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Should your company be using cloud computing? Companies in data intensive industries such as foodservice should be, according to a panel of users who addressed the topic last week at the Fast Casual Executive Summit at the Nashville Omni. Panelists agreed cloud technology enables faster access to all types of data, including operations, training and marketing.
But as with any new technology, change requires champions who can lead.
Paul Rubin explains the technology curve of adoption.
The technology adoption curve
Moderator Paul Rubin, chief strategy officer at ParTech Inc., provider of a cloud-based POS solution, began the session by noting that new technology does not get adopted quickly. While most new software deployments are now cloud-based, Rubin said there are still many deployments that are not. Speaking of technology in general, he said there are early adopters, "early majority" adopters, "late majority" adopters and laggards.
Dickey's Barbecue Restaurants might be considered an early adopter.
Laura Rea Dickey, CEO, said the company went to the cloud in 2008 seeking better control of its data.
"We had to have a universal baseline for information," Dickey said.
The company first applied cloud technology to back of the house functions, then brought it to the front of the house.
Laura Dickey sees the cloud as a more flexible platform.
The cloud enabled the company to compare key performance indicators of different shifts, Dickey said. It also allowed them to quantify qualitative data. She said the company has been able to gain insights about "sentiment analysis."
"That was one of the most universal 'a ha' moments," Dickey said. She said the cloud proved to be a more flexible platform to work with than the legacy system they were using previously.
Change requires buy-in
The change wasn't painless, however.
Executing the new technology required convincing people throughout the organization to buy into it. Dickey said the people in the foodservice industry are not data analysts, and they tend to resist change. Nine years after the company deployed the cloud, about 8 percent of the organization (mostly franchisees) are not using it and not gaining the benefit of sentiment analysis.
Being able to see data every 15 minutes rather than waiting till the end of the week has proved a competitive advantage, Dickey said.
Chris Ruszkowski cites the challenge in achieving buy-in for new technology.
Chris Ruszkowski, senior vice president of marketing at Quiznos, seconded Dickey on both the benefit of fast data access and the challenge of convincing the team of the cloud's advantages.
"You have access to that in real time," Ruszkowski said. "Marketing is all about reacting to the market in real time."
While the management team recognized the cloud's benefits, Ruszkowski said the challenge was convincing top management and store level management to embrace it.
To convince people, he had to show how the cloud benefits operations, finance and marketing.
Ruszkowski said using the cloud enabled the company to glean insights from social media comments.
Having fast access to data also comes in handy when comparing how different stores perform, he said.
David Baer sees the cloud as easier for young managers to learn to work with.
Firenza Pizza, a three-year-old chain of 12 restaurants that is planning to add 25 more in 2018, uses the cloud for POS, loyalty rewards and inventory management, said David Baer, founder and COO. He said the company did not want to have to deal with third-party tech support, which would mean giving outsiders access to company information.
Ease of use noted
Baer, who worked for several other foodservice companies prior to Firenza Pizza, said cloud-based management systems have proved easier for young managers to learn than the legacy systems, making them productive faster.
"The choices of what you are going to do with that data are endless," Baer said. "Having everything housed on the cloud made it easy." He said the cloud spares them from having to spend a lot of time mining data.
"Every management aspect we can, we're putting on the cloud," he said. The company is also using the cloud for sharing blueprints and for producing training videos.
The panelists agreed that cloud technology allows their companies to respond faster to market changes, and empowers employees at different levels in the organization to perform better. But since change doesn't come without pain, management has to consistently encourage buy-in throughout the organization.