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Armature Mar 98 – Feb 01

Senior Business Consultant

Organisation Overview

Armature was a c US$40m turnover UK based software company employing c 350 people world wide, with 60+% of its business in the US. It specialised in enterprise level applications for retailers including, core data architecture, logistics, store operations, merchandising and category management tools. Armature was acquired by Lawson Software in June 2002.

The Role

  • Business Consulting
  • Specialist in merchandising solutions which included, category management, pricing (including optimisation), space planning, assortment planning and promotions.
  • Establish client needs through workshops, and configure & map Armature solutions to the required needs.
  • Facilitate the execution of application implementation projects, through hands on support, informal coaching and formal training.
  • Work closely with all project parties, including system integrators (such as Cap Gemeni and ) and other third party software vendors.
  • Pre-Sales Support
  • Support the sales force in specific prospect engagements, both in terms of bid support collateral, (RFIs, ITQs, presentation materials and documentation) as well as delivery of presentations and demonstrations, plus client need discovery exercises.
  • Provide general sales support collateral with demonstration capabilities, and product & services specifications
  • Develop new business offerings, of a software or consulting nature.

Specific Projects & Achievements

Pure internet grocery retailer. A green field start up in joint venture with Waitrose.

Armature was awarded the contract as a last minute change from Retek for core database and merchandising applications. This was a high profile win for the company, as well as an important foothold in the emerging dot com sector. Armature drafted in its best consultants from across the world to deploy on this account. I was the lead consultant in the data architecture and merchandising areas.

My key tasks were to:

  • Analyse and recommend the appropriate data structures for product grouping, pricing, web page presentation, and to support fulfilment requirements.
  • Recommend appropriate structures for assortment and pricing strategies to best exploit customer segmentation opportunities, and the unique opportunities of web based CRM.
  • Encapsulate Ocado’s organisational structure, and partner relationships (suppliers and customers) within the abstract data architecture.
  • Facilitate a conference room pilot on configuring the software and recommendations to Ocado’s needs.

Largest grocery wholesaler, and 10th largest grocery retailer in the US. US$20+bn turnover.

This assignment was initially intended as 2 weeks of holiday cover for another consultant. During my first week I reviewed the client’s assortment approach and recommended a completely revised approach. Consequently I was retained for a more permanent assignment which also extended to a review of the pricing approach as well.

I was on this 2 year project at its initial go live and worked closely with the client’s managers and staff in smoothing the go live process. Consequently I was retained for phase 2 in planning how the Armature applications could be used in supporting SuperValu’s wholesale customers, both within SuperValu and their franchisees.

Canadian multi-chain grocery retailer with 100+ stores, across 6 chains. Ca$5+bn turnover

A project to review the appropriate business processes required in the product lifecycle, including sourcing, distribution, pricing, assortment, and promotions. The process analysis was then encapsulated using the Armature software suite.

Additionally, the analysis and reporting requirements of the operating divisions and the holding company had to be determined and accommodated.

A specific requirement of this project was that it needed to utilise generic processes, but accommodate specific needs of the operating divisions, and the central operations where Chinese walls existed on reporting matters and certain data sensitivities. For example buying was a central function, where the operating divisions needed to see only their own wholesale prices and not each others, or the central buying cost. There were also security restrictions on cross division visibility of retail prices and promotions as the chains were actively encouraged to compete with each other.

Whilst this was associated with a full project in implementing the Armature suite, this particular project was a solo business consulting one, of needs determination and facilitation. The outcomes then had to be communicated to the systems project team for execution.

Convenience store operator with 2,000 stores across 4 chains. £500m turnover

This was a Business Intelligence project where I led a small team in needs determination. T&S had installed an Epos system but had not considered how to appropriately analyse or exploit the data.

My role was to review the organisational structures and business processes in order to make recommendations on how best to report tactically and strategically. This also dovetailed with recommendations on pricing and logistics requirements.

Halfords was already using Armature’s old VMS based replenishment systems. It was looking at upgrading, including alternatives to Armatures latest Unix version. This was primarily intended as a logistics exercise, but also addressed issues of organisational design, with store segmentation experimentation under way through concept stores that needed supporting.

The project evolved into a further project considering assortment planning, in support of the new concept store segmentation and ensuring integration with the Halfords Direct Product Profitability (DPP) system, as well as the promotions management process.

This was a particularly challenging assignment as I was project managing a team of up to six others in a time, when half way through the assignment, half of the project team were made redundant. I had to manage the appropriate communication to those made redundant, keep the survivors motivated, recruit internal replacements to the project from a decreased resource pool, as well as manage the client’s expectations and concerns over the state of Armature and the continuity of the project.

A solo assignment supporting the space planning department in its space optimisation projects. I reviewed the Superdrug processes in the context of a space planning framework, which recognised the inter-action with category planning, store segmentation, the various levels and associated frequencies of space planning, and the organisational dynamics of various interested parties.

Within the framework, specific approaches that were reviewed included techniques for:

  • optimally balancing the conflicting demands for space from product categories
  • allowing the space planner to interactively model the profit consequences of proposed space change scenarios
  • retrospectively estimating the incremental sales and profit impact of changes to stores
  • reconciling low level store based plans with high level corporate category plans

A solo business process project focusing on product management, including strategic, tactical and operational processes. The review covered the interactions between range reviews, sourcing, supplier funding, promotions management, planogramming/assortment management, store communication/execution and data maintenance. The outcome of the project was a methodology of how to automate the processes using existing, and new systems.

Working with the Boots data and application architecture teams, the project was to develop a migration strategy to a data architecture environment which could support Boots current, planned, and then yet unknown business requirements. My role was one of facilitator of the business workshops, incorporating Boots business managers, IS staff and Armature architecture staff. As well as the normal facilitator responsibilities of encouraging debate, maintaining timescales, and a focus on the scope, in practice I was also translator between the commercial managers who thought in terms of specifics and the architects who thought in abstract terms – with both sets additionally using their own incompatible languages.

  • Texaco Retail

This was a project on how to apply Armature’s Price Optimiser to the merchandise within the Texaco Stores. My primary role on the project was to set up and monitor a trial, incorporating an appropriate store segmentation approach to better stratify the use of the Price Optimiser. The store segmentation was based on a Customer Shopping Mode approach which was heavily driven by customer usage, leading to a Trunk Road, Commuter Route and Neighbourhood Store segmentation. I was also responsible for the data mapping and interfacing of historic sales data from the Texaco systems to feed the Optimiser and extracting the optimised prices by product and store format, for interfacing into Texaco’s 3rd party managed price file.

  • Armature e-commerce strategy www.retailing.net

I facilitated the Armature think tank on e-commerce initiatives resulting in a proposed strategy that formed the basis for Armature’s e-commerce proposition retailing.net. It was this proposition that was instrumental in securing the Last Mile Solutions contract (see above).

  • Integrated Demonstration Database

Armature went through a process of creating an integrated suite of applications. Prior to the integration demonstrations had always been done on the applications in isolation using unrelated made up data, or modified client data.

In order to demonstrated the integrated nature of the suite to best effect a consistent integrated database needed to be created, which could demonstrate the applications within an appropriate business context. I was chosen to create this database due to my broad knowledge of retail as well as my commercial understanding.

  • Other

In a pre-sales capacity I was also engaged in various proposals on various solutions to various retailers including: Somerfield (UK, Grocery), AWS (Australia, Grocery Wholesale), Piggly Wiggly (US, Grocery), SaveMart (US, Grocery), Kraft Foods (Scandinavia, Food Vendor), Proctor & Gamble (UK, Household Products Vendor), AutoMart (US, Automotive Accessories), Finnish Co-op (Finland, Grocery), Schietema (NL, Grocery), Granada Road Services (UK, Motorway Service Stations), Iceland Frozen Foods (UK, Grocery) and Woolworths (UK, Mixed Goods).