Every integration project restaurant operators undertake adds a layer of complexity to existing IT and POS systems that requires cooperation and commitment from many levels and departments. Add communication between the POS and third-party software platforms and the task becomes even more complicated. Boloco (www.boloco.com) needed to integrate a new catering software program into its existing POS platform. While the catering software provider, MonkeyMedia Software (www.monkeymediasoftware.com) developed and implemented the program to meet our needs, without a certain level of integration it would have been a challenge to ensure sales, order and reporting accuracy across each of our locations and systems. These five simple best practices helped streamline the process.
Get all parties talking. The level of complication in any project increases when you add another stakeholder. First, talk to the partners involved to see what their capabilities and technologies allow. Make sure every stakeholder from every team understands the objectives for integration from an operations perspective and is willing to work together to co-create the desired result — it’s not about the technology, it’s about solving problems for the guest and the operation. Both vendors — your third-party and POS supplier — need to be aligned and work together as true partners. If this doesn’t happen, it could take twice as long to get your project up and running.
Determine what data you want to share and how you want to review it. Prior to launching our catering management system, we conducted a series of exercises that helped determine the type of information we wanted to integrate into our restaurant POS. We wanted to simulate the order process to highlight the data we wanted the POS system to reconcile and report against at the end of each day. These elements need to be well-defined so the necessary adjustments can be made to the impacted software programs, enabling sales reporting, inventory management, and other functions. The integration of our catering management system now allows us to view our catering sales and transaction history on a per-store basis with exceptional accuracy.
Implement a project plan. This plan will act as a project check and balance and will help to keep everything and everyone on the same page. The plan should outline the technical responsibilities of both sides and clearly map out project guidelines tied to the operational phases, timelines and problems being solved. Share your project plan with POS and third-party solution providers, and make adjustments based on their resource loads. Weekly project calls also will help keep the lines of communication open, bring visibility into how the project is tracking, and highlight any issues that may need immediate attention.
Test the solution, end to end. Once integration has occurred, it’s crucial to test the solution through a variety of use cases. Prove-out the functionality using a test lab environment first, then test it at the store-level in just a few locations (variety of store profiles and volumes). Make sure the solution is given enough time to work through a few days’ ends and potentially a couple of periods. As confidence increases, plan the roll-out to other locations until it has been implemented system wide. Make the testing process a part of your project plan so you can prepare for any alterations. If payment transactions are part of your integration platform, testing becomes even more crucial. You don’t want to lose a sale, or the end-of-day reporting on a sale, because of a technical problem. If a problem does arise, make sure you have an integration point person willing to take on the challenge of solving the issues.
Consistently monitor. Include a line item in your project plan that establishes monthly or quarterly meetings with your stakeholders and partners to review the solution and any potential upgrades in development. The overall goal of this review is to maintain open communication between your brand and your solution providers.
James Lux, Vice President, IT, Boloco
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Don’t mess up the payroll system.
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Earn a PhD
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James Lux is the vice president of IT for Boloco. He is also a member of Hospitality Technology’s editorial advisory board.