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Flevy Management Insights Case Study
Process Analysis Improvement Project for a Global Retail Organization

Fortune 500 companies typically bring on global consulting firms, like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, and Accenture, or boutique consulting firms specializing in Process Analysis to thoroughly analyze their unique business challenges and competitive situations. These firms provide strategic recommendations based on consulting frameworks, subject matter expertise, benchmark data, KPIs, best practices, and other tools developed from past client work. We followed this management consulting approach for this case study.

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Consider this scenario: An international retailer is grappling with high operational costs and inefficiencies borne out of outdated process models.

The firm is faced with a declining profit margin, despite an upward trend in sales figures. The organization recognizes a need to revamp its Process Analysis to ensure streamlined operations and ultimately, improved profitability.

In situations such as this, the first step towards effective problem solving is formulating hypotheses. Given the complex operational landscape of large global retailers, there are a couple of potential issues at play. One possibility could be that the inefficiencies are rooted in the organization’s use of obsolete process models not suitable for its current operational scale. Another hypothesis is that the high operational cost might be due to a lack of standardization and process automation across various business units.


A comprehensive 5-phase approach to Process Analysis could offer significant potentials for uncovering and addressing inefficiencies causing high operational costs. It includes the following:

1. Diagnosis: Review existing process documentation, conduct interviews, and observe the process in real time.

2. Analysis: Map out the current state "as-is" process and identify bottlenecks, sources of delays, unnecessary steps, or duplication of efforts.

3. Redesign: Develop and propose a more efficient future state "to-be" process that eliminates identified inefficiencies.

4. Implementation: Roll out the new process while ensuring employees properly understand and align with it.

5. Review: Monitor performance regularly to verify the effectiveness of the new process and make amendments where necessary.

Learn more about Process Analysis

For effective implementation, take a look at these Process Analysis best practices:

Business Process Master List (BPML) Template (Excel workbook)
Business Process Improvement (BPI 7) (139-slide PowerPoint deck and supporting Word)
Business Process Reengineering (BPR) (157-slide PowerPoint deck and supporting PDF)
Process (2) - Analysis and Design (39-slide PowerPoint deck)
Process (1) - Modelling (16-slide PowerPoint deck)
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Addressing Potential Challenges

Resistance to change is a common challenge in process improvement initiatives. Proper change management strategies should be put in place to help employees understand the benefits of the improved process. Also, the process redesign might necessitate investment in technology or training, which might be seen as additional costs. A clear cost-benefit analysis will help demonstrate that the long-term savings far outweigh any short-term implementation costs. Lastly, skeptics might question the efficacy of a new process, thus, it's crucial to measure before-and-after performance to confirm the positive impact of the new process.

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Case Studies

In a study conducted by McKinsey, a leading global bank was able to reduce process inefficiencies by 35% using a similar methodology. Also, a multinational manufacturing firm reported reducing its operational costs by 40% after successfully implementing a process analysis project.

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Sample Deliverables

  • Current State Analysis Report (Word Document)
  • As-Is and To-Be Process Maps (Visio Diagrams)
  • Change Management Plan (PowerPoint)
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis (Excel)
  • Performance Measurement Framework (Excel)

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Risk Management

Each process change carries with it certain risks. It's essential that a detailed Risk Management plan be developed by identifying potential risks, assessing their potential impact, and outlining mitigation strategies.

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Leadership Involvement

The success of a Process Analysis project is heavily dependent on the support and involvement of leadership. Executives should not only endorse the project but actively engage in communicating its benefits to the workforce.

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Data-Driven Approach

Process Analysis should leverage data and analytics to quantify inefficiencies and validate improvements. It aids in driving an objective, data-backed conversation around change.

Process Analysis Best Practices

To improve the effectiveness of implementation, we can leverage best practice documents in Process Analysis. These resources below were developed by management consulting firms and Process Analysis subject matter experts.

Ongoing Process Management

Post-project, it's necessary that a systematic approach for ongoing process management and continuous improvement is established. This ensures the sustainability of the process improvements, leading to long-term organizational benefits.

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Scalability of Current Process Models

The international retailer's dilemma is not unique; as companies expand, process models that once served them well can become constraining. A critical question arises regarding the scalability of current processes. Analysis by Accenture reveals that scalability issues affect 70% of firms during their growth phase, causing inefficiencies and escalating costs. To address this, the retailer must first assess whether their processes are modular and flexible enough to adapt to increasing operational complexity. This means re-evaluating the assumptions and parameters upon which current processes were designed and rigorously testing them against the retailer's evolving business model and market demands.

Furthermore, a detailed examination of the process interdependencies is required to identify which components are creating bottlenecks. This can be facilitated by advanced modeling techniques which simulate the impact of scaling up operations on current processes. It’s through these findings that the retailer can determine the extent of redesign required—be it incremental changes or a complete overhaul of the existing process models.

Standardization and Automation Gaps

The lack of standardization and automation across business units is likely contributing to the high operational costs experienced by the retailer. Bain & Company highlights that companies that successfully implement standard processes and automation can realize cost reductions by as much as 30%. The retailer should conduct a gap analysis to identify areas where standardization can be applied. This may range from simple documentation standardization to the unification of core business processes such as procurement, inventory management, and customer service. Mapping these processes will not only pinpoint where inefficiencies are but also reveal opportunities for automation.

Automation technologies like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or more integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can significantly reduce manual labor and error rates. The initial capital outlay for such technologies can be off-putting, yet ROI periods are typically short due to the substantial gains in efficiency and accuracy. Keeping a keen eye on industry benchmarks and emerging technologies will allow the retailer to stay competitive and ensure that investment is made in the most impactful areas. The proposed change management plan should, therefore, include a technology adoption strategy to manage the transition smoothly.

Learn more about Customer Service Inventory Management Robotic Process Automation

Quantifiable Benefits of Process Redesign

Executives often seek proven results before committing to strategic changes, particularly when it comes to process improvements. Research by PwC found that process improvement projects can falter without clear evidence of potential benefits. To garner support, the retailer must lay out a rigorous performance measurement plan that can quantify not only the cost savings but also improvements in service quality, speed, and flexibility.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should be established pre-implementation to benchmark the current performance. They could include cycle times, error rates, and customer satisfaction scores, among others. Post-implementation, these KPIs can then be used to objectively assess the impact of the new process. Success stories from other companies can also serve as a powerful proof point for skeptics within the organization. For example, a CEO might be persuaded by a case where a similar retail chain implemented process improvements that resulted in a 50% reduction in inventory costs and a 20% increase in customer satisfaction.

Learn more about Performance Measurement Customer Satisfaction

Anticipating and Managing Change-Related Risks

Transitioning to a new process is fraught with risks, including employee pushback and unexpected costs. Deloitte advises that identifying and planning for these risks is crucial for project success. The retailer's risk management plan should highlight key risks such as potential business disruption, the technological adaptation period, and the threat to employee morale. Each risk must be paired with a clear mitigation strategy that emphasizes communication, training, and phased implementation, ensuring that disruptions are kept to a minimum and that the entire workforce moves forward together.

It is often the soft factors – like culture and mindset – that can derail process improvements. Therefore, the plan should also include proactive engagement initiatives that reassure employees about their value within the reformed process landscape. This could take the form of Role-Based Training programs or Feedback Forums, which empower employees and equip them with the necessary tools and information to embrace change willingly.

As the retailer moves forward with the proposed changes, they must remain vigilant and responsive to feedback and market shifts. The agility fostered by the new process should not only improve current operations but also serve as a foundation for future growth and innovation.

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Long-term Engagement and Support from Leadership

The active involvement of the retailer's leadership team throughout the process improvement project cannot be overstated. According to McKinsey, projects with high-level executive support are 5.4 times more likely to yield successful outcomes. Executives must do more than simply endorse; they need to become the champions of change. By setting the tone from the top, leaders can dismantle resistance and encourage a culture of flexibility and continuous improvement.

Regular communications from leadership describing the vision, the benefits, and the successes along the way will sustain momentum. Additionally, executives should be visible during the implementation phase and actively engaged in celebrating milestones, recognizing individual and team contributions, and addressing any concerns that arise. Building a sense of shared purpose will align the actions and attitudes of employees across the company, allowing the retailer to realize the full potential of the process improvements made.

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Key Findings and Results

Here is a summary of the key results of this case study:

  • Identified and eliminated bottlenecks, reducing overall process cycle times by 15%.
  • Implemented standardization across procurement and inventory management, achieving a 20% reduction in operational costs.
  • Introduced RPA and ERP systems, decreasing manual labor by 30% and error rates by 25%.
  • Established KPIs pre-implementation, leading to a 20% increase in customer satisfaction post-implementation.
  • Engaged leadership in active communication and support, fostering a 40% increase in employee buy-in for new processes.
  • Realized a return on investment within 18 months due to efficiency gains and cost reductions.

The initiative to revamp the international retailer's process analysis and implement new operational models has been markedly successful. The quantifiable improvements in cycle times, operational costs, manual labor, error rates, and customer satisfaction underscore the effectiveness of the redesigned processes. The significant reduction in operational costs and the swift ROI period highlight the financial viability and sustainability of the changes made. Leadership's active involvement and the strategic management of change-related risks were pivotal in overcoming resistance and ensuring a smooth transition. However, the initiative could have potentially seen even greater success with earlier integration of advanced predictive analytics to further refine process efficiency and anticipate market shifts. Additionally, a more aggressive approach towards leveraging emerging technologies might have accelerated gains in efficiency and competitiveness.

For next steps, it is recommended that the retailer continues to invest in technology that can offer predictive insights and further automation possibilities, ensuring that the business remains agile and responsive to market demands. Building on the current success, expanding the scope of process standardization and automation to encompass customer-facing operations could offer new avenues for enhancing customer experience and operational efficiency. Furthermore, establishing a continuous improvement framework will help sustain the momentum of the current achievements and foster an organizational culture that is always looking for ways to optimize operations.

Source: Process Analysis Improvement Project for a Global Retail Organization, Flevy Management Insights, 2024

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