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Chief Technology Officer at CBS Northstar, overseeing technology and product for our global restaurant and retail customers.
Digital task management systems are a versatile tool in the modern retailer’s tool kit. These systems are used for everything from staying on top of store execution strategies, such as preparing for major holidays and events, to managing regular inventory and everyday to-do items.
When employed well, the right system can improve the stability of day-to-day operations by communicating clear instructions and monitoring the quality and completion of performed tasks. And unlike traditional task tracking methods, such as clipboards and paper checklists, digital entries in a task management system have some key advantages. For instance, they can be easily filtered and searched, used to generate reports, tagged with photos and file attachments, and flagged for email alerts and follow-ups.
Below are three timely uses for task management systems today.
1. Cleaning And Maintenance
Cleaning and maintenance tasks may not sound very sexy or exciting, but they’re essential to everyday business. When they’re not done, or not done well, it can be disastrous for the bottom line. Imagine a store’s POS system going down during a holiday rush or a restaurant failing to pass a surprise health inspection. This is where task management technology can help.
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With real-time tracking and notifications, task management systems are extremely well-suited for staying on top of routine cleaning and sanitizing tasks — whether daily, weekly or monthly. When used to track building and equipment maintenance, task management helps keep day-to-day operations running smoothly and without costly interruptions to business. And because tasks are assigned to specific employees, they help hold individuals accountable for the work assigned.
Tasks don’t need to be strictly focused on manual labor, either. Businesses also use task management to ensure that internet-enabled devices receive regular security updates — something that has become increasingly more important in light of the mass adoption of online ordering and e-commerce during the pandemic.
2. Proactive Safety And Compliance
Good task management systems make excellent compliance tools, especially when they can include file attachments. In addition to keeping a record of cleaning and sanitizing activities (as mentioned above), tasks can be defined to inspect fire extinguishers, emergency exits, eyewash stations and regulatory signage — all with photos and documentation as needed. When tasks are completed, they become part of an audit trail that protects the business from costly litigation.
And again, tasks don’t need to involve manual labor to be part of an effective system. They can also include things like a routine review of labor laws to ensure compliance with the latest regulations. By proactively reviewing compliance and making it a part of the workflow, businesses avoid being reactive and having to pivot in ways that are sudden and disruptive to operations. For example, the controlled, stepwise implementation of a state-mandated health and safety program is far less damaging than having to scramble to unexpectedly accommodate changing rules and norms.
3. Identifying And Addressing Gaps
Due to the pandemic, many businesses are having an extremely difficult time trying to fill roles that were previously vacated due to Covid-19. In the restaurant industry especially, employees and managers are in many cases completely new to the work and have very little experience meeting the often high-pressure demands of the business. Task management becomes an important tool for conveying step-by-step instructions to management and staff and for helping the former identify gaps in training and knowledge sooner rather than later.
For example, with a good task management system, teams receive alerts when tasks are completed in a timely fashion — and when they’re not. Some task management platforms even support a rating and comments system, which can be used to gather valuable feedback and increase employee engagement. Given how necessary employee engagement is for retention, and how much easier it is to retain workers than to replace them, there are multiple benefits to using this technology.
Qualities Of A Good Task Management System
Not all task management systems are equal or equally well-equipped to handle the demands of a transitioning retail landscape. So what makes a good task management system? A good task management system is one that can handle everything mentioned above and more. Here are a few extra things to look for in a modern system:
? Fully customizable checklists by department and position.
? Due dates, follow-up dates and automatic notifications on task progress.
? Holds employees accountable for assigned tasks.
? Entries easily searched and filtered by management.
? File uploads — because a picture is worth a thousand words.
? Backups stored securely in the cloud.
? Accessible via browser, phone or tablet.
Limitations And Barriers To Adoption
Every retail and restaurant business has some process for managing tasks, but task management systems are often specifically designed to make work easier in these industries. If a task management system can do everything mentioned above, why aren’t they more widely adopted?
The short answer is that change is difficult, even when the world isn’t trying to recover from a pandemic. Digital task management can be a hard sell in part because it touches so many areas of a business, from operations to HR. Another reason is that businesses are often hesitant to spend money on expensive devices when paper will suffice. In reality, though, task management systems often start as an effective management tool for above-store reporting, which is one area where a digital solution holds a serious advantage over traditional paper methods.
The savviest business owners know that they can expose task management to employees over time. They also select software that integrates with their existing systems. For example, in the retail industry, one might look for a task management solution that integrates with devices like handheld scanners and time clocks, as these are already part of their existing equipment and expenses.
As with any technology, implementing a task management system means introducing more change. A good task management system can and should contribute to a business’ stability, however, which makes it a worthwhile investment over the long term.
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