18 May 2017

Preparing to engage with a software provider

IndiCater CEO, Mike Day, presents key insights on the areas to focus on before talking to a hospitality software company to help ensure a smooth mobilisation programme

Don’t wait to improve and document internal processes. It is vital to get existing processes in order before a software implementation project starts. For example, if kitchen staff do not check off deliveries, establishing this will minimise the amount of changes required when e-procurement commences.

The best way of going about this is to bring together all current processes into a Ways of Working (WoW) document that defines tasks. This will make it easier for a software provider to understand how the customer works and be able to recommend features and offer advice on what controls can be instigated with compliance tools. WoW documents should be agreed internally in advance. Not doing so will create a real danger of time wasting while in discussions with the software company. Often such discussions can result in an awareness that the processes head office ‘think’ are taking place are not being carried out in the same way or not at all.

Decide if the business can cope with a ‘big bang’ or staged implementation. A staged software implementation programme could provide a better chance of success and an overall shorter mobilisation period, even if on paper changing every process at once in a ‘big bang’ approach might look cheaper. Few businesses have the luxury of an in-house project mobilisation team, and have to work projects around routine daily tasks. It is important to be honest about any past ‘change management’ experience and identify the in-house resources available. Taking a realistic and honest approach may result in buying in additional help from the software provider, which can work well. This doesn’t mean it is not important to define the ultimate vision, far from it. Each bite-sized element needs defining by taking into account the ultimate big picture, but it’s often more practical not to try and implement everything all at once.

Don’t try to automate every manual process immediately. Start at the end rather than the beginning
by identifying all the ‘outputs’ required to effectively monitor and manage the business. This will provide a good sanity checklist and road map to keep the team focused on the processes that require automating rather that getting distracted with blue sky thinking! If an automated process doesn’t generate a defined output it should be logged and filed for future consideration, leaving the software project to concentrate on delivering the defined outputs. As a guideline, automating 70% to 80% of manual processes is a practical goal.

Set up a Project Command Centre. Find an area in the office to establish a Project Command Centre. This can be used as the focal point for regular stand up ‘scrums’ to discuss the projects. Setting this up before talking with a software provider is vital in order to ensure your team has the correct mindset and takes ownership of the project. This will ensure that all team members are fully prepared when meeting with the software supplier.

These are some of the key steps to successfully engaging with a professional hospitality software company. Detailed preparation, as with everything in hospitality, will pay dividends tenfold.