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Now that I Bought It, What Do I Do with It?

Are you considering a new software solutions for your company? Adding additional features to an existing system? Could be daunting, I suspect. Then consider, if you will, how it may feel to all of your employees who will have to use this new system.

Get onboard with onboarding

Making your investment means nothing if your employees do not know how to use new software to its utmost efficiency. If your organization is not properly set up and ready to transition to this new way of doing business, it can become a difficult, drawn out process. You’re in luck, however, as most software suppliers provide on-boarding services, data entry support, and training programs such as online video training or workshops to help mitigate the length of the learning curve.

In order to have a smooth transition once you make the leap to a digital event planning process you need to consider and adhere to the following recommendations:

Get complete buy-in

Uniform acceptance by all the departments in the organization is essential. There will always be agents against change in any organization; you will have to decide how to make them part of the organizational structure in such a way that they are heard and understood. There are sometimes solutions in that these “cries of help” complaints are usually frustration from someone who wants to make things better, or signs that they really don’t conform to a new way of doing their job. Change management can be the single most difficult challenge to overcome.

Assign specialists

Assign a dedicated team that can work together to continually collect data for the system and then scrub it into an organized manner. Once the information such as menus, services, an ingredient list, and costing is collected, the system needs to be maintained. These are opportunities to put certain people in the right place. Is there someone in your office who is a stickler for spelling and punctuation? Could they be the person who manages standard prints in the system, so you don’t have poorly written letters being sent out by the sales team? They could enter and edit new menu items and descriptions, ensuring consistency and your company’s identity is maintained?

Have data entry rules

A predetermined data structure for naming menu items, inventory items, production locations, staffing descriptions and classifications (filters) is crucial. The long-term success of a system is dependent on data, as well as content that is properly identified both in verbal and printed communication. The items and services you sell will be easier to find and provide you better analytical information regarding how your business is really doing. Your specialists should not allow random data to be entered in the system.

"Leadership should also have the right to say no to things if they directly impact or change core values. There needs to be two-way accountability." 

Stick to a schedule with continual staff updates

Communicating changes within an organization so people understand what is happening is a way to have continual buy in. For most of your team members, they want to understand how these changes are going to impact them first—not the how it affects the company as a whole. The biggest issues can come from the simplest changes such as moving information around where people can’t find something or the deletion of information without informing someone. This is not a good position to be in. Remember not all news should be good or will be good. The key is not to give false expectations but to give honest news and, in some cases, to explain how departments can help to make the process happen quicker. There can be a lot said in recognizing individuals for great work and new ideas that are discovered during the transformation.

Create an accountability system

A checks-and-balances approach to interaction between the departments, as well data integrity, is another important component. Departments should have the right to ask for new items on menus or have new procedures in place. Leadership should also have the right to say no to things if they directly impact or change core values. There needs to be two-way accountability. Departments need to have an understanding of the consequences of their action, good or bad. Enforcing good practices is essential to getting the most out of any system.

Practice patience

A logical progression of implementation steps need to happen behind the scenes from setting up inventory lists, entering menus, and determining what equipment needs to be sent to an event. Reports, packing lists, recipes, and print outs need to be tested and put in the hands of those who need them. They need to get them dirty and kick the tires. Do they have the right information or too much?

Work with a third-party support provider

Understanding integrated systems and flow of information from event documents, reports, prints, and real-time change notices can be overwhelming. You probably can’t provide all of the learning styles people need to be successful. Having an expert on call who knows both the operational side as well as grasp of the functionality of the particular software can go a long way supporting the transition.

Getting your set up for success is key, in some cases it gives you the opportunity to take a big picture look at your business and see what you are doing well and where the opportunities of growth lie, not just on the bottom line but as a company culture.

John Reed

Owner, Custom Culinary Solutions, Chicago, IL

John Reed is a professional chef with over 30 years’ experience. He is the owner of Customized Culinary Solutions, a culinary consulting firm located in the Chicago Northshore area. He works with restaurant, catering, and foodservice companies to provide the highest quality food possible. His contributions include menu and recipe development, emerging concept development, and transition management for companies introducing culinary and production software programs. His company specializes as an on-demand culinary department supporting out-sourced culinary project management.

An active member of the ACF, he has earned certifications as a Certified Executive Chef, Certified Culinary Administrator, and American Academy of...