Dollar General Turns Mobile Data Into Action - InformationWeek

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Dollar General Turns Mobile Data Into Action

The retailer's mobile strategy helps managers stay on the floor while accessing fresh data. One of eight Elite 100 Business Innovation Award winners.

Dollar General CIO Ryan Boone could tell he had a hit tech project on his hands. The retailer's IT team had just developed a mobile platform that lets district managers access product and sales data via Windows Mobile phones and tablets, so they could spend more time on the floor with store managers. When they showed the earliest alpha version to a small group of managers, it didn't matter that the version still needed work.

"It was very typical for us to hear them say 'I need this now. Can I take it back with me? I don’t care if its buggy,'" Boone says.

Dollar General found a way to put timely, mobile data in the hands of its district managers, freeing them from their desks. The retailer describes it as a "store-to-floor" strategy for its data and says it allows for higher sales. Whatever industry you are in, the story of Dollar General's broader "DG Mobile" strategy offers lessons in executing with data.

Like any retailer, Dollar General faces a rapidly changing environment from fluctuating prices, new inventory, seasonal shifts, changing costs, and variable customer tastes. Before DG Mobile, Dollar General's mangers were tied to their desks to receive information about these changes. Their data reports required laptops and printouts, keeping them from the stores.

"We have strong data that correlates time-in-store to higher sales and improved execution," Boone says, via email. "So [mobile] is a powerful tool to help our leaders drive performance in our stores."

Dollar General's goal was to make the mobile apps so easy to use that no training was required. That effort largely succeeded, and the IT team has very low support call volume for those apps. Timely data with little need for support or even training seems to be the opposite from what many enterprise customers are experiencing. How did Dollar General do it?

Dollar General District Manager Lisa Bauman taps into data.

(Image: Dollar General)

Dollar General District Manager Lisa Bauman taps into data.

(Image: Dollar General)

Boone credits the culture at Dollar General where there was little pushback against the initiative. In fact, since implementing the mobile platform for district managers, Boone and his team have expanded their mobile initiatives, rolling out a new Windows Mobile-based HR case management system with a hiring workflow system that has saved "thousands of labor hours" for hiring, firing, and promotion decisions. The team also completed a customer-focused project in which promotions are integrated directly into Dollar General's point of sale system. That lets the retailer accept and offer digital coupons right at the register.

Dollar General's ongoing DG Mobile strategy relies on three main ideas: Make data mobile and ubiquitous, make data as fresh as technically possible, and present data in a straightforward way so it can drive consistent decision-making at all levels. For companies looking to use data to improve employee performance, that's a good place to start. 

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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David Wagner
David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
4/29/2015 | 8:53:19 PM
Re: Data
@tzubair- They have not gotten down to individual shopper level just yet (though I believe it is in the plan). What they've concentrated on right now is data for the manager like data on fluctuating costs and stock. Things to help them choose store displays, what to hihglight in the store and that kind of data. But they are constantly adding capability based on the needs of the manager. I'm sure each iteration brings them closer to individual shopper data (within the bounds of privacy).
User Rank: Ninja
4/29/2015 | 8:28:50 PM
@David: Any idea on the kind of data that Dollar General has been allowing its managers to use in real time? Does it include data related to real-time shopper inisights all across the stores so that it enables the managers to know what the shopper behavior is like at a particular day?
User Rank: Ninja
4/29/2015 | 8:25:00 PM
Re: winning strategy
"Any application that is easy to use is going to save loads of man hours just in training."

@kstarton: And any application that has carefully been designed to be easy to use will have a lot of man hours that had gone into ensuring the design is completely flawless and that the user experience is great. Nothing comes out good without good effort.
User Rank: Ninja
4/29/2015 | 6:00:45 PM
winning strategy

Make data mobile and ubiquitous, make data as fresh as technically possible, and present data in a straightforward way so it can drive consistent decision-making at all levels.

This sounds like a winning strategy for any business working towards more mobility with their workforce ans its data. Any application that is easy to use is going to save loads of man hours just in training.

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