How to build a better tech road map
“I get emails constantly. Probably three a day from different [tech] solutions,” said Bareburger CTO Eric Kinniburgh at last year's FSTEC conference. “It is extremely important to actually read those emails.” Not only are vendors smart, but now they’re also affordable, he said. Brian Pearson, CIO of Stacked: Food Well Built, says he also has an eye on startups as an indicator of what’s next. But he can’t plug in every solution. With so many new technologies—and needs for different departments—a well-planned road map is the key to long-term success. Here's how brands are plotting such a map.
1. Systematically engage vendors
Papa John’s has a process to engage startups and the Silicon Valley set. Sometimes it reaches out directly or through a third party, inviting companies to either work on a small project together or participate in its innovation days or hackathons to get to know them, says Justin Falciola, VP of digital solutions. Companies are often then put in categories based on the type and scale of the opportunity, he says.
2. Maintain the vision
“The end goal never changes, but the tech we end up using changes,” says Anthony Mejia, VP of technology for Lazy Dog. He, like Papa John’s, maintains a multiyear strategy, but the execution of the plan changes. To avoid becoming too task-saturated, Pearson has a forced ranking of priorities. And to ensure the results are effective on his team, Kinniburgh attaches a metric to all innovation, using data to inform future decisions.
3. Know who to involve
“The toughest part of the road map is convincing the rest of the company,” says Jarrod East, IT director for Lazy Dog. He’s learned to reveal pieces “when the audience can appropriately receive it without rejecting it for being too visionary.” While Lazy Dog’s plan goes out six years, the team doesn’t share more than two years out, except to a few who can socialize ideas to others in the chain.
4. Integrate smarter
If a vendor’s API doesn’t integrate with Stacked’s system, Pearson asks, “Do you have a way to give me the data whenever I want it?” Papa John’s has found it tricky when vendors aren’t advanced enough for its cloud-first mentality or are building on other platforms. “You need to do due diligence,” says Falciola. He wants to know how data is cached, which country it resides in and which interfaces are used to ingest and load data.
5. Think ahead
“[The road map] needs to be strategic, because there are time and cost considerations, and not everything can be done—especially all at once,” says Rob Jakoby, VP of IT for Firehouse Subs. Lazy Dog, for example, recently implemented smarter video surveillance to upgrade its security, but the technology may also be used for facial-recognition loyalty and payments down the road.