NASHVILLE -- More than two dozen CIOs representing some of the convenience store industry's largest and most innovative chains gathered today at NACStech to discuss the best practices and challenges in c-store technology and the role IT will play in the convenience and fuels industry in the future.
This year's CIO/Tech Roundtables, presented by PCATS and Convenience Store News, attracted the largest number of attendees in the event's history, including tech leaders from such prominent c-store companies as The Pantry Inc., Casey's General Stores Inc., QuikTrip Corp. and Speedway LLC.
Based on retailer feedback from last year's CIO Roundtables at NACStech, this year's event featured a slightly different format that allowed for more open discussion among the attendees.
Following a group presentation by CSNews' Editor-in-Chief Don Longo, participants split into two separate discussion groups. These interactive exchanges were moderated by Dae Kim, vice president of research for NACS, and Michael Davis, NACS' vice president of member services.
During his presentation, Longo revealed findings from the just-fielded CSNews 2012 Technology Study. The results show retailers expect to spend more on technology this year compared to last year. Forty-two percent of respondents said they'll spend more in 2012 vs. what they spent in 2011.
While their planned technology investments vary, four areas stood out in this year's study: social media; employee training; speeding up the customer checkout process; and reducing theft/shrink.
In the two concurrent group discussions, three questions were posed to attendees:
n What keeps you up at night?
n Where do you see your business going in the next three to five years?
n What role do you see technology playing to support those changes?
The technology executives in Group A cited many concerns, including payment card industry (PCI) requirements; integration of systems when acquiring companies; keeping information technology teams motivated; loyalty programs working well; prioritizing projects within available budgets and resources; the future of mobile payments; and predicting changes to credit card fees.
As for the next three to five years, mobile payments were singled out by many of the retailers in the group as a main focus. In addition, Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) integrated circuit card standards, alternative fuels and overall store growth via acquisitions were mentioned.
In regards to how technology will support these changes, several of the CIOs said that as their companies grow, rapidly advancing technologies will be at the front and center of all of those changes. One executive noted that growth cannot take place without technology.
Meanwhile in Group B, many of the same themes emerged. Human capital, PCI standards, security beyond those standards, aging infrastructure and ever-changing regulations were among the things that both the retailers and suppliers in the group agreed keep them up at night. They also pointed to forces outside their control, such as social, economic, technological and political trends.
Regardless of the changes they face, though, all the CIOs agreed that IT is becoming less a department and more of an integral part across all business functions in the convenience store industry.
The PCATS/Convenience Store News CIO/Tech Roundtables were sponsored by Acumera, Heartland Payment Systems, National Payment Card, Pinnacle Corp. and Reflexis.
NACStech 2012 continues through Wednesday at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville.