KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell: Delicious Collaboration

In Summary

Who: Dickie Oliver, vice president of Global IT for Yum! Brands

What: Discussing how the use of advanced collaboration tools has enhanced operations across the company’s 38,000 restaurants, which include KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell

Why: To give CIOs and other IT leaders insight into the business benefits that can be gained from enabling a collaborative culture in their enterprise

We talk all the time about collaboration, and, usually, we’re intrigued by what the leading-edge companies are doing in this space. Maybe we’re fascinated with how the creative geniuses at Apple came up with something as novel as the iPad. Or perhaps we want to get inside the brain trust of an innovative company such as Google so we can understand how tech tools can be used to create an entity that’s more than the sum of its parts–an entity in which employees are empowered to interact at the highest levels.

Maybe we’re having this discussion at a fast-food restaurant where we’re ordering a taco or a pizza. Unknown to us, that very same type of collaboration is taking shape just beyond the counter where a teenager is serving us.

This would do well in describing Yum! Brands, the corporate parent of top quick-service restaurant chains KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Boasting nearly 38,000 restaurants in more than 110 countries and more than 1 million employees and associates, Yum! Brands earned more than $11 billion in revenue in 2010.

For Dickie Oliver, vice president of global IT for Yum!, interactive tech tools are driving the company’s present and future. Primarily, Yum! is partnering with Cisco to establish a culture of sharing best practices designed to influence the way products and services are presented at all retail locations. Cisco started off by supplying voice over IP (VOIP) technology to reduce long-distance/international phone expenses for Yum! Now, the vendor is delivering wireless tools such as Call Manager and 3502i Series Access Points, along with other solutions that support routing, LAN switching and security. Other major Yum! vendors include Microsoft, for Windows support; Orange and AT&T, for global Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS); and Dell and IBM, for data center operations.

Oliver spoke with CIO Insight‘s Dennis McCafferty about Yum! Brands’ collaborative culture and the enterprise-technology oversight needed to make it happen. The company is headquartered just outside downtown Louisville, Ky., where the main building on campus is affectionately dubbed “the White House.” It’s a traditional three-story Colonial facade with a completely modernized work environment within. Also on campus are interactive working spaces; a full, modern fitness facility; Yum! University; on-site day care and other amenities.

Yum! chairman/CEO David Novak believes leaders should reward and recognize the contributions of others–and have fun doing it. His “Yum! Award”—a set of chattering teeth on legs–is given to people at the company who excel at leadership. “He’s given out nearly 900 by now,” Oliver says. “We all take pride in a culture in which people are recognized for achieving breakthrough results and taking action.” In overseeing the IT structure for Yum!, Oliver, too, has sought to drive winning results. Here’s what he has to say about collaboration and other emerging technologies.

CIO Insight: Let’s play devil’s advocate here: How much technology can be involved with running a company like Yum! Brands?

Dickie Oliver: We’re like any other major company in the retail space. We have nearly 38,000 locations with more than 1 million employees and associates. They need enterprise-level tech support. Every one of us working here is focused on the customer, so we want to push further and further out into technology areas that serve them.

This involves expansion into social media, mobility and customer analytics. Our recruitment and retention programs are heavily supported by technology as well. We use solutions from Kronos, for example, to cast a wide net into the labor pool and get access to as many high-quality candidates for new associates as possible.

How heavily are you involved with messaging and collaboration tools, and what’s driving demand for them within the enterprise?

Oliver: We’re very much invested in messaging and collaboration tools at all our restaurant locations throughout the world. Our principle tool is iCHING. The “i” is for Internet. “CHING” is Chinese for “relationship building.” iCHING is a tool for employees–across multiple time zones and geographies–to share best practices and foster breakthrough thinking and innovation in every area of the company’s business.

We created iCHING to allow our associates to build profiles of themselves, tag keywords to communicate their expertise and post information on our network. They create discussions and links to come up with new ways to create better products or help introduce new, successful product lines. They share tips on how to make these products as quickly and easily as possible. On the tech side, we depend on Microsoft SharePoint to allow for file sharing, both internally and with our external partners. This is one of our data repositories. For example, an associate in the United Kingdom can type in a query and find data that helps develop a better way to serve customers.

Do employees really have an impact on product lines using these collaborative tools?

Oliver: They sure do. In Australia, we have a beverage line called Krushers at KFC. Our KFC Australia team shared their product-development expertise on iCHING. This resulted in the introduction of Krushers to other markets, demonstrating an international pipeline of best-practice sharing. Another example is our “Crunchwrap Supreme” from Taco Bell in the United States. The KFC team in the United Kingdom leveraged the Crunchwrap expertise to develop a similar product. Collaboration and messaging are major business drivers.

Dennis McCafferty
Dennis McCafferty
Dennis McCafferty is a contributor to CIO Insight. He covers topics such as IT leadership, IT strategy, collaboration, and IT for businesses.

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