With the breadth of computing potential—everything from data analytics to artificial intelligence—that cloud-based systems can provide, Eric Jones has found enormous benefit in the mundane: paying vendors, reconciling credit-card charges and identifying exceptions.
While shiny new technologies thrill Jones, getting an automated robot, or bot (a computer program), to seek out and execute repetitive, rule-based tasks has proven one of his biggest accomplishments to date.
“It’s coding a piece of software to rules, where it will log into the system, pull [a piece of] data out of the platform, do tasks, send this [information] to this person and wait for a response,” says Jones, the company’s chief innovation officer. “Across the business, a lot of that is done manually. We’ve been very successful in [automating] that.”
Technology has helped Parker’s operationally as well. Take chicken fingers, for example. Data can not only reveal how many customers
come in wanting chicken on a Monday in January, but predictive analytics can also secure the right amount of inventory in any particular store.
“With an hour shelf life, you need the right amount of chicken on hand—otherwise you have waste,” he says. “When you put the pieces together so that the customer always has fresh chicken, that’s digital automation.”
Coming from a data-analytics startup in the health industry, Jones celebrated his first year in convenience last October.
“What I saw [in Parker’s] was an entrepreneurial company that had been around for a while but operated like a scrappy startup,” Jones says, citing the chain’s loyalty, self-checkout and food-ordering kiosk initiatives. “But we have to [be able] to change how we historically do business, pivot and make decisions as [disruption] comes about. My role is to foster that culture of curiosity.”