Retailers bring Parker Avery on board to help solve a variety of business challenges—many of which revolve around replacing legacy systems (including the often-prolific use of glorified spreadsheets—even in large retailers). These projects typically involve a fair amount of defining what the client’s desired future state is and the associated process design—sometimes down to fairly minute details. These ultimately become the key business requirements that are included in an RFP/RFI and some demonstration scripts.

The Parker Avery Group recently completed one of these selection projects, outlined in the case study, Regular Price Optimization and Competitor Price Management System Selection, and I wanted to highlight that one of the key tasks in getting to the future state is first understanding the existing state. That is, a client’s current processes, systems, roles, responsibilities, and organizational culture. 

Why so much focus on this when the objective is to get to the new, shiny stuff? Let’s explore why a deep understanding of the current state is necessary to move forward.

Most of us have heard the story of the young girl helping her mother prepare Easter dinner.…if not (or it’s been a long time), here’s a refresher:

Before placing the ham in the oven…

Before placing the ham in the oven for baking, the mother cut off both ends. “Why did you cut off the ends of the ham?” asked the daughter.

“That’s the way my mother always did it,” was the reply.

The daughter quickly vanished. In moments, she was on the telephone to the grandmother verifying whether or not what she had been told was true. The grandmother replied that she did, indeed, always cut the ends off the ham. When asked why, the grandmother replied, “That’s the way my mother always did it.”

As fate would have it, the next week brought about a visit from great-grandmother. Overcome with curiosity, as young children often are, nothing would do but to pose this same question.

“Great Grandmother, Mommy always cuts the ends off her ham before she puts it in the oven. Mommy says she does it because that’s the way Grandmother always did it. Grandmother says she did it because that’s the way you always did it. Is it true, Great Grandmother? Did you always cut the ends off of the ham?”

“Yes, indeed, my child, I always cut the end off the ham” replied the elderly woman.

“But why?” asked the young girl.

Holding her hands about 12 inches apart, she replied, “Because my pan was only this big.”

Decades ago, Great Grandmother was confronted with a set of circumstances. Her pan was not large enough to accommodate the ham. She came up with procedures to handle those circumstances. She did the best she could with what she had.*

For many retailers, using the same systems and processes, with perhaps a few tweaks and improvements along the way, has worked sufficiently for many years. We often see client training programs and materials that are either out of date or even non-existent.  As such, new people are hired, trained ‘the way we’ve always done it,’ and the cycle continues: adequately.

But ‘adequate’ is no recipe for success or longevity.

Understanding the current way a company does business—particularly through the lens of an outsider—can reveal a tremendous amount of insight. In particular, what things need to change and why that change is necessary. During strategy and selection projects, Parker Avery typically does a detailed ‘gap analysis’ which shows a client very specifically their existing processes, tools, and even roles & responsibilities vs. retail industry leading practices, and we outline how big (or sometimes small) of a difference (gap) between the two states are. This exercise is usually an eye-opener to the client stakeholders with respect to the amount of effort required to reach their desired state, and it also helps the company understand the magnitude of the change management activities that will be needed to accompany the initiative.

Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in looking at the exciting new functionality and capabilities a more modern system can provide, but to best position your company for success, you need to take a look at where you are right now.

For more information about package selection projects, we invite you to read the following:

If you have any questions about your current software selection initiative or something you have planned or are considering, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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Published On: October 11, 2018Categories: Retail Strategy, System Assessment, System Selection, Tricia Chismer Gustin