Casey’s CIO Focuses on Making Better Use of Data

Unique strategy helps the company better manage supply chain, inventory and guest experience.

June 25, 2021

Casey's C-Store

ANKENY, Iowa—When Adrian Butler became the first-ever CIO for Casey’s stores, he wanted to ensure that he and his team were developing an IT strategy and operating model that would be of lasting value to the business, reports CIO.com.

“Casey's has had a history of growth and stability, but two years ago, a new CEO joined the company with the remit to enhance the service we provide to our guests,” Butler said. “My role is a realization from our CEO, board and executive team about the importance of investing in technology.”

Butler did not try to change everything at once. “I started by making sure our day-to-day IT operations were solid, while asking what big problems we were trying to solve,” he recalled.

Like most retail businesses, Casey’s challenges were about digital engagement, guest analytics, supply chain optimization and creating efficiencies in the stores. The company’s goals were to free up team members so they could spend more time with guests and to guarantee that the right products got on the right shelves. So, the IT team focused on using data to better understand supply chain, inventory and the guest experience.

With data, “the hardest step is the first step,” Butler told CIO.com. “Overthinking your data strategy can inhibit your ability to move.” The first step was to bring together company leaders to ask: What does data mean to us? Why is it important? What will we do with the data?

“Once you define your data philosophy, you can find low hanging fruit, like better visualization of the data you already have, to provide your business with value,” he said.

Butler adopted a product management model and defined about 15 product teams that are aligned to the major retail functions of buy, move, sell and enable corporate functions. For example, product teams within the buy and move function are merchandising, supply chain and fuel. Within the sell function, the teams are payments, point of sale, back of house systems and kitchen. Digital product teams are e-commerce, customer engagement and customer retention.

Product managers focus on the broader, higher-level functions, and product owners handle a specific product team. 

“The product manager’s job is to develop really deep, detailed knowledge about that part of the business, and what is happening not only inside of Casey’s, but in the broader industry,” Butler said. “They work with our functional business partners to develop business cases and structure the big body of work. The product managers then hand off that work to the product team, which breaks the work into components with priorities and sequencing.

Butler advises CIOs intent on moving into a more collaborative operating model to “set a vision for the future and take others on the journey with you. Be 100% transparent with the good and the bad” and ensure that team members understand the product management approach.

NACS Magazine profiled Casey’s and its growth strategy in the May 2021 issue. For more on using data to drive business decisions, read “Data Driven” in NACS Magazine.

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