Facilitating change that will not break your business


Organizational change. It is a catch-all term, suggests Dave Howard, Head of Marketing, to cover a multitude of realities, from isolated yet essential operational tweaks to total business transformation.

However, the change manifests itself, succeeding in implementing it means overcoming a litany of challenges. Like change itself, resistance comes in many forms – disparate legacy systems and data, diverging leadership agendas, disgruntled users – the list goes on. But combating these barriers and change can help businesses become more efficient and drive growth.

Change is typically considered as something that takes place outside the day-to-day. Something that takes a dedicated team and is prioritized alongside the rest of their workloads. It competes with business as usual for attention. But things have shifted. COVID-19 means that change is everywhere, and the appetite for organizational change has grown. For many, it has suddenly become an urgent requirement, an imperative for survival and longevity. However pressing the requirement may be, for change to succeed in the long run, it needs to be well considered and executed in the right way to ensure that any passive resistance does not stand in the way.

One of the most important ways that businesses should look at change is by focusing on change in Net Revenue Management (NRM), or Revenue Growth Management to use its other name. NRM gives organizations the ability to have a ‘single version of the truth’ when it comes to promotional spend and return. But, experience and progress in this space are mixed. Some businesses have taken steps to improve their commercial awareness, whereas others are stuck with traditional ways of doing things. Scattered spreadsheets and data inputs that obscure the truth about performance are commonplace.

Traditional IT systems do not cut it anymore; the time has come for leaner organizations. Commercial practices can be underpinned by technology, driving a unified, complete NRM operation, where interdependent teams strive for sales success.

Now, more than ever, it is time for businesses to find the confidence to tackle change. They must take an honest look at their problems and draw on relevant insights from the wider industry to help address them. It is a delicate balance of timings and activity, but with the right strategy, change for better NRM is well within reach of businesses of all sizes. Remember: Change too fast, and you break people and the business. Change too slow, and you miss the bus.

Why change?

There are myriad reasons why organizations require change, all of which have been accentuated by the current challenging business landscape created by the Coronavirus pandemic. A focus on commercials has become more critical than ever, and overhauling NRM provides a platform for incremental revenue and profit. It vastly improves visibility on budget allocation and displays what is recouped. Leaders may want to reshape their operation around an updated business plan and see the current situation as the opportune moment to push forwards with long-debated digital transformation plans. Departmental heads could press for the ability to measure more accurately and show off success. Or clamor for change might come from those at the sharp end, demanding the latest technology to do their jobs properly. At the moment, it is likely that all three have a part to play.

According to the experts we interviewed for our upcoming report – Effective change execution in NRM – drivers of change fall into the following categories:

  • Overhauling outdated operations – a surprising number of sales operations still operate on spreadsheets, and this just does not cut it anymore.
  • Harnessing multiple data sources – one data source that assimilates all data from the company will allow teams to make the most efficient and effective use of the information.
  • Unifying metrics across markets – for global businesses, a single version of the truth - with standard NRM capability and reporting - is essential to improve margins incrementally.
  • Growing profit from promotions – technology that brings together all the sources that feed the sales machine is the slickest way to provide an accurate commercial picture.
  • Changing needs of the sales force – NRM teams need technology that helps them do their job better.

It is clear that a smart combination of technology, data, user capability, and process redefinition will drive results and category growth. Sounds reasonably straightforward, right? If only it were so easy.

So, what is standing in the way?

The road to change is never that smooth, and the quest for better NRM is no exception. Businesses will undoubtedly come up against difficulties if the right approaches are not established upfront. To move forwards towards success, they must figure out how to deal with all stakeholders and practical aspects of the commercial operation before any action is taken. Even then, it is crucial to bear in mind that the best-laid plans do not always run smoothly.

There will be multiple factors at play. Too many moving parts can lead to a case of too many cooks and a lack of real leadership can result in people becoming nostalgic for the security of the ‘old ways’. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Tales of diversions or derailment were familiar among the NRM experts we spoke to. Although most were eventually successful, obstacles included:

  • Falling back on a ‘tech-first’ approach – too often, there is a rush to track down the tech without having any sort of change process in place.
  • Misunderstanding NRM’s purpose – the term NRM may mean little outside of the commercial team - the wider business may need educating about the discipline and its benefits before they can embrace a change program.
  • The risk of losing knowledge in the process – new processes can destroy existing knowledge from team members whose spreadsheets may hold valuable legacy info which businesses cannot afford to lose.
  • Protective user community resistant to change - one person’s accountancy arsenic is another’s numerical nirvana. People seldom think change should apply to their department…acceptance will be slow and gradual.
  • Implementing a newly centralized strategy - a suddenly centralized approach can be a shock to the system for local teams and will need careful management to ensure they join the journey.
  • Uncertainty over which data is valuable – the sheer volume and complexity of data can be overwhelming.
  • Too much change too soon – managing expectations for the timelines and educating people on the real, but eventual, benefits is a time-consuming activity.

So, considering the desired benefits of successful NRM change and the barriers that will likely stand in a business’ way, it is important to explore more efficient ways to implement lasting - and successful - change.

Moving forward with a clear vision for Net Revenue Management 

According to Raconteur, 58% of senior executives believe a formal change management strategy is key to successful change; 42% have already engaged external consultants to implement their plans.

Despite all the issues that surround NRM change programs, businesses do succeed in implementing their plans. Change is a vast opportunity to reorient processes for the better. It just takes a skillful combination of planning, technical expertise, patience, and diplomacy to execute.

But the best change comes about when internal barriers are truly overcome by enlisting external support that can climb the two pinnacles of technical know-how and change management expertise. Retail Insight's work with a leading global drinks manufacturer is a great example of this. The business was on the brink of being delisted by a major retailer as profit margins had fallen significantly short of expectations - it was time to intervene. Retail Insight worked closely with them to develop an intelligent, fact-based joint business plan utilizing our NRMInsight product. The agreed joint business plan drove retailer margin by 52 basis points, whilst cutting Trade investment by £2.4 million.

Sometimes it takes a third party – or a change partner – with the right technology at their fingertips, to alleviate emotion and internal politics that can thwart the most detailed of plans. They will help define the roadmap before moving on to stress-test proposed technology and offer experience and guidance on how to overcome obstacles with both personnel and the tech itself. Fresh eyes give clarity to complex business problems, particularly during times of urgency like the coronavirus pandemic.

With a systematic yet thorough approach to change, Net Revenue Management can be streamlined and augmented. Through a combination of the best brains at a business, cutting-edge technology that delivers one version of the truth, and the support of external consultants, sales teams can become more commercially savvy. The widespread benefits will be realized, and the business can face an uncertain future with an agile mindset.

Do you want to learn how to facilitate change that will not break your business? 

In partnership with Retail Week, hear experienced senior leaders Andrew Tosney, former Global VP Sales, Mondelez, Victor Borges, EMEA IT Capability Partner, Kimberly-Clark, and Xander Friedländer, Chief Analyst, Retail Insight, in conversation with Lisa Byfield-Green, Head of Insight, Retail Week, discuss how embracing a proven approach towards business transformation is the key to efficient, profitable and lasting change.

Watch the webinar here.

Written by Dave Howard

Passionate about helping retailers and brands maximize the in-store opportunity – still the key driver of retail growth for the foreseeable future. Drawing on his experience in grocery retail, marketing, sales, technology, and entrepreneurship, Dave has been working with grocery retailers and brands since 2014.