small team of IT deployment and support professionals.
Ensuring technology is installed and kept refreshed was a daunting task that was made more difficult when a consistent system for tracking installation projects isn’t available. Overcoming this challenge led the retailer’s IT deployment manager to search for a solution to simplify record keeping and guarantee installation projects were being completed efficiently and on-schedule. That search led the IT deployment and support team out of spreadsheets and into Quickbase.
With Every Project, A New Spreadsheet
Without a consistent system for tracking the vast number of installation projects, the deployment team was relying on spreadsheets for each project in motion. Each spreadsheet meant that there was no visibility between projects and made collaboration nearly impossible. Furthermore, these documents were unwieldy to use and filled with massive amounts of data.
"Can you imagine these Excel sheets?” the deployment manager asserts, “They could be 250 columns wide. It was enormously cumbersome and ridiculous. The number of rows varied based on the projects we were doing.”
Beyond the data management challenges, stores were disrupted because scheduling could be chaotic. Whenever an installation project occurs, there is a disruption to the normal retail operations. Without a clear project management system, multiple installation projects would sometimes occur at different times in a short timeframe.
“There were times that we would be doing project A in a store on a Monday” they point out, “and then the team for project B would show up the same week on Thursday. Then, project C may show up two weeks later. Every time someone's in there installing something, it's a distraction to the store. It's big pain for the store managers.”
The difficulties didn’t stop with the installations though. Once a store installation was completed, the spreadsheets were not archived in a purposeful or meaningful way. This meant that records essentially disappeared shortly after project completion. Relying on spreadsheets created problems while projects were ongoing, but also hampered planning for store refreshes or proactively identifying when a store’s technology needed attention.
“Once a project ended, the spreadsheet was just lost in the ether,” the manager states, “There was no records for you to go back. So, anytime there was a question about a store like what technology do they have today or when was the last time they were touched by a project, you couldn’t find an easy answer. All of the different pieces of historical information didn't exist.”
The deployment team leader knew that the only way to begin addressing these challenges was to get their project management process out of spreadsheets and into something with better visibility and flexibility.
Finding a Complete Installation Management Solution
As the deployment team’s leader kicked off their search for an installation project management tool, a senior leader at the organization recommended they check out Quickbase. When it was stacked it up against other tools during the evaluation process, selecting the platform was a “no brainer.” Quickbase’s solution checked off all the boxes for this major retailer, it would:
- Increase visibility,
- Move operations out of spreadsheets
- Stop the need to reenter the same information across multiple systems, and
- Track all store attributes in a consistent way.
Store records are kept for each one of the company’s retail locations in their application. These records include data like store numbers, city, state, open date, store management, past projects number of registers in the location, and networking information. In addition to store data, the app also contains all information about any ongoing or past projects. Project status, start dates, dependencies, and more are also referenceable in the same place.
The deployment team are exclusively responsible for the installation of new technology and refreshes of hardware. This means that any support and troubleshooting is handled by a different team. With this wealth of information contained in their application though, it serves as a historical record for all store locations of what was present at launch and what relative timeline that store may need attention.
The installation team’s application isn’t just a big database for serial numbers and equipment counts. The platform is the system of record for managing the project processes for all installations. Within the application, the team has a holistic view of project timelines, task tracking, inventory, pictures of project sites, and upcoming work to be completed. The system enables them to proactively take control of all installation projects and respond to changing deadlines or potential delays.
“When you open up a project it's got all the information,” the deployment manager states, “it tells us the week that we're going to install and then what day they're going to start. Once we enter a date, in the background the app will trigger all these other dates and the work that needs to happen before we can do our installations. So ultimately, you can enter a certain day to open a store, it triggers all the other dates on the tasks that we are working on.”
Not only does the application fill in timelines for new projects, but it calls attention to any factors that could create delays in project completion. The feature gives the team the opportunity to catch hang-ups earlier to keep projects on-schedule or, at least, keep project teams from wasting time.
“Let's say a store is supposed to open June 3,” the team leader asserts, “But it’s now May 1, and the computers aren’t showing as shipped yet. Our application flags that that delay and sends an alert. Then, we can determine why the equipment hasn’t shipped yet and address it immediately.”
Reducing Project Misses and Promoting Efficiency
The impact that Quickbase has on the IT deployment team is massive and the retailer’s entire business is benefiting from it. Each member of the team has an individual dashboard that keeps track of their day-to-day work. It has promoted efficiency and helped keep his team on task. Thanks to the installation management solution, deployments are happening more efficiently and without issue.
“Escalations have gone down drastically for missing hardware, missing dates, et cetera,” the manager asserts, “It's just much easier to manage and visualize. Every person on the team has some level of access, they can see what they need to see on each project. So, it has definitely made the team more efficient. It has been a great task manager for the team, and it has drastically reduced number of escalations from what I would define as project misses.”
The deployment group isn’t merely feeling the benefits of more efficient processes. Efficiency has also led to bottom-line savings. In the time since the application was launched, the time savings and productivity gains have resulted in a total business impact of over $83,000 for the retailer.
Before adopting Quickbase, the IT deployment team would need to collect data from five different places to make sure the technology spend was within expected costs for each project. Now centralized real-time reporting and visibility ensure that installation projects are completed on time and within budget.
Quickbase has also become a critical part of how company leadership conducts store visits. For these visits, 3 to 4 leaders spend a few days visiting 12-14 stores in a given area. With Quickbase in the fold, the deployment manager is now able to grant those leaders temporary access to the dashboards so they can review when remodels happened most recently or when the equipment was last refreshed. This reporting has given leaders the ability to actively keep up on store attributes they want to see without combing through obscene amounts of data.
Expanding the Use Case
Quickbase has revolutionized how the IT deployment group gets their work done, but their manager sees much greater opportunities for more uses in the business. Beginning this year, the networking team is starting to use the platform to manage their projects as well. While these teams serve different purposes their work is often interconnected and gaining that level of visibility will ensure projects happen consistently and efficiently.
Getting the networking team into Quickbase is a small victory for the overall company in the deployment manager’s eyes, and they are an advocate for everyone improving how they work by getting their critical operations out of spreadsheets.
“I’m going to work with that team,” the deployment leader points out, “Get out of the spreadsheet. Everything you're doing in the spreadsheet; you can be doing 10,000 times easier in Quickbase. That data is real for everybody.”