Overflowing with success

River Island’s project manager Steve Cassidy explains why training is the key component to success in any systems project

Training strategy and communication for change review programme
Designed by: First Friday, retail training consultants
Address: Lower Hollises, Rignall Road, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire
HP16 9AJ
Phone: 01494 867 1060
E-mail: tony.wright@firstfriday.biz
Weblink: www.firstfriday.biz

River Island is entering the final stages of replacing its Point of Sale (PoS) system in 200 stores with 1,000 PoS terminals across the UK and Ireland, which involves training more than 2,500 staff.

Almost from the start, training has been at the strategy’s core. River Island is recognised as having a successful sales operation, and did not want to impact on this with the implementation of its biggest ever systems change.

One of its early objectives was to make the transition from the existing legacy system to the new PoS system as seamless as possible.

The company decided to review the strategy of the communications and training that supported the IT programme. It engaged the services of retail training experts First Friday, as the size and the task were such that River Island wanted to ensure it was taking the right approach to achieve its objectives.

Training at the company is traditionally conducted in-house, and it is more of an exception to the rule to outsource any element of that function, apart from specific skills training. The use of a company such as First Friday was therefore rather revolutionary. But the fact that their own management team has such a close working knowledge of the retail industry made us confident that they could add value to our existing in-house function.


It was agreed that First Friday would carry out a review of the current training and communication approach. The objective of the review was to recommend an approach that meets the needs of the change programme and builds on the work already completed.

The principal activities to be completed in the review included:

  • Reviewing the programme and its objectives

  • Reviewing and visiting pilot stores

  • Reviewing the current proposed roll-out approach

  • Reviewing developed materials

  • Reviewing high-level training needs for the different job roles, both at implementation and ongoing

Two consultants were assigned to the project who were responsible for reviewing the training manual and spending time in the pilot stores to get a feel of the emotional impact of the new system’s implementation.

A communication framework was developed for all areas of the business, including buying and merchandising, stores, logistics and distribution. The strategy also took into account River Island’s external communication to suppliers, and was structured so that it could easily integrate with all projects, current and future.


Training was the key component to the roll-out of this major systems project, which is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2004.

River Island’s regional recruitment manager, Bernie Flynn, says: “We were delighted at the work First Friday produced. They were very thorough in their approach and took the time to understand the culture of our business and the impact any change would have before reviewing the training manual and methodology we proposed to follow.

“Its recommendations on how best to implement the training strategy were relevant to our organisation and in line with our objectives. The developed framework ensured a generic approach to communication for all parts of the business based upon needs of awareness, progress updates and support, and it utilised existing communication mediums in addition to suggesting new or improved ones.

“Our communication programme will comprise regular updates through the field management team,” he adds. “At store level, we will also be issuing a detailed plan to advise staff of each stage of the roll-out programme. It is a comprehensive strategy that will run throughout the entire operation to ensure staff buy into the implementation at all levels”.

The introduction and implementation of the new PoS system has been a tremendous challenge, and one that it is believed will create a real opportunity for River Island in the market place.

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