When people think of Starbucks’ technology, free Wi-Fi, loyalty programs, mobile payments or remote ordering usually come to mind. But it all started in a far less sexy way. This is why the technological transformation of your company starts with the backend.

Most major technology overhauls start with a company’s backend—the technology going on behind the scenes that keeps the business running.

Why companies need to address backend changes before they can improve their consumer-facing technology and how you can start the change in your company.

updating technology from the inside out
In my role as CIO at Starbucks, I thought we needed to be sequential in our new technology rollouts. We had to first deliver the largest overall internal opportunity for the company.

The most basic elements of the IT service being offered to Starbucks partners (employees) were several years old. Only with this currency can we focus on the more visible consumer aspects of the digital upgrade.

Our technical pain or, as we call it “loan,” began at our Seattle headquarters, SSC. Our internet connection was slow. There were dead zones around the corporate office of Wi-Fi. Cell phones did not work in individual conference rooms. People were using old screens and old desktop computers.

There was immediate IT pain that affected everyone on a daily basis.
It’s hard to ask a company to trust us with any of the big technology and digital plans when they can barely do their jobs at their desks. We decided to start the organization by giving it a rapid-fire succession of quick wins.

We wanted to drive innovation and new technology for our partners. By fostering innovation, we will demonstrate that this new investment in productivity and digital experiences is not only for stores and customers, but for our entire team.

This rapid delivery of internal IT systems will also give us greater credibility and currency. With success, we can ask an organization to support us during longer, more painful, and more complex forklift upgrades for critical IT applications.

starting a new backend
As part of the backend transformation, everyone at SSC received upgraded laptops, flat panel screens and smartphones. As more people may understand the importance of a global enterprise resource planning effort, it’s a twenty-five-inch flat screen and a new desktop computer that wins the day.

We fixed all Wi-Fi access points in SSC and distribution offices so that everyone gets a strong signal. We also increased AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile cell phone coverage in our buildings to ensure there were a minimum of dead zones.

We increased the network speed and opened an internal technical stop called Tech Cafe.
Employees can walk in to get their technology serviced in a well-thought-out environment that looks like a Starbucks and an Apple Store. Employees could also see all the new technology that IT had to offer and receive specialized training on the IT systems they used every day to get their jobs done.

Employees appreciated this unique experience and quickly got used to the technological changes as they were able to get their questions answered on the spot.

Benefits of a Strong Tech Foundation
Very quickly, IT gained a lot of credibility with the corporation and the employees as well. Productivity increased, and the work-life experience improved as partners can now access corporate resources more easily while traveling.

We built a strong foundation of technology in our most core systems and can now move on to engaging, consumer-facing projects.

If you’re planning on introducing consumer technology upgrades to your company, first take a look at your backend technology. Whether you’re building a new website, building a mobile app, or entertaining in-store, you’ll need to update the backend.

Don’t invest in building without covering your backend base.
The worst thing you can do is invest heavily in building a new mobile app only to find that it won’t integrate and share data with your old system.

Upgrade your old backend technology, including data management programs, employee equipment and infrastructure. Then, and only then, can you build new products and platforms that work seamlessly behind the scenes.

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