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Technology a Critical Pillar for Success

By Carman Wenkoff, CIO, Subway

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Carman Wenkoff, CIO, Subway

Almost everything in every department has become supported or augmented with technology. The technology group at Subway headquarters used to be regarded as purely transactional or “keeping the lights on,” but has now evolved to be one of the critical pillars of the business and a core strategic business unit. Most of the work we do now is focused well beyond the foundational elements and is geared toward driving aggressive sales and profitability objectives. The CIO role is no longer supporting the business, it is driving critical parts of the business and working in strong partnership with the marketing and operational teams to transform the engagement level and methods with our customers. These new opportunities demand that the CIO be business-savvy and marketing minded. CIOs who are purely technical or view themselves that way will quickly become less valuable to the business and likely be supplemented with positions like the Chief Digital Officer in a different business unit, or be subject to more uncoordinated “shadow it” practices in the marketing area.

"It’s one thing to protect our own trade secrets and plans, it’s an entirely different matter to make sure that our customer data, including payment data, is absolutely protected"

The technology team at Subway has been leading the efforts and strategy in a number of critical areas. In our industry, the point of sale and ecommerce platforms are the core technology platforms for everything else. In the last several years, we have built and deployed these systems in over 31,000 locations and 20 countries, likely the largest single point of sale deployment in any industry. We also introduced and lead the efforts for the Subway App, which

is a true mobile wallet and which allows our customers to order remotely, pay with any type of credit card or Subway Gift or Loyalty card. Technology also drove the strategy of becoming launch partners with Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. The best examples for me to share are not available yet for public consumption, but I can tell you that they are transformational to our business. These strategies have elevated the critical importance of technology in our business which is pretty amazing given the fact that we are still a Sandwich Shop at our core!

Importance of Robust Security Practices

Security is paramount. I have a CISO on my team and quite frankly there is nothing more important than maintaining good security practices. It’s one thing to protect our own trade secrets and plans, it’s an entirely different matter to make sure that our customer data, including payment data, is absolutely protected. CIOs should not be concerned whether the CISO function reports into the CIO or to the CEO, but they should make sure they are not sleeping until this critical area is covered. Personally, I think it does work better having the CISO in the technology team in order to ease the coordination of strategies and architecture.

Driving Business Objectives

Invest time in knowing the business and building relationships with your “first team” which should be the heads of each departmental group. Don’t introduce or drive technology solutions because it’s interesting to you or the team. It only matters if it drives the business objectives. This means you need to understand and speak the language of marketing, operations, legal and finance. Learn how to connect the dots back to technology solutions which can advance the business. Next, focus on building the best team possible because everything else is futile if you don’t have a team that can deliver. Be creative with how you build teams—they all don’t have to be under one roof. Get help from others. There is too much to do by yourself. It’s a strength to ask for help and seek it where needed because your stakeholders are depending on it. Be transparent in all you do and with everyone you engage—it just makes life easier and will strengthen relationships and partnerships which are critical for success.Finally, don’t underestimate the effort that will be required to run, scale and servicethe solutions that are implemented. Successful solutions require on-going care, feeding, and continuous improvement.

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