One of the side effects of becoming a freelance writer is that you become a regular reader of trade websites about the industry you’re writing for.
If you approached me 2 years ago and told me that I’d be purposefully perusing through the Hospitality Technology website, it would have sounded to me just as random as it was likely. And so here we are: it’s two years later and I’m telling you that I read a post on HT that boldly proclaimed
Now, when HT is telling you that there’s an integration for a POS out there that is a “must have,” you don’t add it to your reading list and find out later. You stop what you are doing and you find out what it is. This is HT talking, after all, you know what I mean? Of course you do. As it turns out, though, while the good people at Hospitality Technology have their fingers on the pulse of the newest tech trends, writing headlines just isn’t their thing. They weren’t teasing any one particular app, so much as they meant a POS with lots of third party integrations—and the promise of more in the future—is becoming the preferred type of platform on which merchants choose to run their businesses. Essentially, the headline ought to have read
This really gets to the heart of the matter (and you can have that one free of charge, HT). Because the need being defined here isn’t that restaurant owners have determined they want integrations without knowing quite what those would be.
Rather, they want a POS that runs on an open platform, so they can have the ability to customize their setup to suit their needs. Yes, that takes on the form of integrations when third parties are involved, but an open platform’s value isn’t just in the added functionality third party apps can provide. It’s in the ability to adapt to needs you don’t have, and to use the software in ways no one’s thought to—yet. If that sounds like a nebulous reason to base important software decisions on, it’s because I want to make a joke about the cloud and that word is perfect—but the right joke isn’t coming to me. So, on we go, back to this planning for an ill-defined future by investing in open systems. It helps here to take a look at a real world example.
In 2005, Steve Jobs announced Apple would begin transitioning away from its PowerPC chip, and over to Intel and Intel-based architecture. The decision was relentlessly dissected in the press and elsewhere, which is weird because Jobs gave the most logical reason for the switch at his presentation: the Intel roadmap for future chips—multi-core, low power processors that weren’t going to sacrifice performance—was more in line with Apple’s view that computing would become increasingly mobile. The promise of robust mobile computing with Intel was boosted by the fact that Apple would be joining a hardware party pretty much everyone else had been attending for years. Today’s MacBook Air—which lacks moving parts, runs cool, and performs like a beast—would not have been possible had Apple stuck it out with PowerPC. Jobs said as much in a statement during the announcement, was telling for the one thing he didn’t say.
As we look ahead, we can envision some amazing products we want to build for you, and we don’t know how to build them with the future PowerPC roadmap.
Notice that he doesn’t say, “We know exactly how we’re going to do it with Intel, though.” All he knows at this point is his old platform is going be outperformed very soon, and won’t be capable of handling the mobile task at hand.
And this is how it is for a merchant who’s choosing between a proprietary POS and an open systems one. With the former, you’re locked in to the options they make.
There’s definitely a convenience to having all facets of your POS—front end, back office, customer loyalty, inventory, etc.—coming from a single developer. There’s just one phone call to remember if something goes wrong, and...um. That’s all I can think of at the moment. In any case, restaurants are like snowflakes: no two are alike and they both have melting points. The one size fits all approach can be limiting, and more niche-type stores will find themselves underserved. More importantly, when you’re limited to going to only one company for any add-on functionality, you’re basically paying money and hoping they did it well enough. If they didn’t, you’re out of options. Moving to an open platform POS—and here I’m talking about cloud-based ones specifically—is like joining a software party that pretty much everyone else has been attending for years. Companies like Collect Rewards and LoyalTree have been thinking about and making mobile loyalty apps specifically, and can do more for a business then probably Big POS, which mainly thinks about Point of Sale, does with its in-house add-ons. The same goes for Beat the Q and Mobi2Go for take out ordering. Xero, MYOB, and Quickbooks for accounting. Deputy, Nimble Schedule, and Time Forge for time and attendance.
The list goes on. These are all solid apps, and some may be more suited to your business than others, but isn’t good to know you can shop around and find the right one? More to the point, though, when you look to the future, you can probably envision doing amazing things with a brand new POS—if it’s not in the developer’s roadmap for the future, you’d do well to consider an alternate route.
After a 15 year career in IT, Dave Eagle rebooted and is now a full time writer living in Vermont, USA. He is widely unknown throughout the world for his meditations on cloud computing topics, but somehow Kounta—the company responsible for Australia’s #1 hospitality mobile POS—found him and asked him to write for them. So here we are.