New processes speed chain's salon openings

Great Clips Inc. is about a year away from wrapping up a four-year effort to overhaul and automate its business processes. Officials say the project is a key reason why the company has already been able to increase new store openings from 200 per year to 300.

The Minneapolis-based chain of 2,500 hair salons completed the first phase of the US$1 million project in July 2005 by automating and streamlining what had been a 120-step process for opening a new salon.

This July, Great Clips IT developers will begin work on overhauling the business procedures used by managers to work with franchisees and existing salons. And at the beginning of next year, the company plans to launch the last phase of the project: re-engineering its contract management and communication processes.

The full project is slated to be completed in mid-2007.

"In our previous state, it was hard for management to be able to see the performance of the business processes -- to see into it and measure it," said Jim Waldo, vice president of IT at Great Clips. The company decided to automate its processes to give executives the visibility they need to manage them more proactively, he said.

That decision came after an internal analysis in 2003 determined that the company's procedures were preventing it from meeting growth plans.