Weekly Stock Sales and Intake (WSSI) Implementation (sometimes called Merchandise Financial Planning (MFP))

We have been working with a small team at this European department store chain for a while, developing their operating model: ensuring that their ways of working (processes) were defined ahead of systems implementations and advising on organisational design. With these foundations, they felt ready to begin the systems transformation journey and asked for support selecting, designing, and implementing a WSSI (Weekly Stock Sales and Intake, or MFP in many software vendors' language).

Weekly Stock Sales and Intake (WSSI) Implementation (sometimes called Merchandise Financial Planning (MFP))

WSSI Implementation for a department store group first glance image - Industry: Retail Department Store; Location: International - European stores & internet; Services: Retail Consulting & Vendor Selection, Change Management, Specialist System Training

The Challenge

Firm foundations and careful planning were essential to achieve a successful implementation.This retailer had historically approached software implementations with limited input from the business teams and consequently had a background of costly mistakestherefore they wanted to approach this project differently to deliver a successful implementation.

 

Our Approach

Like lots of retailers, everyone was keen to simply get on with selection but from experience we know that a little time invested upfront is invaluable. Our first step was to align the internal team on the approach, it is always uncomfortable to change how we do things, so it was important that management, business, procurement, and IT teams were clear on the proposed steps and that everyone had an opportunity to feed into the process and ask questions. In this case we knew that IT would find it especially challenging so we were careful to include them at every step but accepted that some team members would only really trust in the method once they had seen it in action and through to a successful implementation.

 

Selecting the software vendor

The initial step was for us to create a Request for Proposal (RFP) starting with a set of Functional and Non-Functional Requirements. We are always able to start with our standard set of requirements, but each retailer is different, so we augmented these with functional requirements specific to this retailer:

  • Working in retail method with cost and units calculated
  • Flexibility for concession and own buy areas
  • Ability to work at different levels of the hierarchy in different divisions

The retailer’s IT function developed the Non-Functional requirements and drew on our experience to provide business processes on which to base some aspects such as data feed routines and connections.

Between the research of the retailer’s project team (Business and IT) and our retail and project experience, we identified a selection of software vendors who were a potential fit and invited them to complete the RFP.

We supported the scoring of vendors across the functional requirements, additional criteria and costs using both our business and project experience to dig deeper into the answers. High-scoring vendors were selected to present their solution to the project team.

During this process we also established the Change Management and Training approaches, outlining the roles, focus and expectations of each involved party to enable these critical activities to run parallel to the system development.

Having met the vendors, seen the solution and driven the functional questioning we supported a second round of scoring, helping the retailer to meet and gain useful insight from the experiences of prior customers.

From all of this research and interaction, an appropriate vendor was selected by the retailer to negotiate and contract with.

 

The Project

We built a project team combining resource from the retailer, First Friday and the software team. The First Friday team provided project planning, project management, functional lead for subject matter expertise, change manager, training manager and training development. All 3 parties worked together closely in design workshops agreeing both the software requirements and the ways of working.

The business users were relatively new to WSSIs, so a key element of our role was to help them stay within scope – it’s all too easy to over-design a software tool and try to make it solve every problem. Like many projects the business team were learning on the job; they all only fully understood how they would use the tool as we got towards implementation, so our subject matter expert was critical in ensuring the design was fit for purpose.

WSSI implementations always rest on the data, they pull together KPIs that may never have been connected before – often, as with this retailer, sales and stock come from different places for example. And the data is moving each week as the prior week actualises and impacts the forward calculations. In addition, how the data is organised in time, channel and product hierarchies all had to change. We were fundamental to effective structure here as these decisions impact organisational design and therefore cost. The combined skills and external experience of the project team were required to make effective pragmatic decisions about design and data integrity to ensure that the system enabled improved decision-making.

Client feedback: Approach has shown great patience and determination.

 

Change Management

Implementing a WSSI was going to be a huge change for this retailer. Buying had tended to work bottom up (from line) with targets and budgets supplied by Finance, in a much more static way than WSSI would enable. There was a significant change journey not just for Buying & Merchandising, Planning and Commercial teams and management to go on, but for connected functions such as Finance, Logistics, Marketing etc.

We worked closely with the internal change management team to design an approach which brought these functions on the journey with us and enabled them to think through associated changes in their current processes. We provided objective reasons to keep the WSSI as a commercial tool, the outputs of which would help connected functions without changing the focus and effort of the tool. We advised on the organisational changes required as well as the processes needed beyond the WSSI – Monday reporting, review meetings, Senior Leadership source and use of past, present and future connections made possible by the WSSI.

Client quote: It has been a very challenging project with no easy users to handle and guide, and your work has been tremendous.

Training

The change manager was able to create a training needs analysis as part of their interaction with the business, proposing how many courses, of what length and for what audiences would be needed. Once agreed, First Friday developed all of the training ensuring that system and process were aligned, and users would fully understand not just which buttons to press but why and when.

The capability build takes time and training is just the beginning. The change management and business teams worked through what would be done and when for each season, managing expectations to give the users room to grow and learn and for management to understand which questions to ask, and how to challenge and encourage their teams. We also managed expectations; it will take more than one season for users to gain confidence and improve decision-making.

Click here to find out more about our systems training expertise.

 

Results

Every user and manager in the business has been trained on the WSSI, each connected function has had an overview and the WSSI is now live in the business. It has been used to enter the plan for the current season, plan and forecast for the next season and to feed in to the planning process for the season after that. Users are developing their confidence and beginning to see how the tool can really improve their decision-making.

Reports have been adapted to utilise information from the WSSI that has never been available before, and the trading process revised to utilise this information. Management use the WSSI as the single version of the truth and for the first time have a mid-term view of risks and opportunities.

And all parties recognise the benefits of working in this way, joining IT development with business need from the very start to the very end, connecting processes to tools and supporting the user to develop their skills.

 

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