Harder to Hide
But BI technology isn't easy stuff. Bryer says rollout has been slow—some garage owners unfamiliar with the Web have been reluctant to use the site. "Use rates reflect cultural changes that have yet to occur around this technology at Parkway," he says. Bryer recalls even more cultural resistance to change when he first came on board, chiefly among some garage operators who didn't want software to "second guess" their experience running garages the old-fashioned way. "With BI, it's harder to hide," says Bryer. "It demands a new kind of accountability that can make people uncomfortable."
Take overtime costs, for example. Before, executives back at headquarters would sometimes be caught off-guard by a spike in overtime costs. Now, though, Parkway executives are able to compare overtime costs across a variety of locations, and senior operations managers back at Parkway's 10th-floor headquarters can intervene when costs go awry. It might be a bad manager at the helm at a particular garage. But it also might be that a new business just opened up nearby and there's suddenly a surge in business. Whatever the explanation, Parkway's new data system can help managers spot anomalies as they crop up. But Zuritsky and Bryer are just getting started. Down the road, says Bryer: completely cashierless garages equipped with smart cards that let customers get charged precisely for the time they park and give them loyalty rewards for frequent visits. Also on the horizon? Vehicle identification chips that allow customers to enter a garage and leave it without stopping their cars at the gate. Monthly parkers already have this option in some locations.
Zuritsky acknowledges Parkway is betting big on BI. Fifteen percent of Bryer's annual IT budget is set aside just for the data warehouse with much of the rest earmarked to set up the system and keep it running. "We've invested heavily in technology and we've placed a lot of our anticipation on it, businesswise," says Zuritsky, who declines to cite specifically how much Parkway has spent so far on its BI initiative, except to say it's "in the multimillions." Technology, he says, "has not been heavily utilized by other operators in this industry, and it's a real departure from our past."
But the way Zuritsky sees it, ever-smarter use of information technology, combined with Parkway's expertise in parking acquisition and development can go a long way toward helping secure Parkway's place in the industry—at least through his son's generation, as a niche player with an edge. Or so he hopes.
For now, though, at least when it comes to information technology, Parkway is no longer a fish out of water. Says Bryer: "BI technology can allow companies, for the first time in our history as an economy, to really understand productivity and the factors that make one profitable or unprofitable. It's radical stuff for us. It's radical stuff for any industry."
DAVE LINDORFF writes frequently about business and technology issues. His worked has appeared in CIO Insight, the Atlantic Monthly and BusinessWeek. Comments on this story may be sent to email@example.com.
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