When John Lewis, a leading U.K. retailer, faced challenges with running its new, geographically distributed at home shops, Cisco IBSG knew that the problems could be solved through the innovative use of video technology. Within the retail industry, video collaboration has historically been regarded as a head-office capability, with the notion that video and mobile technology at the shop level were both too expensive to implement and too complex to use. This was an opportunity to prove otherwise and create a retail industry first.
Maggie Porteous, head of at home for John Lewis, was challenged with helping the new teams get to know the new shop format and with bringing them together to share learnings and improve operations. And while she wanted the dispersed shop teams to be able to work together, frequent travel was time-consuming, costly, and, most important, meant time away from serving customers.
Working with John Lewis CIO Paul Coby, we chose two critical concepts to pilot for the core retail use cases:
- High-definition, real-time video conferencing based in each store for communicating among the at home shops, and between the shops and head office to run operations, share knowledge, and resolve issues
- A video portal for sharing and viewing videos on demand (via each shop’s PCs): staff training, new product information, visual merchandising best practices, communications, and staff team and social events
The pilot ran from December 2011 to April 2012, and the results proved the value and the business case for video in shops:
- 406 Partners (shop staff) participated in pilot: 92 percent said video conferencing made their jobs easier, 89 percent said video conferencing saved them time, and 87 percent said video conferencing removed the need to travel
- Estimated annual savings of 28,000 man-hours across the eight shops
- Estimated annual travel savings of 20 percent to date
“Productivity is the biggest benefit,” said Porteous, “particularly the productivity gained from avoiding travel. You can have people attend great meetings and get them straight back on the shop floor serving customers and selling. And it really helps us develop and share best practices,” she added.
From CIO Coby’s perspective, the pilot bought to life his aspirations for a new approach to technology-enabled innovation—one that enables John Lewis to try things quickly and inexpensively, monitor progress, track results through surveys and data, and assess what works and what does not. “We did a lot right,” said Coby. “We got sponsorship from the top, and all the business Partners were involved. We worked in a joined-up fashion and executed very well. Everybody rather enjoyed it, and we created a real sense of achievement. Between us all, we delivered a first in retail operations.”
John Lewis is now rolling out these solutions across its business.
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