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Back Office Debunked: The 5 Myths IT Leaders Tell Themselves

Driving implementation and adoption of back office technology in restaurants should get some sort of gold medal. It is hard. As another CIO recently said, “change is a four-letter word.” But it shouldn’t hold an organization back. This is just one of the myths IT Leaders tell themselves when faced with the need to disrupt and innovate.

By Marcie Tomlinson, Sr. Sales Engineer at HotSchedules

If reinvention is defined as the action or process through which something is changed so much that it appears to be entirely new – then the restaurant back office is getting reinvented.

There’s no doubt about that. What is still a big question is how IT teams will go about orchestrating the reinvention. Back office platforms can become so ingrained in a restaurant operation that the mere idea of tackling an “upgrade” or “another system” or “a platform that promises to simplify and scale” seems like a lot to digest – even for an industry used to moving and adapting at rapid speed.

It’s not that we aren’t willing to accept that new and better technology exists – it’s the idea of doing something different that often sends us back into the comfort of “keeping the lights on.” (and even that isn’t all that comfortable.)

These are the myths we tell ourselves as IT leaders! Here are a five more myths we’ve uncovered through my first-hand experience and through our conversations with IT and operational restaurant executives.

Myth 1
Back Office Should Solve Every Single Business Challenge

There’s a belief that back office platforms should solve every single operational and IT challenge. It should handle food, labor and forecasting, plus accounting, marketing, loyalty and human resources … to name a few. The reality is the all-in-one back office platform may touch on accounting or marketing features, but they only do it lightly – which leaves some teams working off of inefficient or ineffective systems. Back office systems need to deliver robust features for the key functional areas and then use data from in-store, above-store and near-store to make the system (and its users) smarter.

“But if it’s not all-in-one, I’m dealing with clunky integrations, a pile of unusable data and an expensive line item for resources dedicated to troubleshooting those integrations.” That used to be true. Today’s APIs and cloud-based point of sale systems are improving at a rapid pace, making it easier to choose a platform that solves for those core back office components while connecting other best-in-breed systems and the rich data they collect.

Myth 2
IT is just a Services Organization, IT Leaders are Tech-Only

The myth that back office technology should solve every single operational and IT challenge is rooted in the old-school mentality that IT leaders and their teams are service organizations that only manage the selection of vendors, integration of data, and maintenance of the architecture, systems & security. While those are huge undertakings and certainly the foundation of any successful IT team – it’s a limiting perspective.

Today’s IT leaders are business leaders who bring to the table discussions about digital and technological transformation in the larger context of the business and its overall performance.

Joe Tenczar, CIO of Sonny’s BBQ drove this point home in an article on CIOReview.com.

“In the past, IT was rarely brought into strategic discussions, but there has been a shift in the perceptions of top executives toward technology … As this shift has occurred, technology leaders who truly understand the value elements of business have been elevated. The CIO that adds to the value discussion, just as with the leader in other functional areas of the business, is valued and respected.”

Myth 3
Technology will Replace Human Connection

There’s been a lot of hoopla around restaurant technology replacing the human connection consumers experience during their visit. We’re talking about the hospitality side of this business – and in no way is it going away. In fact, with next generation back office platforms, the human connection can become even more personalized and meaningful.

Sam Fox, CEO, and Founder of Fox Restaurant Concepts, framed the conversation well at the HotSchedules Spark Conference in October 2017:

“There are two sides to the ‘restaurant business;’ the restaurant portion which is all about delivering a great product, great service, and a great experience – hospitality. And then there’s the business side which is all about the operations and the finances.”

Talk to any enterprising executive leadership team running a restaurant operation and you’ll find they’re expanding the idea of the “restaurant business” to “restaurant technology business.” It doesn’t mean they are eliminating the human connection, they are leveraging technology to improve all those tiny and important points of engagement.

Myth 4
Data Correlation isn’t Enough

Anyone who’s worked in Google Analytics understands that you have to develop your strategy before you can really make the platform and the data it collects work for you. Otherwise, it’s just a glorified dashboard of analytics you can monitor and track to measure a few baseline key performance indicators. That’s the correlation part.

Once a strategy is set and then configured in the system – tests are run, data is tracked, results are analyzed and action is optimized. Rinse, repeat. This is context or “causation” as it’s more formally known.

The same is true for cloud-based back office platforms that pull data from the POS and integrate with other third-party systems.

Data is only useful if it has causation and can be contextualized within a platform that learns based on demand and events, which is possible when the data is collected in the context of an intelligent workflow and the system uses machine learning to optimize recommended action. We’ll dive more on intelligent workflow and insights in future blogs – for now, you can watch our Clarifi Foundation video to better understand how data and workflow come together.

Myth 5
Back Office is Difficult to Implement

Driving implementation and adoption of new technology in restaurants should get some sort of gold medal. It is hard. As another CIO recently said, “change is a four-letter word.”

Back office technology has earned a bad rap for being hard to implement and even more difficult to use. That may be true in older back office solutions, but new, modern back office platforms are becoming much easier to integrate, implement, scale and adopt.

Basically, the companies developing all of this technology know they have to answer the question that every CIO or VP of Tech asks themselves: “am I willing to continue to band-aid all of this tech or would this all be easier and less expensive if we just moved it to the cloud and brought in a new platform that’s more modern and more open?”

The answer is only if it’s also there’s a simple and effective path forward to implement, iterate, and scale. Modern back office platforms are addressing these concerns head-on.

They key is to ask and get proof. What is their implementation and adoption strategy for customers? How have they successfully rolled out similar systems across small, medium or large enterprises that span states and even continents?

What’s in the service level agreement and what else will store (or franchise) owners and their managers receive in terms of training and ongoing guidance in the tool itself? These questions are the tip of the iceberg and due diligence worth doing.

So, what did we learn today?

Technology will always progress – and IT leaders should adopt a culture of innovation and a flexible, pliable, malleable tech infrastructure and organization that allows for reinvention. Disruption is your new best friend, my friends.


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 About the Author

Marcie Tomlinson has 19 years of experience in the restaurant industry, 13 of those in Restaurant Technology. Her work includes Back Office and ERP implementations as well as multiple operations initiatives to reduce food and labor cost. Skilled in Business Process, Budgeting, Visio, Customer Service, and Business Process Improvement. Strong business development professional with a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) focused in Accounting from Baylor University.

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