BRENTWOOD, Tenn. -- As the use of smartphones in people's daily lives becomes more commonplace, their use as a way to solve business problems expands as well.
In the case of 472-unit Mapco convenience store chain, the solution is a mobile app that allows field managers to take photos of things like newly set-up promotional end caps, proving for certain the work was executed properly and in a timely manner.
The Brentwood, Tenn.-based company started testing the app--developed by San Francisco-based Zenput--last fall and officially deployed it operationally earlier this year.
"The accountability within our organization has increased drastically," said Brian Veasman, director of operations at Mapco. "And we've become proactive instead of reactive in our retail execution."
In lieu of such a solution, a Zenput official said companies like Mapco often use a jumble of emails, texts and photo uploads to verify that such in-store operational tasks have been completed.
"So that it's not just someone sitting at home and saying the work was done," Vladik Rikhter, CEO of Zenput, told CSP Daily News.
Verification is a major component in store-level execution, Rikhter said, which is why companies that have a large network of stores find the mobile app useful. Rikhter said in his background of helping install HVAC equipment, the problem of verifying that work was done was unrelenting. He and his cofounding partner created the app in 2012 to address the issue.
The app's appeal has risen, Rikhter said, with the increasing ubiquity of people uploading photos to each other and to social media, along with falling data-storage costs.
In describing the solution, Rikhter said the Zenput app is first a mobile solution. But since the data is also stored with Zenput in "the cloud," he said it is also a software as a service (SaaS) product.
The app, which employees download, allows supervisors to create checklists that involve simple yes or no questions and photo uploads. Managers can log in and review pie charts developed as people in the field fill out the mobile forms. Those graphs immediately inform managers of unacceptable levels of execution so that they can act in a timely manner to rectify specific problems.
"It's two things they're trying to tackle," Rikhter said. "One is accountability--are all stores set up with a promotion by July 4? And second is visibility. It's hard to see into the stores [in a timely manner]."
Often, a manager may come back to his or her computer after visiting a store and forget to update information about a promotion that wasn't set up, Rikhter said. This way, the report is done while the manager is at the store. It also saves the time he or she would have spent creating that report at the end of the day.
Addressing the issue of system integration, Rikhter said so many problem-specific apps are coming out using the smartphone that are "best in class." And while a chain can take the time to integrate the data into its host solution, time, energy and even issues of data storage would put the entire exercise to question.
"We're willing to play nice when it comes to integration," Rikhter said. "But the product is so straightforward. You can get a new checklist up and running in a couple of minutes. Then you could spend a couple of weeks to get it integrated, but where in Oracle or SAP is it going to sit? And where are the photos going to go? We're more than happy to see it happen, but why?"
Mapco Express is a wholly owned subsidiary of Delek US Holdings Inc. Based in Brentwood, Tenn., Mapco operates convenience stores in seven states under the Mapco Express, Mapco Mart, East Coast, Discount Food Mart, Fast Food & Fuel, Delta Express and Favorite Markets brand names.