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Maverik, Wawa Talk About Enterprise Digital Transformation

NACS Show education session sheds insights on the adoption of mobile technology for convenience store operations and workflows.
November 14, 2017

​By Melanie Widmann

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – It’s hard to remember that more than 20 years ago cell phones were mainly used for emergency purposes and looked like walkie-talkies (the Nokia 9000 was one of the first mobile “great communication enablers”). In 1996, Hotmail’s free email service was introduced. And in 1999, one of the first free SaaS collaboration tools was launched—MSN Messenger—which grew to 300 million global users by 2011, while Hotmail grew to 350 million global users that same year.

As a cloud c-store technology provider that began developing its first SaaS solutions during the late 1990s, Petrosoft was aware of the then-limitations of mobile and SaaS as well as the advancements in technology over the following decade. For example, in 2007, Gen Xers were the first generation to become attached to their mobile phones for emailing and texting. In 2008, texting surpassed mobile calling for the first time with an average of 357 text messages and 204 phone calls each month. By 2011, teens were sending and receiving 3,417 text messages per month.

Millennials grew up using their mobile phone for far more than calls and texting while other generations eagerly adopted these new capabilities. As the adoption of smartphones increased, reaching 92% for the 18- to 29-year-old age group in 2016, and growing overall from 35% in 2011 to 77% by 2016, so did the expectations and demands for its use in corporations to drive collaboration, productivity, revenue and profits. For today’s enterprise, mobile technology enables and drives transparent right-time communication to meet corporate objectives while enhancing the company’s performance and brand.

C-Store Cultural Change: Collaboration and Workflows
During the NACS Show, several education sessions were focused on the adoption of mobile technology for c-store operations and workflows, and brought to attendees by Conexxus, the industry’s technical standards group, and NACS, as part of TechEdge.

One of these mobile enterprise sessions, “It’s Time to Mobilize Your Workforce and Use Technology to Increase Operations Efficiency,” featured Hubert Williams, connect VP at Maverik Inc., with Eric Barnes, senior manager, information technology engineering at Wawa, and Vladik Rikhter, CEO at Zenput as panelists.

The panel discussed the cultural changes and talent needed within c-store organizations to develop apps that work with or alongside legacy systems. Although the millennial generation set some expectations for the industry, apps are readily adopted by most of the workforce. Millennials generally lean toward collaboration versus hierarchical decision making, such as “shift bidding,” also known as self-scheduling. At its extreme, some organizations are allowing their employees to manage their scheduling collaboratively with the agreement that if a shift is missed the employee is terminated.

“The processes these apps create may be different but better than the company’s processes. A company should look at its own processes and see if the introduction of new processes through mobile adoption improves the company. This involves not only looking at the left and right side of the brain but also the front side,” said Williams.

Enterprises are lagging in terms of mobile adoption, suggested the panel, by possibly more than four years when compared to consumer digital apps and technology. The panel also asked the audience to consider the emotional bond that a mobile user has with their mobile phone when that phone goes dead. Similarly, the more integral mobile technology becomes to a business, the greater the impact of any failure. These new risks, which include IT adaption and employee adoption, are central concerns.

The demand for mobile applications has turned some IT, research and development teams on their heads. Not only do they need to learn how to build these applications but also need to create new processes while also being challenged to reinvent their legacy systems. This becomes an issue of cultural change within the organization and the necessity for top-down or bottom-up buy-in for success. The buy-in is crucial to ensure the push and adoption of new processes.

While some of these integrations include “light touches” between systems, exchanging very little information and demanding little functionality, others create heavy demands that have proven to be extreme challenges to development teams that lack the expertise to deliver and support these solutions.

An approach that can help to change the culture and test a team’s capabilities includes taking one area, such as payroll, for a proof of concept for a company’s capabilities and adoption. These trials help to create a platform that can scale. According to Barnes, the focus should be on scale since it is easier to add features and much harder to change the platform. He added that the journey to create this platform is, much of the time, underestimated. It may take 12 months or up to three years.

The Next Step
Although new technology to enable convenience store enterprise operations tends to lag consumer solutions, IT and R&D are increasingly feeling the pressure to differentiate their brand while also increasing collaboration, productivity, revenue and profits.

The challenges as c-store enterprises attempt to create and adopt these solutions include buy-in and inexperience at the most basic level. Changes in processes are often also overlooked but these changes may force companies to re-evaluate how they do business in today’s environment. It is ultimately a question of meeting demand and adoption of a new business model driven by solutions that change how a business thinks about their operations, employees and customers. 

Melanie Widmann is vice president of marketing for Petrosoft. She has served as the chair for Conexxus Forecourt Device Controller Working Group, vice chair of the Device Integration Committee, and is a Marketing Committee member. She has also served on the NACS Supplier Exhibitor Advisory Committee.

Look for more exclusive coverage of TechEdge at the 2017 NACS Show in the upcoming December issue of NACS Magazine.