Do More. Now. With Technology and Data.

Do More. Now. With Technology and Data.

It has never been so important for your business. 

Simon Black (MD), SB Software

 

This case study is focused on the business situation at this moment in our sector. It is not an in-depth visit to one of our clients, who has generously agreed to look back and share their personal experiences of using our vending management software, with practical insights for others into how to leverage commercial gain from it. That’s our “normal” format – and one that we will be returning to in the next edition of our newsletter – because it is so useful (for both readers and ourselves – me included).

 

Instead, here we are looking forward. Forward from today. And using a wider lens, across difficult conditions, topics and challenges that already apply right now for our whole sector, including all of our clients.

 

Forward and broader. Why this change? Simple. This is not our “normal” format because these are not “normal” times. Far from it. If this was “normal”, most of us would just be getting up to speed again after summer breaks: still recovering from the commercial impact of Covid, yes, but addressing a business environment that was otherwise familiar.

 

So, first the bad news. Things are not familiar right now. Everything (almost) has changed business wise. Drastically. For the worse, as if you didn’t know already.

 

And now the good news. Here at SBS, for the last 14 years already (since 2008), we have been building precisely the tools that you’ll be needing (ever more) to make the most possible of the new situation – as well as whatever then lies ahead.

 

Those tools (combining technology with rich data) are ready to use now. Effective today. And they’ll be better still tomorrow (because ongoing technical improvement is one of the key ways in which we re-invest the funds generated by clients’ licence fees). 

Tim Darracott – Head of Mobile Development, with Simon Black right. What has software/technology ever done for us – in our sector? How will it help us more? Just read on…

Tim Darracott – Head of Mobile Development, with Simon Black right. What has software/technology ever done for us – in our sector? How will it help us more? Just read on…

What are the business changes making most impact right now?

Everywhere we look, things seem to be harder. More difficult. Less certain. And more expensive. If we were asked to focus on just three ongoing changes in play already across our sector, they would be:

 

  • Rising costs (currently combined with systemic inflation likely to bake further increases into an ongoing spiral), especially across staff, energy, vehicle fuel, transportation and stock.
  • Staff (and skills) shortages – there’s not just upward pressure on wages, there are now difficulties in actually filling some posts at all (albeit varying by location, skill sets required and commercially viable remuneration/conditions).
  • Low consumer/customer confidence (with frailty impacting the full commercial chain, reducing activity across the board, as well as delaying decisions): people are spending less and clients are postponing investment.

 

We could easily add more (such as actual physical shortages of stock – with gaps on warehouse shelving, or the impact of increasing regulation/legislation including health and environmental) but these are enough to be getting on with.

 

Now, back to that good news. On all of the above, technology and data can help you make the most of what you have: to ensure your company is the best version of itself that it can be.

 

Efficiency is of course vital, and that is one of the four key benefits you will find on the back of every SB Software business card – as a distillation of how we measure success. In today’s business environment, it’s more important than ever to be monitoring then maximising what you achieve with the resources on hand, using technology and data.

 

Visibility (of stock, people, vehicles and across the board) enables you to make the best decisions possible – based on facts not “best estimates” or “gut feeling”. And in today’s business context the cost of poor (or no) decision-making is leveraged many fold (measured in terms of both hard cash and lost time).

 

Profitability (for both your own business and your clients’) ensures enough “oxygen” for companies to survive and prosper. And data enables/encourages you to maximise profits not just sales: now you can see easily where the top performing sites/machines/lines are, and take steps to address or remove underachievers, as well as boosting the stars.

 

Customer Service is even more key when confidence is low in the market, like now. Ensuring that you meet (or exceed) your own clients’ expectations allows them to do likewise for their own consumers. In this way, you can protect and benefit from the business that is still achievable – as well as addressing those valuable (if currently more rare) opportunities for growth amongst the otherwise pervasive darkness. 

Prices are going up. Staff are in short supply. And the market is lacking confidence. Never before have these benefits provided by SB Software (and featured on the back of every one of our business cards) been so valuable. 

Prices are going up. Staff are in short supply. And the market is lacking confidence. Never before have these benefits provided by SB Software (and featured on the back of every one of our business cards) been so valuable. 

Where can technology/data help you most, today?

Technology and rich data can help on any and every front, and we have highlighted three of the priority challenges (AKA “difficulties”) our business sector is facing above. Are you doing enough to put data and technology hard to work on your behalf to counter negative forces like these? Where could/should you be doing more?

 

At the same time, we do also recognise positive opportunities emerging anew, or growing in significance.

 

Wherever we can, we always use our insights (data-driven of course) to anticipate the direction of travel across our sector (keeping an eye on developments both here and overseas if relevant). We then provide ways to harness emerging opportunities (as early as makes commercial sense per client). Current/recent examples include:

 

Vending: the ever-increasing market in fresh food means that data-driven merchandising to match available (fresh) offering with consumer preferences is more significant/powerful than ever. Ongoing incremental developments in Vendmanager never stop making core disciplines like this “simply better”.

 

And whenever we can, we also make step change innovations available – take our new Fleet Routing functionality for example. We already promote “Visit on Demand” and now we are taking things to the next level, automating allocation of tasks across your whole fleet. This reduces admin time, driving and fuel, as well as improving consistency, reliability and cover. The benefits span vending, wholesale deliveries and service: get in touch if you want to know more.

 

Micromarkets: increasingly our clients are progressing from pilots and initial market entry, into wider expansion across multiple sites – with some subsequently deciding to overlap/extend into unattended retail too. In each scenario, our Nova self-service kiosk is ideal, combining outstanding performance with an intuitive interface and exceptional value.

 

To maximise management control, visibility and efficiency, we offer full integration of your micromarket sites everywhere into the Vendmanager estate.

 

OCS: premium coffee (especially in offices, where employers are incentivised to be offering staff more/better conditions)) continues to advance apace. We are bringing ever more machines on board with our Databridge, empowering commercial management as well as automating wholesale ordering and preventing product piracy.

 

And Coffeemanager – our OCS management system – empowers you to control service, wholesale, invoicing and asset management all from one place.

 

Of necessity, given space constraints, we can only give high level overviews here. Our technical/account managers will take pleasure in guiding more focused initiatives with clients, and our award-winning client-support term are ever on hand to respond to enquiries too.

 

If you are not yet a customer, please get in touch to start things rolling – we always take pleasure in discussing objectives across vending, OCS and micromarkets. 

Steve Longfield – Head of Vendmanager Development, with Simon Black right. Building the best software solutions is a good foundation. Seeing them deliver commercial results is the real objective.

How do we at SBS make such continued ongoing improvement possible?

Many of you will know already that we have substantial hands-on vending expertise in-house across our company, and we continue to recruit employees with practical experience in the field wherever relevant/possible. These colleagues are very valuable in guiding and sense-checking our ongoing development programme.

 

We are also diligent in keeping in touch with what’s actually happening today across the sector. Our customers will have direct contact day to day with key representatives whether on site like Technical and Account Managers, or remotely including our Client Support Team. These “ambassadors” help to keep our fingers on the pulse, as well as grounding our ideas usefully.

 

In addition, we have software/hardware specialists dedicated to their specific areas of expertise, in addition to integration, functionality and usability to ensure that deliverables really do offer most benefit in the field.

 

All of the above players are vital (especially since their contributions are combined and managed/ focused against the priorities of our technology roadmap: “there’s so much that we could do – so what will we deliver next? Where will we add the most value, with real world benefits?”)

 

So, a short practical answer is that we focus the rich resources we have on exactly that challenge – ongoing (useful) improvements.

I am a software architect by vocation myself, and I am not going to be hanging my keyboard up anytime soon. Not totally.”

Simon Black, MD

But a more fundamental (and informative) response would be that “we would not exist if we didn’t: continued ongoing improvement (for both ourselves and our clients) is not a question of possibility, (for us at SBS) it’s a matter of necessity.”

 

Improvement is not optional, it’s a necessity for us. What do we mean by this?

 

Like everyone, of course we need to have funds to pay our way in the world, both as a company and as each individual worker who together make up SB Software. And in addition, beyond the essentials, we have always invested significantly in the future – especially in product development and in recruiting ahead of the curve as we have grown. Because, in our view that is the key reason why we exist – why we go to work each day – to make things “simply better” – for clients. It’s part of what you sign up for when you join us – access to ever more tools for ongoing improvement. And as more clients have joined up, we have been able to increase that investment: it’s now a larger % of a larger figure, so it’s a virtuous circle where everyone gains. 

“We don’t just keep the engine running for our clients, we designed and built it in the first place. We take pride in that.”

Steve Longfield, Head of Vendmanager Development.

“I always like to put myself in the user’s shoes: what’s it like for them?”

Tim Darracott, Head of Mobile Development.

Conclusion

To put things bluntly: however much you are using data and technology already, now is the time to be doing more. Because the returns on your investment (of both time and money) have never been greater/faster. And the consequences of not doing so have never been so severe.

 

The sooner you undertake to do more/better, the sooner you will reap the benefits.

 

Please get in touch whenever you would like to discuss your own specific priorities.

Postscript

Ready – for anything.

We did not foresee exactly the set of circumstances/consequences of this current specific “crisis” ahead of time. No-one could have. Instead, we have always done our best to prepare our clients for whatever comes down the train track.

 

During Covid, and the recurring lockdowns that resulted, for example, it was at least some consolation that we could be of use to clients dealing with such a dramatic and rapid change right across the board. Everywhere. At once. Thank you to everyone who shared their positive comments (including the examples below – each with a link to the relevant “normal” case study should you want to read further):

 

And even when there is no recognised “crisis” playing out (remember those days?), the benefits that our technology and rich data bring still make sense – more than paying their way. Don’t forget that adage about “fixing the roof when the sun shines”.

 

We are here for the everyday, not just the “bad” days. 

Coping with Covid was a really good (extreme) example of Vendmanager in action from the onset and throughout.”

Dan Levy, Operations Director, Connect Vending

We were adapting to a market transformed beyond recognition overnight … I wouldn’t like to even think of what it (Covid) would have been like without Vendmanager.”

Alistair Balmforth, MD at RSL