The Canadian Source Of Employee Pension Fund Investment And Benefits Plan Management

Back Issues

May 2007

Step Forward, Back Office

By: Malcolm Clark

Consider successful, modern-day restaurants as an analogy for todayʼs securities services world. Iʼm not talking about fast food joints or the super deluxe four star places with a sommelier on tap, rather the middle-of-the-road, pleasant sorts of places where you feel comfortable taking your children and your mother on a regular basis. Think about the STP that such places offer. Yes, really, STP in a restaurant can be likened to STP in financial services!

First, consider what used to be the rule in restaurants (and still is in many) in terms of information flow between you and the various restaurant staff.

In some, you place your order with a waiter or waitress. He/she jots it down on a pad.

Special requests are scribbled in underneath in a scrawl meaningful only to the writer. Your waiter has to physically take the order to the kitchen and may be distracted en route by another diner – inserting an unwelcome delay. The chef has to interpret the scribbles to prepare your meal.

If he has run out of one ingredient, he tells the waiting staff, who have to communicate it back to you. You may then be disappointed, and may change your order. (Tell my daughter the restaurant has run out of guacamole and she will no longer want the Mexican chicken!)

Once cooked, your meal is placed under a hot lamp, awaiting the waiterʼs return to the kitchen to take it to your table.

Lots of room for error, delay, and disappointment.

Not-so-STP

Now consider how technology has changed that not-so-STP process in some establishments to make the whole process more efficient.

In our more advanced restaurants, your waiter takes your order on an electronic keypad. The order is communicated to the kitchen as soon as youʼve finished placing it with the waiter – before he moves on to the next task and without him having to go back to the kitchen. Special orders can be tapped in as well, using short codes or in some cases with free-form text. The chef gets a clear order. Missing ingredients can be communicated back to the waiting staff instantaneously – but are also less likely. A central supply chain system will recognize what dishes are being ordered in what volumes and can ensure sufficient ingredients are delivered to the kitchen on time. The waiter is alerted when your meal is ready, meaning youʼre more likely to receive it hot.

The benefits to all participants are clear. You get faster service, and youʼre more likely to get what you want and the restaurant gets more efficient waiters, and more efficient supplies.

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