Transparent Program Management

by Katie Lee

Retail and restaurant sign installation with confidence, pride and peace of mind.

By Andy Dykstra

You may be a Fortune 1,000 CMO, vice president of real estate services, or construction executive charged with re-branding a nationwide restaurant chain or rolling out the new brand signage related to a recent retail merger. If this (or something similar) is your task, you probably have three things top of mind while overseeing the retail or restaurant sign installation program at hundreds of locations:

  1. Finishing the project on time, consistently implemented across all company touch points at every location.
  1. Verifying that all the business signs look great, are on brand and reliably conform to program standards.
  1. Completing the entire business sign installation program within budget.

You may also be thinking that if all three were accomplished, it would be a notable achievement and a very positive contribution to your company’s success.

CulversTransparent Program Management for Sign Conversions

Professionals working in the retail and restaurant signage industry for 20 years or more have seen their share of project management processes and systems. And they know how difficult it can be to achieve the above. Many projects fall short in one area or another.

Although the reasons vary, too often the project management and processes become obstacles to project success.

In your experience, you may have also observed one aspect of program management that contributes heavily to project failure: a lack of transparency. Without transparency, communication problems confound stakeholders, delays pile up and blame starts to flow.

So, what does transparent program management look like and how does it help retail and restaurant sign installation projects?

Transparent program management exists where you and all your site coordinators see the same things the sign company project managers see. That includes purchase orders, site surveys, photos, designs, notes, permits and approvals, and other relevant project data.

And significantly, you see it all as it happens, in real time — not a day or two after the fact. After all, you don’t want to call the sign company PM every day to see if you’ve finally got permits in Pittsburgh.

Transparency Facilitates Success

Where it exists, program management transparency contributes to project success in three ways:

  • First, seeing project events in real time enables you to address problems faster and with confidence, empowering you to stay on schedule.
  • Second, knowing everything about a site means that fewer things get off track, improving program consistency and fostering pride in the results.
  • And finally, seeing orders and costs reported from real-time data constrains key personnel to stay within budget, providing welcome peace of mind for the duration of the project.

Additionally, since you own the data, all the information relating to the project, such as branch surveys, remains accessible for future documentation. That’s a nice benefit that keeps paying dividends long after the sign installation project is complete.

red robinRed Robin Brand Transformation

Transparency doesn’t always come easily. However, a recent restaurant brand transformation program highlights the impact of transparent project management with some impressive capabilities.

When Red Robin redesigned its logo in 2014, it needed everything from signage design and prototyping to nationwide exterior painting and signage installation. After successfully rolling out prototype signage at a test location, site surveys and installations were completed at 92 locations across the country in 2014 — and an additional 240+ sites by 2016.

The signage program involved de-branding the building and property of the old logo. In some cases, 30-foot by 8-foot metal facades had to be lifted into place, the building had to be painted, and a new facade, wall, pylon and monument signs had to be installed. Throughout the entire process, the restaurants would never close.

In addition to the standard branding elements, the scope of work included ongoing schedule management. The sign company handled every aspect of the project, all while the restaurants remained operable.

Transparency Tools

The Red Robin program was managed through ProjectPilot, a comprehensive and proprietary real time program management customer interface.

In addition to keeping customers updated in real time, ProjectPilot is also the system that processes purchase orders and tracks costs. It also doubles as the company’s ERP system. It’s how project managers professionally manage their day.

ProjectPilot provided a real-time, daily view of every step of the process. Through ProjectPilot, Red Robin personnel viewed proposals, documents, photos and closing documents at the client, project and site levels. This proprietary, customizable platform provided over 49 viewable milestones.

Through ProjectPilot, Red Robin’s executives and managers interacted directly with the sign installation project managers and the project data.

They had a window into the project manager’s world.

Collaboration came easily. For example, the PM could email a design link to simultaneously view details online in ProjectPilot. That saved time and frustration over flipping through documents, attempting to be on the same page of the same version.

From site surveys, brand books, landlord approvals and municipality permits, fabrication, shipping and installation, all details of the project were immediately available to Red Robin executives and managers.

Additional project transparency tools put to work, as reported by Red Robin, included:

  • The GAP report, a status of each project that was upcoming, in process, and completed, was reviewed weekly with the sign PMs and the Red Robin team.
  • The sign team also developed brand books by location, and [through ProjectPilot] tracked when they were submitted and approved by all decision makers.
  • They also managed and tracked permit acquisition and project completion, and provided access to a real estate database with photos.
  • Beyond that, they provided detailed best practices, decision hierarchies and scopes for each location, down to the day/hour when tasks should be completed.

The sign company’s transparent project management capabilities and strategy for completing the full remodel project over 3 years played an important role in the project’s success, completed with 100% on-time performance.

The Transparency Difference

What made the Red Robin signage brand transformation so successful?

  1. Completely transparent program management
  2. Increased visibility from real-time comprehensive data
  3. Direct contact with sign company project managers and their ERP system
  4. A clean, easy to use customer interface

Restaurant PandaThe Go-to, Actionable Source

With any project management system, the information is only as good as the people entering the data. With many systems, the project manager must remember to login and update. When sign company project managers live in the project management system, transparency thrives. Hence, the resulting real-time data becomes the go-to, actionable source for retail and restaurant sign installation program management.

So, whether you are staring down a retail chain or major restaurant re-branding, or seeking to create a forward-looking, completely branded environment, transparent program management helps you get it done on time, on brand and on budget. Duly supplied with confidence, pride and peace of mind, your job just got a whole lot easier.


— Andy Dykstra is president of Priority Sign, a principal vendor for signage at more than 12,000 locations annually. Email the author at [email protected].

You may also like