Project management can seem like a nebulous term at times. While standards, best practices, and useful tools for project management are certainly a very specific sector of the business world, almost anything can seem like a project when it comes to execution. Take the retail holiday season with its defined beginning and end date, from October to January. It has clear goals and metrics for success. It requires effective time, resource, and people management skills. If that’s not a project, then what is?
Project management skills are broadly applicable to a retail framework. Hiring new employees is a project, as is opening a new retail location. There are differences, of course — retail project management tends to involve sales-floor management in a way that a desk job doesn’t — but the principles remain the same.
1. Identify concrete project goals
Your project goals shouldn’t be vague. “We want to increase revenue” is effectively meaningless in terms of actionable plans. Think about specific, clear goals that can drive concrete strategy. “We want to open a new location in an area with higher foot traffic” is better. But even more specific is best: “In the next five years, we want to open three new locations in the tri-city area to better serve our urban customers who don’t own cars. We hope to improve conversions from window shoppers by 10 percent.”
Project managers in the digital space know their key performance indicators (KPIs) before they begin, and you should too. The statistics aren’t that different when you boil them down: Click-through rates are people who decide to enter your store; time spent on page is time spent browsing merchandise; a conversion rate is a conversion rate whether you’re talking online or brick-and-mortar.
Know your goals and KPIs before you begin the project. This will give your work a more laser-tight focus and help you evaluate the project after it’s done. Where did you match your expectations, overperform, or fall short? You need to have solid goals in mind before you begin to really understand how you performed.
2. Break projects down into phases
Henry Ford once said, “Nothing is particularly hard when you divide it into small jobs.” Experienced managers break projects down into the five key phases of project management:
Consider how these five phases might apply to a store remodel. In the initiation stage, you explore the feasibility. How much might it cost, including lost opportunity while the store is renovating? How long will it take you to recoup your investment? Once given the green light, you begin the planning stage. The new store layout is designed. Bids solicited and contractors hired. Proper paperwork is filed.
In the execution stage, the store closes for renovations, employees are reassigned elsewhere, and the hands-on work gets done. Performance and monitoring begins after the store reopens. This is when you assess how successful the project was in hitting your KPIs and evaluate your accomplishments. The closure stage is where everything is wrapped up and contractors are paid. You can then apply what you learned in the fourth stage to future projects.
Set clear timelines for any project, from renovation to hiring. Use Gantt charts to get an accurate picture of when things need to be accomplished. Break your big projects down into small parts, and you’ll increase your likelihood of success.
3. Take advantage of modern technology and the cloud
Just because you’re working in the world of brick and mortar doesn’t mean planning has to be. The world of retail is becoming increasingly reliant on the proper use of big data and the power of the cloud. There are powerful tools out there, and you should use them.
For instance, when managing the high-paced frenzy of the holiday shopping season, maintain your employees’ schedules on an easily shareable Google document rather than a printed calendar. This provides greater flexibility and can be updated with last minute changes. Your employees will appreciate the ease of checking their hours without having to come in. Similarly, use resource management charts to have a better idea of what you’re allocating and where.
Retailers are storing more and more data about their customers’ shopping habits. Take advantage of this data to predict what your customers purchase together and arrange your items accordingly. This data comes full circle in helping you set future goals and KPIs.
This only scratches the surface of what adding cloud services like Smartsheet to your retail project management arsenal can do for business. Sign up for our 30-day free trial and begin putting it to use for you.