“We are getting the cook’s mindset ready,” Colin Rees, CIO with fast food retailer Domino’s Pizza in the UK says. “We are trying to get ahead of the web again,” he adds of how today’s business innovation leader has to change the culture and processes of an organisation as customer behaviour moves to new channels, which in turn alter the operational environment of an organisation, no matter the sector.
“Our job is to help the franchisee before it becomes a pain point.” Domino Pizza chains across the land are medium sized business operating a franchise from Rees’ Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire headquarters. The CIO, a member of the elite group of CIOs that cut their teeth at low cost airline easyJet, runs a technology team that delivers a set of products to the franchisee businesses, but a franchise owner does not have to purchase the technology from Rees, which ensures that this CIO is long way from being an operational technology leader, he and his team have to create products and services their marketplace demand and will consume.
Fast food has become increasingly competitive as an online marketplace, Rees says the Just Eat online aggregator of take away outlets is “expanding the market” and is a “positive” development.
Fast food had all the ingredients to be a digital business; Domino Pizza and the arrival of Just Eat, Deliveroo and others showcase today’s a digital culture. Today’s consumer sees food as a utility and their mobile device is the access point for that utility in much the same way as that same device is a utility for information, travel, media, entertainment and financial services.
“Being aware of what technology can do and how it affect behaviour,” Rees says when questioned how he and Domino Pizza’s continue to cook up the right recipe for the digital culture change. “One of the challenges is how to educate the board,” the CIO admits.
When Horizon met Rees at his Milton Keynes headquarters his team were planning for mobile payment at the customer’s front door using services such as Apple Pay. In the franchise kitchens a set of new applications using Microsoft Azure real time engine provide cooks with an insight into customer behaviour on the Domino Pizza Apps and web channels, therefore they can pre-empt the type of orders they expect to receive and ready the right ingredients, slicing seconds off a cook time and then delivery.
“Organisations can become overly focused on the financials and not realise the value of the customer,” Rees says of how he is using digital technology to provide to the customer’s needs, which in turn meets the financial needs of Domino Pizza’s. That customer focus also improves the business processes.
“Once there are two items in the basket we know over 90% of customers will order,” he says. Next on the CIO’s order is to use technology to improve the lives of the critical final mile of a pizza – the delivery. Rees and a number of peers in logistics have described to this scribe how the marketplace for delivery drivers is intense and employment churn rates can be very high. Rees sees technology as the way to help the drivers, make them safer and as a result improve the efficiency of the organisation.
Helping the drivers is a key element to helping the franchise operators who won’t get very far without these key workers.
“We have regular franchise forums. Thera are eight in total, all of different sizes so the forums ensure we take them on the journey. So we report back to them and tell them what we are doing and remind them of the uptime reliability. They are not shy to call us and offer advice or to tell us about other technology they have seen,” Rees says of the healthy two-way conversation that exists.
“We have been doing more engagement with marketing and operations to get their skills for telling the IT success story.” Rees has had a strong relationship with the marketing team at Domino Pizza for as long as I have known him and that healthy mix continues.
“Our operations and marketing directors want to use our e-commerce platform to improve customer service.” Domino Pizza’s understand that technology is the base from which to create a flavour of marketing that the consumer finds palatable. “All marketing will be tailored by the street and then we can use that information to manage our peeks,” Rees explains of some of the latest projects the organisation is working on. Again, this demonstrates an organisation that looks at digital as a holistic part of serving customers and managing and improving the organisation. All too often digital is talked of as customer facing technology, one cannot exist without the other.
“IT people have a lot of strengths, they are balanced and data literate and find ways of helping; this helps the business,” Rees says of why technologists deserve a place at the centre of the business. “I’m really pleased with the team that we have here,” Rees adds that like his peer Mark Holt at rail ticket retailer Trainline, he empowers his team to own their own areas of responsibility. Rees and many peers find this helps retain key talent. “It is a big challenge for IT departments to keep, train and motivate people,” so the CIO puts a great deal of effort into celebrating the efforts, successes and lessons of the team.
“We have created a combined cool wall for both marketing and IT, never an IT on its own celebration. We get the teams together and celebrate, we do that every month and we also do an IT Oscars with a red carpet, it is all very cheesy, I wear a tuxedo and there are awards voted on by the franchise operators, a team award and best newcomer amongst others. They get prizes, but most importantly they get to be embarrassed by me,” Rees says with a smile. “We are really trying to help people feel valued and make it a great place to work, which I think is going to be critical,” he says of one of the largest challenges CIOs face. The Milton Keynes office of Domino Pizza always has a relaxed feel and Rees has invested in sofas and an X-box (it is a Microsoft house after all). “I didn’t have the room for a pool table.”
Rees and team have had to ensure the core technologies are able to perform and meet the needs of the franchise operators. An electronic point of sale (EPOS) update has been rolled out, Hyper-V virtualisation and the organisation has a strong focus on using the Microsoft Azure cloud platform for business analytics and at the time of our interview the CIO was completing the integration of the Dynamics enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform to make the “supply chain more efficient”. However the CIO did not see the introduction of a new ERP as just a modernisation of the technology platform, Rees and Domino’s saw a new ERP as an opportunity to modernise the business and its processes, just as it has done with the digital opportunities.
“The technology is just a catalyst to change people’s behaviour. So we have looked at how we create purchase orders for example. We have challenged ourselves into how do we improve the business through data. For a business like this it’s a big change,” Rees says. The organisation has been focused on using as many standard processes within Dynamics as possible and as a result 95% of the processes are standard.
“We got engagement and we have ended up with a standardised implementation that will be much lower risk. Some of the areas of the business will have better forecasting of sales, stock and labour management as well as geographic references. It’s one of the areas I’m most excited about as we have fantastic data, with some good intelligence on top of that it will be incredibly powerful,” Rees says.