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Case Study - Improving Catalogue Creation Processes

The Brief
In the Autumn of 2008, Jeremy Maxwell was appointed Group Direct Channels Director at Mothercare. Following his initial review of catalogue activity he believed that there was scope to build on the current performance. Jeremy was keen to undertake an independent review of the role of the main catalogue within the Mothercare multi-channel business and the processes by which it was specified, designed and produced and engaged advocus to undertake the review.

The aim of the review was to make recommendations that would support an evolution to a more structured process, agreed by all, delivering a more sales-focussed catalogue.

The review was also to look at the role, objectives and success measures of the current Mothercare main catalogue and recommend how they might be enhanced. The
advocus team were asked to highlight how better to communicate these up, down and across the business – with specific consideration being given to the introduction of a generic catalogue definition/control document.

The advocus Approach
The project structure comprised of 4 key phases:
1. A project ‘Kick Off’ Workshop
2. Research into the current process and 1-1 interviews
3. The creation of a ‘to-be’ process ‘Straw Man’
4. A workshop to validate the new ‘to-be’ process and plan its implementation

The “kick off’ workshop included all of the individuals who had been identified as being currently involved in the day to day catalogue creation process activities. Where a team had a number of individuals involved doing similar tasks [e.g. Buying], a credible representative, who would be both vocal and evangelical about the change, was sought and agreed upon. The aim of this workshop was to layout the project timeline and sign off the project objectives with the team and, most importantly, to create a shared buy-in to the objectives and deliverables of the project. One of the key activities of the kick off workshop was a ‘silent brainstorm’ in which the team committed their concerns about the project, it’s objectives and deliverables to paper. Once complete the team explained their concerns and reasons behind them. After discussions on the concerns were complete, and a final list agreed, these were documented for use later in the project. This was a key component in the success of the project.

The next step by the
advocus team was to complete a series of 1-1 interviews, to understand the existing processes and systems used in the specification, design, production and performance analysis of the current Mothercare main catalogue and then to consider how the processes might change to generate improvements in support of the business strategy, process productivity & flexibility and catalogue quality - this included the formulation of a ‘page and parts’ decision process for the catalogue and the process for delivery of content to the web.

The review also considered the existing processes and systems used in the governance of the end-to-end catalogue creation activity with a view to recommend how they might be enhanced. Governance in this context included quality, time and cost monitoring, sign-offs, exception management and change control. The use of third parties within the catalogue creation process and how they might be used to better advantage was also a key consideration

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Using all the data from the review research and 1-1 interviews, the advocus team moved into phase 3 and created a straw-man ‘to-be’ process to present to the team for validation, in a second workshop.

In this workshop, the process steps were agreed and/or modified in levels of detail that increased as the workshop progressed. As always, the
advocus team guided the workshop group to apply the sequence of “Think, Plan, Do, Review” to the whole high level process and also to all of the lower level constituent processes. The key focus at each stage was to ensure that the outputs from each process step corresponded with, and satisfied, the requirements of the inputs to the subsequent process step.

Using the process outputs as the basis for discussion, the team were guided to agree who should be the appropriate process step owner; who owned the sourcing, collation and publishing of the outputs [i.e. reports, catalogue definition document, meeting minutes etc.] and the method by which the data sourcing, collation and publishing would be done.

To close the 2nd workshop, the
advocus team played back the detail of the new process, step by step, for sign off by the Mothercare team. In addition, advocus facilitated the agreement of high level timings for each of the new process steps, as they would apply to all future catalogue production activity, thereby creating a template schedule. The penultimate workshop activity was to agree the actions to implement the new / improved process complete agree the specific owner of each action and appropriate implementation timescales.

Finally, the project concerns, documented at the Kick Off workshop, were revisited to ensure that all concerns about the process and the project had been fully addressed and resolved.

The Outcomes and Benefits

  1. A strong cross-functional buy-in to the delivery and maintenance of improved processes for catalogue creation.
  2. A significantly improved catalogue creation process, that engenders the principles of “Think, Plan, Do, Review” which gives significantly improved workflows and reduced levels of re-work - ultimately leading to a better catalogue offer and significant cost savings.
  3. Agreement on single owner for the overall Mothercare catalogue creation process, resulting in improved process governance, improved schedule adherence and better decision making.
  4. Clear and agreed ownership of each process stage, resulting in improved workflows with reduced levels of iteration and improved decision making
  5. Structured outputs from each process stage, agreed by all participants, improving data accuracy and consistent delivery at every stage

This process has now been implemented for all Mothercare catalogues and all other selling publications - resulting in significant profit improvements.

“The advocus team delivered absolutely everything we could have expected - and then some!!”
Jeremy Maxwell, Group Direct Channels Director, Mothercare

“The true test of how successful this new process has been is that, if I was to say we were were going to go back to the old way of working, I'd have a riot on my hands”
Steve Abse, Head of Group Direct Operations, Mothercare

advocus contact:
Tony Bishton
Tel: 07768 500 902