Technology in the time of COVID-19 | QSR Media | QSR news for Australia's quick service restaurant industry.

Technology in the time of COVID-19

By Michael Gillespie

If someone had told me in February this year that in a month’s time I would be leading a department that supports technology in 2,500+ stores and multiple offices across three regions (ANZ, Europe and Japan), as well as building and evolving a multi-billion dollar digital platform all from my home while the world was in lockdown, I wouldn’t have believed them.

Over the past few months, the Domino’s Technology Department has had to rapidly transform its online and in-store technology to meet international government requirements, and provide safe delivery and pick-up solutions for our team members and customers. At the same time, we have also had to mobilise our workforce around the world to work from home – something we never anticipated we would need to do, and had never tested.

I’m really proud of the way that Domino’s has led the charge in adapting to the ‘new normal’ across its markets, with the Technology Department quickly developing a minimal viable product range of solutions to launch Zero Contact Delivery and Pick Up options. Under normal circumstances, these solutions would likely take around six weeks or more to develop, but were instead delivered within a fraction of this time to ensure we could provide Domino’s with a successful, first-to-market solution.

Despite the global pandemic and need for rapid change, all other projects, infrastructure work, strategy formulation and operational support also needed to continue at the same velocity and quality. With these realities, and the lockdown landscape continuously changing, we set our minds to yet another challenge – how we could work effectively from home.

Here are the five key lessons we have learned on our working from home journey so far:

  1. Clear and regular communication is crucial. We learned very early on that with a department of more than 100 people, all of the regular business news and conversation vital to departmental strategic alignment was lost almost overnight. We quickly set up daily manager meetings to cover updates, solve roadblocks and set clear accountable objectives. With the ease and speed of sharing messages in the office gone, these meetings soon expanded to a daily full team meeting, where we provided an update on all the latest Domino’s news and gave shout outs to different team members for their work. These again evolved to include team members from our international markets and special guests ranging from our Group CEO through to Domino’s franchisees. Along with an update, all guests must bring a movie, TV show or game recommendation to remind the team to take time out from work and relax (where they can).
  2. Introduce a meeting free block. In an effort to ensure everyone was aligned, we started to experience ‘meeting overload’, with some items that would traditionally be solved by a quick desk walk up becoming drawn out meetings. To tackle this, we introduced a meeting free block on a Tuesday and Friday. Technology team members are discouraged from booking a meeting within the department between 11am-4pm on these days to allows for better productivity.
  3. Have fun and find social connection. When we were in the office, pool and table tennis were a regular way for our team members to connect at lunchtime or at the end of the day. To encourage team members to continue participating in fun social activities (sans office), we introduced virtual Friday drinks and online video game challenges. Recently, I took on a team member in FIFA and streamed the game to the rest of the team via video chat. We are also finding that video calls are the best way to ensure we continue to have human connection. After all, we might be social distancing, but that doesn’t mean we need to be disconnected!
  4. Seek constant feedback. The best way to find out how people are feeling is to ask them. Our managers are regularly seeking feedback from team members on how they are feeling about working from home and how we can improve. Talking to peers inside and outside Domino’s, keeping up-to-date online, and working with human resources have all resulted in beneficial tweaks along the way. Knowing that everyone is in the same boat, learning best-practice together means that we are constantly looking for ways to improve our approach.
  5. Question old methods. In my role as Group Chief Digital and Technology Officer, I’m often required to travel to our different markets. In lockdown, I have been challenged to adapt the way I work to get items completed that would normally be tackled in person. I am a strong believer that some face-to-face time will always be needed, but with travel reductions saving both time and money, and our new normal with technology and flexible hours working, I am now reflecting on how much travel a business actually needs to do, and what this could look like post-COVID-19.

Every week we are finding new ways to refine our working from home approach to ensure we maintain a strong level of productivity and alignment across the business, as well as offer the most support possible to our team members. I am incredibly proud of how the team have adapted so quickly, and how they are operating so well in a working environment that no one could have predicted.

Our approach has evolved a lot since the first week the team began working from home. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that with our hunger to not just survive, but thrive, and with our minds open to evolving, we will continue moving forward on the path of success in a post-pandemic world.

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