The next few blogs posting are some of my thoughts on the process I would take to begin the project.
Understanding the True Need with a SPIN Through the Warehouse and the Website
Like any project I take on, I often use the SPIN model to clarify that I am solving the correct issues. Often, it is far easier to jump into solutions for problems that do not exist. Or they exist, but do not want to be resolved. Or they want to be resolved, but there are far bigger issues that will kill a business long before the smaller issues become core to the business. Those ‘other issues’ exist due to specific agreements internally or externally that may have been around far longer then the current players. That does not mean the issues should not be reviewed, only that there may be valid reasons why not to focus on those issues at this time. When the flood waters are rising, it is not the time to talk to the architect about the new addition for a sunroom. Although, it might not be a bad time to make some mental notes on how to plan and prevent or mitigate flood issues for the next time.
When taking on a large SKU website project, it is core to prioritize based on the true need of the business.
SPIN – Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need.
This model is based on the series of books by Neil Rackham. This model is what I have found the easiest to teach the concepts of truly understanding what the true needs of a project/customer/client/company/patient/department.
is about understanding where you are, and how you got to this point. Of course the idea way to learn the situation is a nice written history of all the significant details, and all the insignificant fluff is written out. No bias enters into the conversation, and all the skeletons in the closest are clearly laid out and labeled as such. The reasons for past compromises are identified and resolved for a clear path to future success with the current team that has no affinity for past missteps. This history is agreed on by all stakeholders, with no animosity or grudges. Management and the line teams all agree on all the issues and relative importance of each. Oops, I was drifting off to the land of – ‘yeah right’, and there are no budget issues either. But this is the information we are searching for.
Situations are messy. For every project I have ever participated on, everyone did the best they could at the time, based on the resources they had. Those resources include:
- best practices of the time,
- money (always in limited supply),
- know how,
- Sense of vision and purpose.
And of course hindsight is 20/20, so we should be able to see where we could have improved from this vantage point. This step is not meant to be a witch hunt, but a truthful assessment of where we are today and major issues that contributed to our being here. This step will look at the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) of where we are relative to where we are planning on heading. Sorry about all the acronyms, but they are great tools in being able to roll up a lot of concepts in easier to manage format.
S W O T :
- S – Strengths – What is currently working well with the current situation? Where do we excel over our competition?
- W – Weaknesses – Why is our competition currently getting any customers that we would want? What are we lacking from a CUSTOMER perspective? What are we lacking from an internal perspective that is making us work harder and not smarter?
- O – Opportunities – The world is a changing place. And changing fast. What can we do to improve our abilities, meet client needs, make our job easier and reduce cost?
- T – Threats – Everyone is looking to capitalize on our success. Ideas are a dime a dozen. So what do we need to recognize that others will be doing better then us in rapid succession, or even longer term? What do ‘they’ have that seems to give an inherent advantage over us? What can they do to ‘buy’ and advantage over us, and what can we do to counter that? Can we mitigate the threat by working in partnership with them?
If a manufacture is looking to sell direct to our customer base, can we partner with them to become their exclusive fulfillment house? That comes from a SWOT analysis of understanding our:
- Strength is in fulfillment and customer service
- Weakness is in high volume single orders – our system is not optimized for sending 10,000 single SKU of the green bag out.
- Opportunity is to partner with the knowledge of the manufacture to get product quicker, more directly and cheaper.
- Threat is if they can set up their own system they have the increased cost savings of manufacturing the product themselves to ‘fund’ a direct distribution process. Additionally, many of their orders are already small individual orders requiring a lot of fulfillment strength.
Next I will explore the Problem part of the SPIN approach to need identification.