Punch Taverns looks to the cloud to drive beer sales

london pub
Credit: K Kendall via Flickr

Punch Taverns runs 4,200 pubs in England and Scotland, but you'll never see their name on any of them. It's a franchise operation, with each pub independently owned and operated. Punch helps franchisees deal with the business side and, of course, sells them beer.

To manage the business, which includes a lot of remote workers along with a lot of third parties like lawyers and real estate agents, Punch turned to cloud and mobile services from Appian to help run the business.

Appian is a business process management (BPM) suite, and for a business like Punch, which has a defined process that has to be followed for each deal, this was an ideal solution. Before they turned to Appian, Punch's IT director Kevin Dalley told CITEworld, the company was exchanging documents by email -- a clumsy and highly inefficient process.

Dalley said by moving to a cloud and mobile application, Punch was able to automate many of the hand-offs that had previously been handled manually via email. It's also easier bring all the third parties into the process. For example, they may have a solicitor (lawyer) prepare the lease. When it's complete, it goes as an attachment to the field workers, who gets a message on their phone that the document is ready, and they can bring it to the lessees for signature and final disposal.

IT develops the business process workflow on a laptop. Field workers and partners can work on whatever device they like, whether that's a laptop, smartphone or tablet, and the Appian apps work across devices, he told me. 

Dalley said that he has a staff of 30 IT people and this system gives his staff flexibility they were lacking before, and also dramatically changes how people work. Instead of waiting until they get back to a computer at their desks, employees in the field can work in place. This is much more efficient, especially since the system lets people know when work is waiting for them. 

The system also tracks data about the business and Dalley says Punch is just beginning to understand how to take best advantage of that. Ideally, as Appian surfaces analytics, the company can trigger certain business activities based on what the data is telling them. He says they aren't quite there yet with that level of data-process integration, because identifying that important data to drive a process is challenging, but if they can figure it out, it will make the system even more useful for them. 

A business partner, not just an IT director

Dalley says that his job is to drive the business. He doesn't see himself as IT Director so much as a business partner. "My job is about business, not IT. I don't like being called IT director because people pigeonhole who you are," he told me. 

What Dalley really wants is to be involved in business decisions and help drive how the business goes forward. He says it's a mistake to think it's about the boxes and the wires because it's much more than that now. 

"Everything here is about getting things done," he said. "My skills are applied to how do we do this in the most efficient effective ways and use all of the capabilities open to us. The world is changing so fast you can't keep up with it. You have to be agile and fluid," he added. 

He acknowledges there are limits and things he has to control, but overall he's always looking for smarter, faster, better ways to run the business. 

And using the Appian toolkit is one way to fulfill his perceived role.

"The challenge is getting close to the business and accepting that you have to manage chaos and there will alway be change happening," he said.

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