When it comes to implementing new technology, “change” is a four-letter word. Corporate wants to roll out new initiatives. Managers can be set in their ways. Store owners seem uneasy about the impact the transition may have on productivity. But change is absolutely necessary as restaurants leave antiquated operating systems behind and usher in new, intelligent back-office platforms.
Overcoming resistance to changes in technology was the topic of the hour during a breakout session at the 2018 HotSchedules Spark Conference.
Our own Director of Customer Success, Brittney Wilganowski, sat down with Amanda Correi, Executive Operations Coordinator at iPic Entertainment, and Anthony Mejia, Vice President of Technology at Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, to talk about how the two brands have been able to mobilize technology initiatives. Plus, they gave us some great insights on rolling out and driving adoption of the new technology across their corporate teams and general managers.
Here are our top six takeaways from the session.
1. Excellence Requires Change, Change Requires Cross-Collaboration
Consolidating technology or changing out large, complex systems in restaurants is challenging for many reasons – reasons we don’t have the space to list here today. But when it’s time and the investment is there – restaurants need to leap at the opportunity to modernize their stores.
The panelists encouraged the audience to first assess their tech stack and how current systems align to future trends, initiatives and performance of the business. They also highlighted a few potholes in the process and how to avoid them.
“When IT takes the leads on technology initiatives, they may not always understand the operators’ point of view or challenges. It’s important to get IT involved in how the solutions are used in the field,” said Correi.
From the IT perspective, Mejia emphasized the importance of staying close to store owners, operators and managers to really understand how they are using (or not using) the technology. The end-user stories can point to problem areas or areas of opportunity for future decisions and rollout procedures.
2. Become Your Company’s Champion for Tech Change
Both Mejia and Correi agreed that even before the point of implementing new technology, it’s important to work across functional departments to proactively identify needs on behalf of all stakeholders – from the VP of Operations and the Chief Information Officer all the way down to the payroll administrators, regional specialists, and store-level managers.
One audience member, in particular, was curious how Correi was able to champion change when her initial bid for new back-office technology fell on deaf ears.
“I was persistent,” Correi laughed. “I built the business case. But I also went to the payroll administrator and said, ‘This would remove 10 steps from this process if we had new back office software.’ And then I went to other key influencers across departments talking about how this could reduce administrative burdens and improve process and decision making at all levels.”
3. Consolidate Technology with Strategic Partners
As VP of IT, Mejia has the advantage of being the decision-maker. “For us, it was about taking our tech stack down from 35 different vendors to 15-20 strategic partners,” he said. “From a back office perspective, we were looking for the most intuitive solution for our employees and opportunities to replace three solutions with one partner.”
Mejia emphasized the importance of the word “partners” in today’s saturated tech environment. “There’s a technology vendor available for just about every function of the restaurant business these days. But along with our focus on consolidation, we are looking to find real partners who are invested in our success and who share this journey with us.”
4. Build Success Plans with your Partners
One of the ways that partnership plays out is through mutual success plans. “We share our KPIs with our vendors,” said Mejia. “We are looking to them to help us report back our success and show the return on investment both at a store level and at a corporate level.”
Success plans should include timelines, account representation, product feature request processes, rollout plans, training calendars, and of course, key performance indicators. “We have an agreed upon number of KPIs that we are monitoring that are tied to our performance as a company,” said Mejia. “Those metrics are tied to productivity, time-savings, and an overall increase in store performance and we look to our back office partner to share in that journey and help us show the positive results.”
5. Outsource Integrations
As brands replace vendors and point solutions in favor of partners and consolidated technology platforms, the importance of integrations, APIs and data flow grows. Mejia believes strongly in outsourcing integrations with middleware companies like Omnivore.
“With the right integrations there is less work and IT can work on more strategic programs to help operations,” he said. “We have chosen to work off of the Microsoft platform. And whenever we need to consolidate solutions or integrate with new technology to push and pull data, that’s when we bring in Omnivore.”
6. Listen, Learn, Test and Train
“Technology alone can’t be the solution for everything. We have to work on ourselves first,” said Correi. “One of the ways we measure success is how many spreadsheets we can make go away.”
The iPic team does this by first working closely with IT.
Sometimes, when IT leads the charge in a silo with the technology vendor, the user experience may not translate. “IT leads the initiative, but they never have to use it. It’s been really crucial for IT and Operations, as well as the technology partner, to be very involved in how the solutions are used.”
She gave a simple example of needing a bigger button when interfacing with an inventory screen. Because of the way the page displayed on the mobile device, the small button made it more difficult to speed through inventory fast and without errors.
“Once we walked through the process with the HotSchedules product team and our managers, it was a no-brainer why the button needed to be bigger to help our managers be as efficient as possible,” she said.