Infor builds enterprise resource planning software for various industries. In October 2015, Infor partnered with Whole Foods to develop a new end-to-end retail management software to replace their current systems. I helped lead our design team in the development of this vision.
The retail industry has dramatically changed over the last 20 years but the backend systems that power these businesses have rarely evolved. Businesses need to continually improve their processes in order to survive and keep up with the constant change of technology and consumer demands. Unfortunately, it is common for businesses to neglect investing in software and instead rely on employees to use manual methods that don’t benefit from the efficiencies of a more automated data collection process.
In order to better understand the unique workflows, we talked to team members to understand how their processes overlap and influence each other. From our discussions with the back office employees at the Whole Foods headquarters, to the store associates on the floor, we wanted to truly understand the goals of each team member and identify any pain points along the way.
Once we understood each team member’s unique needs, we explored what the product lifecycle process might look like if we removed the barriers of the current systems and replaced them with one unified platform. Bringing these multiple processes together would streamline data entry and improve data quality which ultimately would reduce the overall time and cost spent in the system for each user.
Automakers have been using concept cars for years as a way to test new ideas while gathering feedback from the general public. Using this same process, we created a “concept car” of our new retail vision by showcasing how this new system might work for the current Whole Foods team. Mapping it directly to a storyline following a specific lifecycle was key to highlight the improvements of data collection and collaboration over the current system.
Whole Foods was thrilled to see the “retail concept car” we put together and could clearly see our shared vision brought to life. Even though some of the team members were hesitant at first about the possibility of learning a new system, the “concept car” helped alleviate those fears by giving them a preview of how much easier and streamlined their processes would be.
Because the “retail concept car” was such a success, we were motivated to test this idea with to additional partners like Crate and Barrel who shared this passion of creating a better system for the retail industry. These partners helped us understand the subtle nuances of each industry and challenged us to think of processes for every size and type of retailer.
Companies should invest more in continually improving the tools available to their employees so that employees can be more efficient on the job. Many of our retail partners we observed were still using paper based systems, which makes it extremely difficult for their employees to understand what actions to take or what impact their decisions made. We are hopeful that we can improve the lives of the employees so they can not only maximize profits for the business, but also have more time to deliver a better customer experience that current consumers demand.
"We want to make team members happy. We want to make them excellent. And if they’re happy, they do better. If their tools are good, their systems are good, their experiences are good, they’ll have better performance which ultimately leads to us being a better company."
Billy Blackberby, Technology Lead, Whole Foods Market