Governance & Compliance Characteristics in Unorganized Retail Sales Context

In one of my previous blogs, I introduced cascading layers of characteristics a field automation solution must possess in unorganized retail based selling context (e.g. via distribution network).

For sake of continuity, let me reproduce the cascading layers as below:


I also promised to analyze each of the layers in a bit more detail so as to emphasize these are not just terms to throw around, but mean real things that may make a substantial value difference to your field operations.

Compliance and Governance

At the most basic level, your SFA solution must enable complete governance, compliance and monitoring capabilities for managing your field operations. This roughly translates into following categories of feature sets:

- Ability to define policies and procedures: E.g. define beat plan, location based hierarchy, frequency of event reporting, importance of counters/retailers and markets defined in terms of frequency of visit, set rules for timelines for handling field cases etc.

- Ability to Monitor: E.g. Being able to view distance travelled by any field person, route travelled, counters visited, performance against set metrics etc.

Above includes indicative examples, however given the scope of field operations, the system can be and must be packed with intelligent solutions to automatically alert on deviations to any set policies and rules, being able to record the metrics without being intrusive to worker privacy and work hours.

Ability to define policies and procedures

There are no field operations with some sort of policies and procedures defined. The challenge for your solution approach is to ensure that there are digital means of defining such policies and, where possible, ensure compliance via preventive means rather than reactive alerting in case of breaches.

Following provides some dimensions of policies and procedures that can be defined via digital means. The more your solution approach incorporates, more the value you can derive from your automation strategy:

- Organization hierarchy policies: A basic tenet is that field staff must be restricted to carry out operations, access processes only for those aspects that they have mandate for as per the organization hierarchy. For example, a North Zone manager must be able to control all aspects of process instances that occur within North Zone, but must have no access to other zones not in his mandate.

- Location hierarchy policies: Location hierarchy differ from organization hierarchy in that there can be field personnel who are authorized for differing roles in multiple locations. This is especially relevant because options available to him at the time of performing operational tasks must auto enable access to such hierarchy locations.

- Functional policies: It must be possible to allocate specialized roles and auto enable such roles for individuals.

- Frequency related policies: It must be possible to define frequency of reports, visits based on importance of retailer/customers. For example, a bulk retailer who is a star performer must be entertained with higher visit frequency than lets say another retailer whose volumes and accessibility may not justify costs for high frequency in person visits.

- Time breach rules: Many times certain policies require that within a stipulated timeframe certain actions to be completed every day or week. In such case the system must be capable of recognizing breaches in advance and raising alerts.

- Scheduling related rules: Scheduling is one of the most complex subjects for policies where multiple aspects like advance planning, right set of target visits, frequency, optimum route etc should be all taken into account. The system should provide means for defining rules that enable such intelligent scheduling.

- Limits related rules: There should be a way of enforcing limits such as individual customer order taking to take into account existing credit limit etc.

- Content related rules: Often for usecases like consumer surveys, it should be possible to define differences such as questions to be asked depending on consumer type, possible options list etc.

Above are some dimensions for policies that must be enforceable via rules, however there exists a number of such dimensions that must enable your operations policies to be as digitized as possible for maximum value.

Ability to track compliance

While in most cases, the policies are enforced via the digital rules at the time of performing an operation itself, some of the policies compliance must be implemented as retrospective analysis performed by the system.

Examples as below:

- Deviations to beat plan: Only after a visit is concluded (usually a day) it is possible to compute deviations to the approved beat plan.

- Missed or exceptional reporting: Only when certain events that must have been received but not received can it be determined that breaches to policies have occurred. Same is the case with exceptions that can be computed based on analytics. For example, an unusually high amount on order etc.

- Data related: Sometimes its preferred that reporting is performed and only at backend its determined whether its accepted or not. Example: Large order- even though amount is higher than mandate, it may be preferred that there is a workflow step on the backend which allows manual intervention to accept it or not.

The key aspect of compliance tracking is that it is done in a way that:

* Is not seen as intrusive by people using the system- e.g. constantly track their location/stops throughout the day.
* Is not draining to use- the system must reduce the time spend, not big down users with cumbersome procedures and screens.

Ability to Monitor

Ability to monitor, though it sounds similar to Compliance tracking, has a completely different meaning. It is elaborated via the following examples:

- Audit history monitoring: It should be possible for users and system managers to access the audit trail of processes that occurred in the past.

- Learning from exceptions: For new users, exceptions must be clear and articulate why failure occurred so as to induce learning and reduce time spend for orientation.

- Performance monitoring: It should be possible to not only track compliance for individual processes, but also possible to monitor holistically performance of a group, team etc. For example, total exception events comparison between two regions etc.


The diagram below provides a snapshot of the three points I have elaborated above.


All solutions probably include some form of Governance and compliance capabilities. However the extent of features and ease of usage may well make a huge difference in value you get from the system. Primarily because this is a core concern and supervision, operations management is a somewhat implicit, but a major cost head in any field sales operations. In this blog I have tried to highlight a few aspects and with little help from accountants, it is possible to break down these into cost savings from use of system in specific contexts.

Hope you enjoyed reading this analysis. See you soon with more…