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Space Scorecarding: Why It Stalls — And How to Get On-Track

Scorecard FAQs

By Mike Wilkening, ARC Communications Manager

At our recent CMA Conference, Space Planning Advisory Board members Kent Rodina and Tom Tester walked attendees through the steps needed to implement a space planning scorecard. In “Space Scorecard Horizon: Current Location vs. Future Destination,” a clear roadmap toward an optimal score carding decision emerged. Whether space planners bought an external score carding solution, or build their own, Rodina, Tester, and retail space planning expert Flora Delaney provided a clear framework for proceeding logically toward a decision.

Still, we know what happens when people get home from conferences. Old habits emerge, the same routines stay in place. The grand plans sketched in a conference notebook get back-burnered, tossed in a desk drawer. It happens to all of us.

With this in mind, we caught up with Rodina and Tester last week to walk through some of the common reasons why 1) scorecarding fails to launch in an organization, and 2) why it can falter after implementation.

Before Implementation

Reason No. 1: Inertia

Tester: It’s important you take an action. What slows people down is usually trying to go out with a perfect solution when the right move is to get something out there and iterate off of it within reason. People are hung up wanting to present perfection [to stakeholders]. What you need to be able to say, this is what we could do now, and this is what we can do six months from now or a year from now.

Reason No. 2: The Capital Expense Question

Rodina: It is important to make sure you are focusing on the benefits case with your company leadership.  They’re looking at the dollars on the front end. What is it going to cost us to get into this?  A lot of times, these solutions require more money in on the front end, but you’re getting that benefit on the backend through labor savings, through increased sales, through increased accuracy and maybe saving you and out of stocks or things like that.

Reason No. 3: You Don’t Get The Needed Organizational Buy-In to Implement

Tester: If you’ve really only pitched this to your boss, and not others within the enterprise, your organization may not necessarily see the enterprise-wide advantage. If you have socialized it more broadly, folks can help you make that case. They can go in with you on it. If it’s an investment, you find a broader use for it. You spread the cost among a larger swath of the organization. You can’t just show up and eat. You’ve got to pay too.

Reason No. 4: Speed to Deploy May Be a Challenge

Tester: I have a great IT partner in the building now that if I whiteboard an idea with him, he will say, ‘We could do that, we [can’t] do that, given the development horizon.’ If you take it to your IT partner early enough, you might find out, ‘I’m not going to get this within the four walls for X period of time. With the opportunity cost to wait on it, you have to weigh that out and say, ‘If we pay for it versus building it now, we could be operational in eight months making better decisions, which will return us “X” dollars in shareholder value as opposed to waiting 18 months for our own people to do it. And at that point we’ve lost 18 months of benefits. So it really helps to have an IT partner who at least is going to shoot you straight on what the horizon looks like to even implement what you’re talking about. I assume most of the time people are putting out good ideas that can be executed, but they don’t always have someone who’s going to tell them the truth and say, ‘We have 15 projects that have a higher ROI. We will not touch that for two years.’ That’s okay. You just need the information early in the vetting process.

Post-Implementation

Reason No. 5: You Have Data Organization Problems

Rodina: A significant focus will always be data. Is your data in an organized manner? Do you have the data available to you? Do you have a game plan on how you’re leveraging that data? Scorecarding is a much wider net than just return on space by all means, but just using return on space as an example, you need to have a way that you’re accounting for your space — and it has to be an equal way.

For instance, some categories may have a little bit of gap around the shelves or around the products. You might have what some companies and organizations call white space. You might have some companies say, ‘I don’t want to see the peg board.’ They might say you have to fill it up so you can’t see the peg board, but regardless you have some finger space or white space around the products. Then you have other displays where you might think about where they may be waterfalled, where they’re actually doubling up on some of the space usage.

So in that example, when you’re looking at return-on-space scorecarding, you have to be able to compare those two different kind of spaces. How are you going to roll it up? How are you going to equate that? Then, can we have data available to us that we can capture on a routine basis? If you have many stores, and hundreds of planograms per store, and you start rolling that up with all the variations and the varieties, there’s a lot of data there. And so having a lack of organized data could be a roadblock.

Reason No. 6: Your Tool is Siloed

Rodina: The last thing you really want to do is put this big investment and launch it across your organization before you’ve gone out and actually got the buy-in and collaboration with the users themselves.  If you don’t keep your category management team involved, if they don’t understand those measurements, or if they don’t understand how they’re getting to the data they’re getting to, it’s hard for them to adopt utilizing that tool to make decisions.

Reason No. 7: You Pick an Overly Complex Tool  

Rodina: Working with IT is essential. If I’m investing a bunch of resources into a pre-canned tool that is all about AI and MI and they’re throwing all those buzzwords at me, and all I’m really after is to be able to read my sales in a different set of layers, maybe my IT partner could have simply programmed something for me. If I’m not doing anything down this path today, I’m already worlds in front by just doing that internal tool. A scorecard or dashboard populated with some simple metrics is going to be so much better for me than the two years it’s going to take me to invest in selling a solution internally, run a pilot, then try to explain it, help my team understand all these technical things, when all I’m really doing is looking at those sales figures or if I’m not going to be taking action on some of those other things, depends on what the question is I’m trying to answer.

We’re not saying turn your back on AI in any stretch of the imagination. We’re saying: don’t let something like AI or MI or having the “latest and greatest” be a delay for you to improve.

The Big Takeaway

A Simple, Quick, Clear Tool is Sometimes Better than None.  

Tester: Take a quick first action.  Progress over perfection. Don’t let great stand in the way of good. I think that is the message people need to hear because they think that it’s so big that they have to devote a ton of time to get started. Sometimes it’s having a 15-minute conversation with a peer to run an idea by them. You could discover that you already have what you need internally. You could discover that you don’t have the development bandwidth to do it for two years, in which case you already know when you start thinking, ‘We need that, I know I’m not going to get that help internally or maybe I make a better business case.’

But that 15-minute conversation has netted you something that you can use to make a better choice, a first step, if you will. I hate how much I say progress over perfection, but that’s it. What does perfect look like? Well, nothing’s perfect in business, but while you’re trying to be perfect, you’re letting dollars just fall through the cracks, or you’re stepping over dollars to pick up dimes because you think you’re focused on the right thing — and maybe you’re not.


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About the Author: Mike Wilkening, Communications Manager, for the Association of Retail and Consumer Professionals (ARC).

Mike brings more than two decades of communications experience to the CMA/SIMA. He began his career in journalism, spending more than 10 years covering the National Football League for Pro Football Weekly and NBC’s Pro Football Talk. His bylines have also appeared in CBS MarketWatch, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, NBC New York, and ESPN.com. More recently, he has pivoted to corporate communications, including strategy and messaging experience for a Fortune 500 company. Mike holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Illinois.

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