Project Description

A retail or consumer goods associate’s time is often consumed by the day-to-day of managing their part of the business. How are my sales performing against plan? Where do I have inventory shortages or overages? Which shipments are delayed? What items need to be marked down? All of this can be overwhelming and leave little time for focusing on the future. As a result, innovation and continuous improvement frequently become afterthoughts that may only get precious headspace during the walk between the parking lot and the building.

How would you rate your organization on the proactive / reactive scale? More specifically:

  • How are new concepts and ‘big ideas’ incubated?
  • How do concepts, test formats, or big ideas get rolled out to the organization?
  • How do you improve business processes and develop new capabilities?
  • How do resources get assigned to execute strategic initiatives?
  • How do you evolve your technology systems to adapt to new business needs?

Executives of leading companies recognize the difficulty their subordinates have in doing their day jobs and simultaneously thinking about the future. However, they do not let the pressures of running the business relegate innovation and continuous improvement to a back seat. They frequently dedicate specific resources to focus on these objectives by creating focused business excellence teams to drive initiatives forward.

The scope of business excellence teams vary by company, but some of the most typical responsibilities include business concept incubation, market and product testing, initiative identification, planning and execution, and system administration.  Let’s take a closer look at each of these responsibilities.

Business Concept Incubation


One common avenue consumer brands and retailers explore for growth is brand extensions or new store concepts. The biggest challenge when going down this path is finding the available resources to focus on this new endeavor without putting the performance of the core business at risk. This is one area where a business excellence team truly proves its worth. This team helps to develop new concepts and then provides leadership and coordination across organizational groups for the planning, testing, and rollout of the concepts. They are responsible for managing the new business through the testing phase, and if the new concept proves successful, the business excellence team then develops alternate approaches and executes the transfer of the concept from incubator to full-scale operations.

Market and Product Testing


Business excellence teams also manage testing on a smaller scale. They frequently set up and control product, promotional, and other tests to obtain insight into future product direction or procedures. The team develops and manages testing protocols to minimize any adverse impacts to channels and stores and insure valid results. They also recommend and obtain approval for test priorities, as well as coordinate and manage the testing process, including communication to impacted functional areas. Finally, they prepare and present the test results to senior leadership with recommendations on the appropriate action steps.

Initiative Identification, Prioritization, Planning, and Execution


Experienced associates frequently identify opportunities to improve efficiencies and save costs but rarely have the time to participate in yet another initiative. Business excellence teams ensure those great ideas don’t go to waste. In addition to taking the lead on ideas generated by the business, these teams assess competitive positioning, market trends, and long-range financial plans to identify other key company initiatives. With a large pool of potential projects, the team sizes each opportunity, prioritizes them based on benefit, need and cost, and facilitates the project approval process.

Once projects have been approved, the business excellence team prepares the project plans, identifies interactions with other initiatives, establishes change management and communication approaches, and secures participation from the appropriate resources. They then lead the execution of the initiative, providing domain insights and expertise on behalf of their functional area. This includes managing the various work streams, coordinating across functional areas, tracking progress and resource utilization, and informing the organization of project status.

System Administration


Many supporting systems require significant maintenance to operate effectively. The business excellence team often takes on this role, serving as the IT liaison for the business community. They monitor the platform for performance problems and coordinate resolutions with other support groups. The team develops training programs and materials to onboard new users and teach experienced users about the most sophisticated functionality. They become proficient users and identify aspects of the systems that are being under-utilized. These resources work with business users to understand system deficiencies and to define the requirements for potential system enhancements. The team also manages systems permissions and access, as well as performs periodic administrative maintenance (e.g., calendar updates, hierarchy changes).

Final Word

If your organization is too overwhelmed managing the day-to-day business to focus on innovation and continuous improvement, you may want to consider putting a business excellence team in place. It might require some creative human resource management to fund the initial investment in headcount and payroll, but the ability to finally address the backlog of highly valuable initiatives and proactively look towards the future will be worth it.

About Parker Avery

The Parker Avery Group is a leading retail and consumer goods consulting firm that specializes in transforming organizations and optimizing operational execution through the development of competitive strategies, business process design, deep analytics expertise, change management leadership, and implementation of solutions that enable key capabilities.

For more details, contact:

Robert Kaufman
Chief Executive Officer

Clay Parnell
President & Managing Partner

770.882.2205

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