Translating high level strategy into data-driven action

Translating high level strategy into data-driven action


Wednesday, April 1, 2015 | James Burn

When architects create a conceptual design for a structure, they talk with clients, take a few measurements, and come up with a floor plan that documents a grand strategy. But the initial plan, even once approved, remains pie in the sky until a host of added data and additional measurements are obtained. Builders of the new structure will need specifics on everything from building materials to electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and so on. Only when they get the so-called “working drawings” can they get started with moving dirt, pouring concrete, and erecting walls.

Much the same is true of logistics during rebranding. When executives choose a plan for a companywide brand rollout – including a preferred scenario with cost estimates and high-level implementation strategy – they have only touched the surface of the planning process. What remains is what we call the “Plan and Prepare” phase, gathering additional data and translating the overarching implementation strategy into detailed budgets, schedules and plans. The analytics needed in this phase actually exceed those in the first, “Scope and Assess” phase, which I wrote about in my last post.

Moving into Phase 2 – Plan and Prepare, demands detailed transition strategies for every branded asset, whether signage, IT systems, vehicles, uniforms, forms, HR materials or anything else. Operations managers at this stage need to continue to gather financial and logistics data, to build out the specifics. Only with this extra level of detail can managers in each business unit make smart trade-offs related to costs, risk and brand impact. The stakes of each operational decision are often smaller, of course, but the analysis needed just as intensive to ensure that everything stays on track.

What are the factors that figure into making the “best” decisions at this time? Once again, they include the speed of rollout, the sequence by asset, the quality by asset, the sequence by geography and many others. The main difference from the Scope and Assess phase is that the data required is more granular and the decisions more specific.

As an example, consider the rebranding of uniforms. Each uniform has its own life cycle, altogether different from, say, signs and forms. Uniforms are relatively expensive and last about two years. The question arises: Should a specific business unit replace all uniforms at once during a rebranding, at a cost of $200,000? Alternatively, should it immediately replace the uniforms of just customer-facing employees? The up-front cost might be cut to perhaps $20,000, if non-customer-facing uniforms are worn until they wear out.

Such life-cycle decisions arise during the rebranding of more expensive assets, a fleet of service trucks, for example. One company we worked with planned to rebrand its fleet using a deplete-and-replace strategy. In other words, vehicles would be rebranded according to the normal five-year replacement cycle with only new vehicles having the new brand applied. Fleet operations people, however, followed an approach where the newest trucks were sent to the most rural locations, saving on high-cost repair bills that stem from breakdowns in out-of-the-way places. That meant that newly branded trucks would get far less visibility than older ones. In fact, people on busy city streets would keep seeing the old logo for the longest time.

The answer? Analyze the data to develop a reasonable compromise, one in which fleet operations could agree with marketing management to send more new trucks to city locations, earning the greatest rebranding impact for the money. In this and other cases, compromise – or more accurately, tradeoffs based on financial, risk, and brand-impact considerations – underpinned the company’s ability to maximize the value of its brand expression.

The more variables, the more tradeoffs – and in turn the more expertise needed to work through the alternatives of any aspect of rebranding. Questions come up at every turn: How do you best schedule signage installation to comply with permitting regulations and weather conditions? How do you best manufacture rebranded packaging to address legal considerations? How do you best change document branding to minimize customer confusion and reduce waste from scrapping old forms?

Sometimes the issue simply relates to human behavior. A perennial challenge is how to phase in uniforms, no matter the cost. As it turns out, next to salary, many employees care more about how they are asked to dress than any other workplace issue. No matter the company, the initial introduction of uniforms is a task fraught with risk. The risk can be reduced sharply, however, if managers choose to phase in uniforms in ways that win people’s acceptance.

In one case, nurses roundly rejected new uniforms when a health system undergoing a rebranding tried to roll them out too quickly. One nurse maintained she would lose her husband if she had to wear the new style. Marketing managers had believed the nurses would love the new, slimmer fit, so they were stunned by the resistance. In such cases, BrandActive analyzes options beforehand, comparing phase-in alternatives. Among the common options: fashion shows, introductory periods and cash incentives for people accepting the change.

Whether it’s a matter of uniforms, global signage rollouts, or fleet rebranding, operations managers need to find the right logistical solution for the grand rebranding strategy. Analytics, based on the right data, organized in the right way, give the right answers – answers that give decision makers at every level of the organization the “working drawings” needed for high-impact, cost-effective and low-risk implementation of the new brand.

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