Data integration is best described as a process in which heterogeneous data (marketing, sales, operations, customer, mystery shop, cleanliness, finance, etc.) often referred to as information silos, is extracted, transformed and combined in a data warehouse where it's accessible through a presentation layer that allows it to be used together to form more meaningful and actionable reports.
A Need for Clear Business Case(s)
Today, restaurant companies are awash in data about their customers, operational execution, internal business processes, finances, suppliers, partners, and competitors. However, many still can't leverage this flood of data and convert it to actionable information for growing revenue, increasing profitability and efficiently operating the business. Why?
Well, there are multiple answers to this question; firstly, failure to identify specific business cases that need to be addressed today and tomorrow. Starting by identifying the business challenges you’re looking to solve will help you understand the data needed to solve those problems, which, in turn will help you find the right tool(s) to help you solve these issues.
Wrong Tool for the Job
Secondly, there is this notion that I like to describe as the Silver Bullet Solution - it's the one where someone thinks they can find one solution that addresses all of their restaurant business needs, including reporting. I see this happening more frequently as restaurant companies respond positively to the idea that the providers of the various transactional systems they use like Point of Sale ('POS'), Back of House ('BOH'), etc.), to operate and manage their businesses are also comprehensive reporting solutions, which they’re not.
Don’t get me wrong, these systems do a great job of what they’re intended to do - quickly capturing and recording the transaction information as it’s entered into the system. They even create a number of static reports, many of which are useful. However, contrary to what many vendors claim (many list Business Intelligence (BI) in their marketing materials) restaurant companies’s using these tools for reporting come to realize, over time, that while each system they selected performs its specific task very well, the reports they provide are very limited, often times down to just the data it generates. This will leave many of your most pressing questions unanswered. For that, you'll need to integrate data from other systems used in your business.
To test this hypothesis, here’s a question to ask your POS, BOH, Loyalty, Financial, etc., providers: will you Mr. (fill in the blank with any of your current providers) bring in data from another company’s system (Loyalty, Mystery Shop, Cleanliness, etc.) and allow me to see and report on that activity through your systems reports.
Before you waste your time going through this exercise the answer is a resounding NO because that’s not the business they’re in. Their jobs are to quickly record orders, inventory, invoices, labor punch and a host of other items, not capture and produce reports using data from the ½ dozen other systems used throughout your business.
OK, now that we’ve identified a few of the issues keeping companies from leveraging any / all of their data let’s take a closer look why data integrations are important.
Eye of the Beholder
Now that you’ve crafted your list of business needs and you know you need something more than the basic reports coming out of your existing solutions, it’s time to look around and assess the tools that can help you tackle your needs. To do that you'll want to look more closely at solutions that will allow you to bring together the data required to address the needs you've identified. This will lead you to look at companies offering a complete Data Warehouse/Business intelligence (BI) tool like Mirus Enterprise. In short, BI tools are the technology that enables restaurant companies to transform any/all of their data into information that will help their business.
To begin, your reporting solution should include many of the basics like Key Performance Indicators, Dashboards, Sorting, Filtering, Drilling and Visualizations but remember, beauty is only skin deep, so look beyond this list and make sure the solution comes with its own N-Dimensional Data Warehouse and if possible, one that's equipped with a data model that's crafted to support the restaurant industry. If you have to create your own data warehouse and then craft the data model to support your data you'll be months in development and tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars invested before the first report is even created - see our Blogs on this topic here, here and here. Lastly, make sure the solution you're looking at supports two more important capabilities; 1) Ad Hoc Report Writer, and 2) can support the types of Data Integrations you need to incorporate data from today / may use tomorrow.
It’s these two features - Ad Hoc report writing and access to any/all of your data - that are going to allow you to go above and beyond in gaining insight into your business. You'll see not only what happened, which is where most reporting solutions stop, to seeing why it happened so you can take steps to repeat as necessary or stop it from happening again. Having all your data in one central repository is empowering. Not only does it save time because now you don’t have to jump from one system to another, over and over again. Combining data and crafting custom reports from disparate sources with an Ad Hoc Report Writer can shed light on issues you couldn’t easily see before, if ever. E.G., a custom crafted report containing your sales, labor, and mystery shopper scores will provide much more insight than simply looking at sales, labor or shopper scores alone. Now imagine being able to quickly and easily assemble this report (less than 1 minute) and get a fact-based answer to that question (Why is that?)– makes you kind of giddy doesn’t it?
Lastly, BI solutions were once the domain of IT and a few analysts, this service-request style is quickly giving way to a more nimble self-serve approach. Limits on the number of users that can access your data can hamper your ability to make the most out of your investment not to mention in many cases cost a lot more as you obtain each new user license. To avoid this choose a system that’s flexible and can scale with you as your needs change and your organization grows. Being able to bring in data from a wide variety of systems will help ensure that you won’t need to be shopping for a new BI tool before you receive a return on the investment you just made.
How are you leveraging the variety of data that's being generated by the systems used to operate and manage your business?
Mirus is a multi-unit restaurant reporting software used by operations, finance, IT, and marketing.
For more information, please visit: www.mirus.com
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