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Operations Management Platforms Will Be as Transformative as the POS

This is the equivalent of a paper process

One of the most transformative changes in the history of the retail/hospitality industry was the invention of the POS System. Replacing the siloed cash register and giving brands real-time access to sales data did more to drive multi-unit operation expansion than any other technology. Prior to wide adoption of POS systems most chains only operated in small areas, not nationally or multi-nationally. Restaurants had only changed by a fraction since the time Jesus ate in them.

The next big transformation in multi-unit operations is going to be operations management systems, like OpsAnalitica, and how the data they generate can be used to run better, more efficient operations.

Before I get into how Operations Management Systems can change your world, I have to tell you about the biggest opponents to these systems. They are dinosaur operators, people who came up before the iPhone, that don’t want to adopt new technologies, are afraid of change, like the old ways, etc.. 

These dinosaurs don’t understand that operations are sales, operations efficiency increases profits.  You can always tell a dinosaur because they don’t view new technology as an enabler, they view it as a threat to the status quo. 

Dinosaurs love systems that have huge holes and very low accountability. It allows them to rise through the corporate ladder based on years of perceived experience and not on a track record of results.  I’m sure you have worked for or with a person like this, you can always tell because they get great jobs with good salaries but they also don’t stay anywhere for more than a couple of years. 

A dinosaur operator views data not as a way to get better but instead as a spotlight on problems. Problems they are aware of,  and that have persisted on, because with the current systems they are near impossible to fix. They view data and visibility as the thing that is going to get them fired.  

Now dinosaurs aren’t stupid, they will never tell you that data or new technology is bad. They will argue that they are a good idea, but not right now. There are other more pressing issues to solve. 

Another common excuse of dinosaur operators is that the team can’t handle any more change right now, they are too slammed with their current stuff.  

Be aware of anyone who argues for less visibility, accountability and data.  Those are huge red flags, and are tell tale signs of a dinosaur operator.  

Back to the topic at hand. 

Operations Management Systems, like OpsAnalitica, can be truly transformative for multi-unit operators. Because they, like POS Systems, provide you with real-time visibility, employee accountability, and the ability to change behavior.

In contrast, there has been a ton of buzz around other types of apps or management systems: mobile/web ordering, delivery, better inventory mgt, and LMS’ etc.. These systems generate efficiencies for their users and can reduce waste and time. 

I don’t think anyone would say that scheduling software is truly transformative. That mobile ordering is transformative, it’s just another form of call in or web ordering. I’m not saying that those technologies don’t deliver value, they do, I’m saying that they aren’t transformative, changing how you operate your entire business and the financials associated.

If you implement an Operations Management platform in your business and you never go beyond replacing your paper checklists with digital processes then you will be happy, but in all honesty, you won’t see a transformation. The transformation comes from leveraging the technology across your organization, reassessing how you operate, challenging the status quo and norms of your business, then leveraging the technology to drive increased efficiency and change.

At their root, platforms like OpsAnalitica drive behavior and facilitate human data collection. Collecting data from human beings executing processes has always been near impossible, and because of that, businesses just gave up and tried to back into operations efficiency through other metrics: sales, costs, profits, customer satisfaction. Now we live in a world where you can just measure human activity directly and get real-time visibility into operations.  

The other thing that was near impossible to do before Operations Management Systems was to control behavior across multiple locations or have the ability to change a process on the fly.  

Before OpsAnalitica any change of process was a costly exercise in training an entire organization on the change, developing the materials, having a ton of expensive training meetings, it was so hard that entire management departments like Organizational Change were created. Now with OpsAnalitica, our customers simply go in, update the process, hit save, and it cascades to every location instantly.  

We are able to do that because people are used to working processes in our app, our app acts as a constant. When you ask someone to start doing B instead of A. It doesn’t break their brains, they don’t throw a baby tantrum or freak out, they don’t need to go through a 10 hour class to learn about it. They simply do B now. If B is a major change then you are able to provide some context, job aids, links to videos right in the process to help guide the employee through the transition. In most cases that is unnecessary.  

To truly transform the industry, companies need to move beyond just doing what they have always done, managing operations with paper checklists that no one ever bothers to check to see that their employees are completing or following them as designed.  

Companies need to draw from their best managers, they need to script out every shift, day, week, month, and quarter; focusing on best practices. They need to guide their field employees through the processes of running the business, providing them with job aids and step by step instructions. When an employee discovers an issue, they need to guide that employee through the remediation of that issue in real-time, documenting the issue and solution as they go.  

When corporate does it’s job of providing systems, best practices, and support to the field they can better ensure consistent operations and more important consistent guest experiences throughout their locations. Isn’t that what a brand is; a promise of consistency across all locations.  

Even more important then great guest experiences is data. Data is sight, it is visibility, it is control.  With Operations Management Systems, especially OpsAnalitica, you get data to see how well your managers are performing, but even more importantly, you get to see where you are having issues at the location level. Probably the most important job of any corporate office, who supports field operations, is to help remove recurring issues from daily operations.  

When you have thousands of locations and 10’s of thousands of employees and they are telling you that they experience the same problems and those problems are affecting sales, profits, or guest satisfaction. Your job is clear, fix the problem. The real issue is that without an Operations Management Platfrom, corporate almost never hears about these problems internally because there is no easy way to bubble them up to the right people. If these issues are recorded at all, that data is sitting on 1000 clip boards or more accurately in the trash.

We have a client that has 750 locations, and they were getting feedback through their customer service channel that their restaurants were dirty. They didn’t know what to do.  They were considering adding 4 more labor hours a day to staff an additional team member to stand around and clean during their busiest periods.  Which actually seems like a reasonable solution if that is all the data you have to go off of.  That cost would have been around 5 to 7 million dollars a year of additional labor and everything that goes with having those extra hours and employees.

Luckily for that company, they used OpsAnalitica to capture additional data, they crowd sourced solutions from their line employees, they were able to change procedures and A/B test their results, plus they reviewed operations in real-time across the country. The solution presented itself, a bigger trash can. Which, by the way, only cost $20 a piece and solved the problem.  

That solution also seems like a no brainer, and it was, when they had more data. That is the value add of an Operations Management Platform. Data. Not just data, but a way to communicate with the field, change procedures, capture even more data, and then bring it together to solve a problem. 

They solved this problem, not by guessing or doing the first thing that came to mind, adding millions of dollars of unnecessary cost. They solved it by going through a simple but effective process of elimination and asking the people who knew best, the people in the locations. They solved this problem in 2 and ½  weeks, not 10 months. 

Isn’t that what we are all trying to do. Clear out the recurring issues that are affecting our profits and making it harder for our teams to wow our customers. Isn’t that the entire purpose of being in business?  

This is where the transformation takes place. When you create a company that can perform problem identification, data collection, crowd sourcing solutions, and can implement changes quickly. When you build that organization muscle, you start to quickly outperform your competitors.  

Your competitor that don’t have data and visibility, that would choose option A because there was no other way for them to determine that an option B was a possibility.  Companies that add millions of dollars of cost and take months to implement solution. What have they done? They have dissapointed that many more customers and they squandered profits, which you need to grow, to dominate.

When you are efficient and you are exercising Operations Management Platform muscles, you start to win incrementally. All those little wins allow you to start running the tables on your competitors. It starts with more advertising and sales resources, better locations, better access to credit, better access to employees, better access to suppliers, and slowly but surely you start to pull ahead.  You are getting end caps and running ads on better shows. Your website is that much better at selling and converting.

I made a bold claim at the beginning of this blog post, that an Operations Management System could be as truly transformative as POS systems to multi-unit locations businesses.  

I believe that capturing data from human executed processes in real-time and being able to identify issues, and change processes across an entire organization from corporate is the most significant managerial advancement since the POS and sliced bread.  

I know that a lot of you reading this blog have never experienced this kind of visibility or control. Please believe me when I tell you that it will change your world.  One of our most active clients in the platform, a multi unit operator with their own locations and franchisees told me recently. Their original plan was to have 3 or 4 food safety and readiness processes in the platform. That is it, a simple replacement for their Red Books.  

Now this client has over 80 active processes, the platform is used by more than 5 different departments to help manage their locations: IT, Training, QA, Operations, Accounting, HR all use the platform to direct the locations and keep them compliant.  The platform has become the database of the locations and their individual attributes. 

This client’s QA department is actively managing their locations and dealing with food safety issues remotely. The OpsAnalitica Operations Management Platform has transformed their business and made them more effective and more profitable.

If this blog has sparked an interest in learning more, sign up for a demo at OpsAnalitica.com. We’ll show you how we can help you transform your business.

Better Area Manager Performance = Better Location Performance

One of our clients told us recently, “I never want to lose a day, because it’s gone forever.”  His company owns and operates several hundred restaurants.  

What he was referring to was the perishability of our service based products.  If you have a day where your locations are closed, or are not operating greatly causing a reduction in throughput, or you are upsetting a lot of customers.  Those days can destroy your chances at hitting your numbers.  

A couple of bad days in a quarter can be the difference between flat performance and blowing your projections out the water. 2 or 3 bad quarters and you might lose money for the year. What most people need to be reminded about, in businesses with lower profit margin percentages, all of your profits are made on just a few days per year. 

When you lose days you lose profits.

It is this concept that fueled this client to invest in systems to ensure maximum uptime and performance.  They are different then some of our other clients because they utilize the OpsAnalitica platform primarily to enable their above store leaders.  They focus on their regional managers because they realize how important they are at driving success.

Whether you call them Area Managers, Regional Managers, Area Directors, Store Directors, Regional Directors, etc.. Your above store leaders have one of the hardest jobs in your company because of the following reasons:

  1. They are expected to implement corporate policy at a location level without always having direct control of the locations and/or the ability to be on-site on a daily basis. 
  2. They are expected to get measurable results while only being on-site for very short periods of time. 
  3. We expect them to be experts in a lot of different areas from local store marketing, hiring, operations, training, etc.. People with all these skills are hard to find!

Whether your locations are owned by corporate or franchisees, your patch sizes may be different, but your expectations of your area managers are similar. You expect them to carry out corporate policy, get results, and do it knowing they aren’t going to be in every location every day.  

Getting results when you are on-site everyday is incredibly hard to do, if it was easy and every location manager was doing a great job, you wouldn’t even have area managers, they would be an unnecessary layer of supervision.  The truth is that most companies believe their store managers need help and oversight to keep them on track. 

For area managers to execute influence and change employee behavior without being on-site on a daily basis and with very limited visibility is near impossible.   

Realistically, we also expect them to change behavior quickly, most area managers try to hit multiple locations a day, which means with drive times and store hours you can expect that most area managers are at a location from 1 to 4 hours a day.  

The more stores they have the less times they will be able to visit per quarter. We’ve seen franchisor area managers who get to their stores 1 time per quarter, 3 times per year. 

Oh yeah, Area Managers are expensive. In a lot of cases they cost an organization double what a general manager costs per year. Salary.com has area managers making between 125K and 200K a year in total costs with travel benefits, etc..  

Also, they aren’t a lot of tools out there for area managers to use to be more productive.  I’m dying to know this; does your organization provide any specific tools for your area managers to use to make them more effective at managing their locations?  If you do, put your answers in the comments section below. Also, email, and the same POS reports that everyone gets don’t count. I’m talking about specific area manager tools that help them manage their locations.  

What I’m driving at here is that area manager’s are expensive and they have a really hard job to do. If we are going to have area managers, and I have yet to see a multi-unit location company that doesn’t, then we should invest in solutions that are going to help them be more productive.

The better your area managers do in managing their locations, sales and profits should follow.

If you are reading this and agreeing with my premise and you are thinking we should invest in tools to help our area managers be more effective. Then allow me to suggest that you should be looking for a Platform that will help your area managers in 3 areas:

  1. Help them make the most of their time while on location.
  2. Provide them with the ability to create action plans and be able to follow-up while not on-site. 
  3. Provide them with tools to make them a SME on the fly.

Shocker here, I’m going to suggest that you investigate the OpsAnalitica Operations Management Platform.  

Let me take you through how OpsAnalitica will make your area managers more effective in each of these areas.

Effective Use of Time

When you have just a couple of hours to be on-site, you don’t have time to improvise or waste. It’s a giant waste of your time to walk into a location and just look for what is wrong and right, it is too easy to get side tracked and taken down tangents.  For you to be effective, you need to go in with a plan on what you are going to look at, what you are going to review with your store teams, and leave them with an action plan of tasks to complete.

The best way to plan a great store visit is to follow a prescribed checklist of items that you want to cover with the store team.  A good area manager should always be researching and planning their location visits before they arrive.  They should be pulling KPI’s, reviewing current and past performance and bringing all of that data together, usually from different systems, into a site visit plan.  

Looking at past site visit plans and identifying recurring issues is a major part of planning your site visit.  Having quick access to historical site visits and being able to look at them next to each other for trends, really helps area managers focus on results.  We actually created a report to make it easier to identify these past issues.  

In addition to performance measures, a good site visit focuses the area manager, on how the location is functioning at the time of their visit. There should be questions in their site visit regarding current promotions, critical areas of operations, and general business standards (uniforms, cleanliness, organization, staffing, security, etc.).  

We always recommend that an area manager site visit, follows the same path each time, culminating with a sit down with the MOD at the end to discuss KPI’s and what the manager found on their site visit.  

Our expectation is that the site visit is focused but doesn’t take an exorbitant amount of time. Part of the Area Manager’s job is relationship building, coaching, and helping the current management team.  Keep that in mind, as some of us have a tendency to throw too much into the site visits.  

We realize that some area managers might be on site several times a week, that is great, but doesn’t alleviate the need for having a plan for every site visit. Just hanging out isn’t a plan, but realistically a plan also can be to follow-up on a couple of things.

You cannot afford to waste your in-store time because every time you are in 1 location without purpose, there are other locations that aren’t getting the support they require.

By focusing the area manager and giving them a process to plan out their site visits will make those interactions more effective and will increase the area manager’s influence over the team.  

Action Planning 

An area manager not only has to be effective while on site but more importantly their influence and control needs to be felt when they aren’t there, because that is going to be the default.  

How you exhibit influence when you are not on site is through action planning and follow-up. 

If I come on site and identify 3 issues that need to be addressed and then I leave and there is no follow-up on those issues.  Then my visits become lip service and I’m considered a joke, just a person that you have to appease while they are there because there will not be any consequences for not following through.  

We find that companies that use paper processes both at the location and area manager level suffer from a lack of visibility and accountability.  Paper makes it impossible to follow-up, store employees know that, so they just pencil whip and don’t complete tasks.  

I have a buddy who is a RM of 7 banks and he experiences this all the time. Someone screwed up and not surprisingly the paper logs weren’t filled out that day so he can’t hold anyone directly accountable.  This pencil whipping of the red book, in the restaurant industry, is as old as the red book itself. 

When you can conduct your site visit and identify action items that the location team needs to correct. Then you assign those out as action plan tasks, best practice is to have them take pictures of the corrected items to complete, and then follow-up on those tasks when you aren’t on-site allows you to be more effective. 

Plus, by holding the team accountable and following up on those action items,  you changed the behavior of the employees at the location level, your influence extended past your time on-site.  

In the OpsAnalitica Platform there are multiple ways to accomplish action planning tasks, the best part about using the platform, is that you are able to manage these items from your mobile device at any location. 

Subject Matter Experts

The amount of different subjects that an area manager has to be conversant in, depends on the organization. At Quiznos, our area managers were expected to wear a ton of different hats. From picking sites, to local store marketing, to everything operations, and the list goes on. 

A friend of mine worked at another franchise sandwich concept and their area managers were doing a ton of selling to the franchisees on upgrading their menu boards, and investing in marketing systems, and renovating their spaces. We always marveled at that, how do you go into a store and tell them they need to fix x,y, and z items and at the same time try to get the owner to invest thousands of dollars in upgrades. It always felt oxymoronic.  

Needless to say, most organizations require their area managers to be experts at certain things.  One of the easiest ways to make someone a jack of all trades, is to give them tools and processes to follow to get them up to speed. 

This is another area where an Operations Management Platform, like OpsAnalitica, can be used to provide advanced processes the area managers can help execute at a higher level.

By collaborating with your different departments in the organization and letting the experts drive the process, we can create tools for the area manager that will turn a novice into an expert. 

In addition, having these tools be applied universally across the organization should translate into a more consistent results, reducing the impact of less skilled practitioners.

Wrapping Up

If we are going to have these very expensive area managers that are responsible for holding our store teams accountable to following corporate processes and for driving customer satisfaction, sales, and profits.

Then it is a no-brainer that we should invest in tools that make it easier for these employees to be effective and to generate an ROI on their cost.  

An Operations Management Platform will allow your area managers to be better at their jobs and your entire organization will benefit from their success.  

If you would like to learn more about the OpsAnalitica Operations Management Platform, please click here and schedule a demo. 

Emails Stink – Tasks Rule

How many emails do you get a day?

The average worker receives about 80ish emails a day and sends around 30.

Email was originally invented to get rid of paper interoffice memos. It has obviously morphed into so much more than that, it has become so ubiquitous in our lives that most of us can’t live without it.

Also, most people have used folders and labels and many other organizing schemes to turn email into things that it was never intended to do, mostly it is how we manage our to-do lists and assign tasks to people.

Email was never intended to be a task solution. As a matter of fact, it is a horrible task solution and the fact that you get so many emails a day just compounds its inadequacies.

If you want to get things done and have your teams execute then you need to use tasks instead of email.

The perfect task has the following attributes.

  • It is assigned to one or more people who are notified that they have something to do.
  • Tasks are one-to-one – ex: deep clean and organize the storeroom.
  • Tasks have a due date
  • You are notified when a task has been completed or is late.

So many of use email to assign work because it is right there and it is so easy to use but it doesn’t do any of the things we just mentioned as paramount for getting things done. Also, email is so free form that we often violate the rules of tasks for speed but we end up causing ourselves more headaches and follow-up on the back end.

Some common email task mistakes:

There is no accountability with email

As we said earlier, people get 80 work emails a day. New emails get buried in your inbox quickly. I don’t know how this is possible but emails get lost all the time, you know you read it but you can’t find it.

Also, we have all used the excuse that we didn’t see an email when asked about by a colleague or a friend why we hadn’t responded.  Being overwhelmed by the amount of email you get and missing things in email is so commonplace today that we all let each other off of the hook for the occasional lapse. Which is fine except for when you need something done.

With a Task system you assign a task to a person, they are notified that they have a task. You can easily track the tasks status and progress updates. In our system, you will get notified of a new task by push notification, email, or internal message.

Burry your task requests in a longer email

Have you ever sent an email with a bunch of to do’s or tasks and then none of it gets done? There is an expectation when writing an email that you at least put a person’s name in there and say and an introductory sentence.  The next thing you know your request or task is buried in a paragraph.  This makes it that much more likely that it won’t get done.

With a task, there is no requirement for a greeting or chit-chat.  You get a description of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by.

Send a list of tasks in an email

Email doesn’t require us to be one-to-one when assigning tasks, as a matter of fact, it would be considered weird if you sent 10 separate emails with 1o individual tasks. This is probably the most common mistake of assigning work through email.  You create a list of things you want to be done but as soon as you add the second item, you lose accountability.

I can’t tell you how many times I have fallen into this trap.  I sent an email with a list of things to be done, the person did the first thing and then replied it was completed.  Completed what? Did you complete my whole list?  So now you go back and forth several times trying to get every item completed.

Tasks take a little longer to get started because you should create one task per request but they save you so much in accountability and follow-up that it makes the initial time increase completely worth it.

Emails don’t have due dates

We all get so busy that due dates just creep up on us.  They come and go and if you don’t have a reminder you will simply miss the day.  You can’t assign a due date to an email, so you are putting all of the responsibility for remembering that you wanted something done on yourself.

With a task system, you set a due date and it will notify you when things are due and tell all people associated with the task when it has been completed or if it is late.

Status & Updates get Scattered

With a task system, most tasks have a status.  In-progress, completed, etc.. You can use these statuses to figure out where everything you have assigned is currently at.  It makes it so much easier to manage when you have this type of visibility.

Also, updates can be tracked in the task program and therefore you can see everything that is happening.  With email people can reply back but then your email chain gets so scattered or you have so many emails that it becomes hard to find the update information.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog, email is probably the number one used business tool today.  It is great at what it does but it isn’t great at tasks. I would recommend to any of you who are managing a team to investigate moving from using email to using a task program instead and just using email for communication.  The productivity gains and reduction in stress will be worth the switch.

At OpsAnalitica, we have just released our task management functionality inside of the OpsAnalitica Platform.  You can now create action plan and ad hoc tasks and use the system to manage your operations.  If you would like to see the task management in action, please schedule a demo here.