4 Tips for building a case for a digital food safety system in your organisation
February 18th , 2022 by Monika Australia & Asia Pacific
The benefits of a digital food safety system may seem perfectly obvious to you, but they may not be as apparent to other stakeholders and decision-makers in your organisation.
Digital food safety monitoring and record-keeping will certainly make your job easier, but that’s not what’s going to get your project over the line. In our experience talking to the foodservice, safety, or quality managers every day, the real challenge is convincing their CEO or CFO (or equivalent) that it’s a necessary investment.
The reality is, any new technological system will be accepted or rejected by decision-makers based on the business value that it can deliver. Demonstrating the business value of your idea is where your true power lies. This blog post will show you just how you can do that.
1. Identify key decision-makers and influencers
The first step to building your case for a digital food safety system is to understand who you’re dealing with. This will be both decision-makers and influencers. Influencers are important too because, while they might not have ultimate decision-making power, they may have some influence on those who do.
So don’t just focus on those who control the purse strings – consider who will be affected by this project in some way, whether that be via their budgets, workloads, or internal processes. For example, IT and engineering departments are an obvious one when it comes to new technological and food service equipment investments.
Give some thought also to the eventual end-users of a potential new digital food safety system, i.e. kitchen staff and supervisors – their buy-in will be critical to a successful implementation, should your project go ahead.
2. Start a conversation with stakeholders
The next step is to float your idea in an open manner with your key stakeholders, taking a step back from your own agenda to try and see the situation from their point of view. This is important because people are more likely to listen with an open mind if they don’t perceive a pre-existing agenda, and it will also open your mind to their unique position.
A couple of tactics here can work well: if it’s your boss, try starting the conversation by asking them what the ideal outcome would be for food service and food safety in the business over the next year. If they want to improve safety and compliance while reducing costs, then you’re in a great position to introduce the possibility of moving to a digital food safety system.
For influencers, try asking them how current food safety systems and processes impact them. For example, IT teams may feel burdened by data storage and management associated with manual food safety records, while engineering teams may feel like they’re constantly dealing with equipment issues. Similarly, end-users of your current food safety system may feel hampered by cumbersome record-keeping processes. Asking these sorts of questions can be a great opening to introducing digital food safety systems as an additional tool that will make their jobs easier in the long run.
3. Define and quantify the business problem
After identifying and understanding your key stakeholders, you’re in a great position to define the business problem that a digital food safety system is going to solve. You could also frame it as an opportunity, rather than a problem. Either way, being able to articulate this in a clear and concise manner is crucial to building your business case.
In our experience, the key problem that a digital food safety system solves varies slightly from organisation to organisation. However, it usually falls into one of three broad areas: efficiency/cost savings, safety/risk, or sustainability. Consider which of these will resonate most with your key decision-makers:
- Labour and system costs: is there a push in your organisation to streamline processes and reduce labour costs? Paper-based food safety records are labour-intensive for staff and managers, and the costs to maintain them effectively can add up over time. Stock losses and food waste can also be a factor here, with equipment issues resulting in expensive stock being thrown out.
- Safety and risk: have there been past food safety incidents, claims or other risks – either internally or in your industry – that have caused alarm among staff and management? Are the compliance standards slipping and attracting the attention of either customers or regulators/auditors? Is there an internal push to improve food safety culture and food safety standards?
- Sustainability: is there a growing commitment to reducing your organisation’s carbon footprint? Digital food safety systems can eliminate paper, lower energy consumption, prevent food waste and reduce the need to travel between multiple sites.
Once you’ve identified the problem or ‘hot button’, you can try to quantify its impact in some way. For example, what is the true cost of compliance with your current manual system? How many hours do staff spend collecting, filing, and collating paper-based food safety data each day, week, or year? How many stock losses can you expect to experience each year under a manual system?
If your organisation is more likely to be motivated by improving safety and reducing risk, consider all the impacts of past or potential food safety incidents. These might be legal, reputational, or operational costs due to forced closures, defending against claims, etc. This business problem is harder to quantify, but it’s important to flesh it out as much as you can.
4. Outline the solution (the business case)
Putting forward your business case is the final step to seeking approval for your project. The way you do this will depend on how decisions are typically made in your organisation. For larger organisations, a written business case is often required. However, in smaller organisations, a series of meetings with your boss may be more appropriate.
Whatever format you choose, make sure your business case frames the solution as an investment rather than an expense. Think about it this way: if you buy something that generates more value than it costs, it’s actually an investment, not an expense. Your job is to demonstrate and quantify that return on investment.
There are various ways to present a business case. Here’s one possible structure you could follow:
- The business problem/opportunity: define the business problem or opportunity and why it needs to be addressed now.
- The options: what can be done to solve this problem? What are the pros and cons of each option and what will they cost over time? Be sure to outline all options including maintaining the status quo.
- Recommendation: which option is the best and why? Provide a detailed cost-benefit analysis of the preferred option that includes the expected return on investment.
- Implementation strategy: when will the project be implemented? What resources will be needed? Who will be accountable? What are the project risks and how will they be mitigated?
Keep in mind that implementation can often be a sticking point with new technology projects. Work closely with stakeholders, particularly end-users, on developing the best approach for everyone – before you present your business case. In the case of a digital food safety system, a staged rollout can work well: knowledge gained from the first site can then be applied to subsequent sites, and it’s easier to secure funds down the track for future expansion. Once the value is experienced firsthand, it becomes embedded, and people can’t be without it.
Need help demonstrating the value of moving to a digital food safety system in your organisation? We can provide a cost-benefit analysis tailored to your operation, plus live demonstrations of our product to your internal stakeholders. Contact us for a free demonstration.
Monika has provided temperature monitoring solutions to healthcare and food service institutions worldwide since the early 1990s. Our product simulation technology originated from research conducted in an accredited laboratory into 100+ different product types.