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Build it or Buy it?

For the past several years running, we’ve heard plenty of talk about how cloud-based technology and outsourced services can help you create a lean-and-mean technology shop. Cut costly on-site equipment and trim overhead, they say, so that resources can be allocated to the core business.

Our 17th annual Restaurant Technology Study, just published this month, reports that about a quarter of software budgets go to SaaS solutions (Software-as-a-Service). Moreover, 45 percent of restaurants said they plan to use outsourced service providers more in 2015 than they did in 2014.

This has us at HT musing, what’s the future for in-house technology talent? I’ve been fairly vocal for the past year about how the mash-up of technology and marketing is creating a new type of executive (call it Chief Digital Officer, Chief Marketing Technologist, or whatever quasi marketing-IT title you like). The reality is that many organizations are using technology to advance customer-centric goals, and IT executives should look for ways to be invaluable to this cause, lest they find themselves moving further away from the decision-making table.

When you couple movement toward outsourced solutions with the focus on marketing technology, it can create a bit of an identity crisis for the traditional CIO. That’s why we’re excited about this month’s cover story with Jersey Mike’s Franchise System, one of the nation’s top five fastest growing restaurants. The CIO Scott Scherer says that technology was a big part of being able to scale so quickly. The stack includes a proprietary POS that was built entirely in-house, plus a few key vendors that have committed to conform to Jersey’ Mike’s framework, rather than the other way around.

In a time when technology is moving so quickly, the Jersey Mike’s story reminds us that owning your technology profile can be a core factor in creating competitive advantage. This will be particularly important as companies adopt a mobile strategy quickly. While you may choose to outsource certain layers of your technology, make sure you have a stack that’s uniquely you. Technology can be a key differentiator, so long as everyone else isn’t offloading to the same stack that you are.

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