Asset Protection – Why is CHANGE so HARD?

I had a recent call from a senior Asset Protection executive that voiced his frustration over using several EBR (Exception Based Reporting) solutions indicating ‘it’s 1990’s technology but we’ve gotten used to its output even though we can’t get to some really important things’. The call was about expanding the volume and kinds of data that they needed to be able to quickly incorporate into the solution to monitor areas that are today ‘unmonitored’.

This is not a ‘first’ call of the type, and still puzzles me – the dedication that companies have to old technology and even old methodology.  When I visited a fashion Asset Protection executive’s office I sat on the other side of his desk which had 3 stacks of ‘reports’ all nicely banded with rubber bands, paper and alligator clips and even colored sticky notes scattered through the stacks. Each of these stacks was 8” in height…who says ‘size doesn’t matter’. But more importantly…..isn’t there a better way?

If we continue to do the things that we have always done, why are we surprised that we keep getting the same results?

I also marvel at how much travel time the Asset Protection teams spend in their average week, and tied to old methodology and practices, it is a wonder that they aren’t overwhelmed by the process. I speak to many about ‘mobile applications’ and fundamentally the response is that they simply transferred ‘paper’ for a screen which gives them immediate access to…..what they already have on paper.

And I am surprised at the level of error that Asset Protection executives are willing to tolerate as I know they certainly won’t tolerate that level with newer technologies, i.e. Pattern Seeking/Pattern Matching. One executive told me that he expects 25% false positives and if he doesn’t see that level then he believes they aren’t querying enough! Which translates to 100 analysts with 25 of them going to work generating ineffective results each week. Seems expensive to me and would cause me to be concerned at the level of ‘inaccuracy’ and waste of time ‘down the line’ with field personnel and store teams. Not much free labor there, I can assure you.

I guess my point is, why is it so difficult for some in Asset Protection to adopt new technology OR even look at it?

That is why I am impressed with Hayes International. The data reported is always accurate and a good measure of how much time and $$$ are being invested and returned in the Asset Protection process. It’s still very much fraud related but understanding the people time involved and the returns received is critically important.

The move to Asset Protection from Loss Prevention is not just a ‘name change’ but a whole frame of reference change. I spent many years in retail and LP, was always almost an orphan. Between HR and LP it was a close match to see which departments got ‘whacked’ when times turned rough. I think this was because executives ‘at the top’ were hard pressed to see the value of these areas versus Operations and other areas of the business.

The good news is that some very talented people came with the change to Asset Protection and are making a huge difference within their companies and in the Retail Industry itself. Some great examples are new thinking about how to handle those apprehended in our stores. Before it was always a straight forward prosecution process even to the point that I would see ‘apprehension’s’ charts on the walls of the LP offices like maybe ‘traffic ticket’ tallies. In fact, I saw a chart a number of years ago on a VP of LP’s wall that set the benchmark for apprehensions each month!

Apprehensions today in more enlightened companies are turned into an opportunity to ‘turn the tide’ on a wrongly directed individual and not only change the behaviors but improve their lives as well.

In the Hayes Report, there are important management statistics that I look at each quarter. I am concerned over the time invested in a case….can it be done better, faster? If those involved in the field had an automated way to put together case files quickly and file them with a key stroke…how much time does that save?

Also, the size of the cases has always been of interest to me and one wonders if the ‘incident’ could be caught earlier in its life-cycle could the value be reduced? This would possibly even catch a ‘training incident’ before someone figured out that this ‘training incident’ allows for fraud to be created? And would the cases caught ‘earlier’ also allow for more cases to be processed by each field person? Maybe less terminations and more re-training opportunities which would cut into staff turnover and the whole cost structure of replacing staff (understand this is ‘on average’ about $1000 per replacement.)

And while the new enlightenment with apprehensions is largely working with external individuals, perhaps there is a program that would work with associates that get off on the ‘wrong foot’? I’m guessing some enlightened people are already working in that direction.

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The amazing thing with new technology is that you can treat items on all different levels of uniqueness, risk, etc….why not associates as well? With new technology it’s like an ‘early warning system’ that helps to manage all behaviors. Even ‘equipment’! Think about the life performance/behavior of a fork-lift, battery, etc., is all ‘tracked’ and each has a pattern of behavior and all patterns can be known and monitored….automatically.

New thinking about how to manage the frightfully small amount of time and large amount of challenges will encourage Asset Protection executives to get creative, and try new ways to solve old problems. Or are we too busy bailing the boat to learn how to swim…..$

(Note: Francis Clark is VP of Business Development for Profitect, the leading provider of prescriptive analytics for the retail industry. He can be contacted at: 850-492-9165, or via email at francisclark@proitect.com. For more information on Profitect, visit their website at: http://www.profitect.com/)

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