Wal-Mart aired its latest performance data today and revealed that, despite the recession, they have maintained profitability. Shining a light on Wal-Mart is kind of silly given that virtually no other organization in the world (and most countries, for that matter) are in the same league. The point is that we can all learn from their lessons. The lessons this week are absolutely central to the argument for smarter business process management. Wal-Mart applied several elegant tactics with what appears to be precision execution. Firstly, they reduced their inventory which contributed to the goal of reducing costs by 6%. Secondly, they recognized that their customers are facing deep income cuts of their own and identified which product discounts would be perceived as most helpful. They leveraged their world-class inventory data to identify specific products and discounted prices considerably. The result was an influx of new customers who compensated for lower sales per customer thereby producing profits that exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Lessons Learned – What Small Business, Non-profits and Governmental Organizations Can Take-Away From Wal-Mart (without stealing)
In the spirit of keeping it simple, the following lessons can be brought home to your organization:
- Visualize, illustrate and understand your supply-chain
- Negotiate discounts with your suppliers
- Reduce your inventory and reduce inventory costs
- Ask your customers what they believe will add value to their lives and modify your offering to reflect that demand…now
- Let your prospects and customers know that you have satisfied their demands – promote yourself effectively
- Establish clear and specific performance expectations including those for positive financial results
- Measure and report results openly (even the bad news)
It doesn’t matter how big or small you are and it is frankly irrelevant which industry you hail from…you can apply all of these lessons and tactics. I have done so in commercial for-profit enterprises, governmental programs as well as in non-profit settings.
BPM – whether it is enabled by software or not – is key to each and every one of these tactics.
- If you cannot “see” your supply chain;
- if you cannot model how you will reduce inventory;
- if you cannot illustrate how you will engage and interact with customers to understand where and how you can create value in your value-stream;
- if you cannot develop a straightforward mechanism for gathering, measuring and reporting performance data, then you will find managing your business very difficult compared to those who can.
The best strategy and the best intentions will be trumped by lousy, inefficient and absent business processes. Between you and me – when I run across reasonably successful organizations that lack identifiable and manageable business process and controls, I know they are successful quite by accident. Ignorance in managing organizations and performance is not bliss.