Integration Failure: The Stresses & Fears of Kiosks, PoS and other Application Integration.

Not surprisingly, Kiosk & PoS integration is a hot topic for hospitality operators. In a recent report, 57% of consumers agree technology in restaurants improves overall experience. Operationally, this can be very demanding for hospitality operators and creates pressure on the internal/or 3rd party IT team to use multiple systems simultaneously. But they have to get on with it or else.

This has certainly been reflected in recent conversations I have had regarding projects we are working on, in relation to project implementation.  The challenge of kiosk and PoS integration keeps cropping up and without doubt, the top three concerns stemming from this are:

  1. How to manage centralised data to avoid multiple input points that do not connect to one another. A number one necessity.
  2. The increasing need to offer click and collect and integrate pre-ordering functions into the existing PoS structure.
  3. How to deploy multi-format kiosk solutions to accommodate different site layouts across an estate.

These three essential foundations for kiosk and PoS integration should not be difficult to achieve with the right solution and back of house system knowledge. Yet they appear to be the biggest pain points for those tasked with the in-house project of self-order technology deployment and budgetary responsibility. Ensuring the investment is protected and maximised is critical.

A Hot Topic. A Critical Execution.

Add into the mix, the tendency of many kiosk solution providers to muddy the water with a lack of clarification on project scoping, a reluctance to innovate and create unique user interfaces (within an acceptable cost), and adapt to different hardware and system requirements – it’s not surprising the hot topic of kiosk and PoS integration is the burning issue amongst those hospitality executives responsible for the critical execution.

Having spent over 20 years in hospitality software, integration is the bedrock of successful deployment and should never be a barrier or failure point. To me it’s not an issue, it’s not a challenge and it’s certainly not an impossibility. It’s just part of the job of knowing what you are doing and making it happen.

It’s about having the right experience and know-how to simplify data management, ensure open application integration for existing, proposed and future needs and the ability to for kiosk vendors to individually create unique user interfaces that work across whatever hardware formats are required.

From small 10” tables, to large free-standing kiosks through to  smartphone kiosk ordering , there should not be an issue running your self-order software on any chosen combination of hardware.

Of course, achieving complete and optimal system integration between legacy, new and future software, will always be a largely fearsome responsibility for many in-house IT & Ops managers. Often with limited resources and over stretched, topped with existing and new systems all written in different languages or technologies by different vendors, data accessibility and availability, compliance, cost reduction and attaining scalable, flexible and strong internal systems, the internal concerns and stress is more than justifiable – but certainly solvable.  

The Big Data Issue – That Shouldn’t be the Big Issue

Rarely is a system integration project as simple as plug and play and even the most straightforward scenarios can succumb to potential failures and challenges. But interestingly, by and large, these failures and challenges are rarely due to the functionality of disparate end systems that need to be integrated, integration tools or in fact any other technical difficulties during the project build phase.

All too often, the real reasons for the problem are related to management issues regarding the integration and the in the case of self-serve kiosks and technology, the vendors true understanding of back of house and PoS systems which are the backbone of every operators IT architecture.

Vendor Accountability is Key

As an advocate and long-time supporter of open API approaches for vendor business models, Kurve’s kiosk solutions are naturally open and incorporate high level consultancy and solution integration management and accountability. But this isn’t always the case for the relatively new hospitality self-order kiosk vendor market.

Discussing integration options and costs with your short list of kiosk solution vendors should be done at the start of the project costings and specification stage.

Key questions to ask include:

  1. Do both the Kiosk and PoS vendors have an open API to freely enable the systems to talk to each other?
  2. What is your Kiosk vendors process, support levels and cost of undertaking this integration?
  3. What are the capabilities to undertake the integration project in terms of in-depth understanding of all the systems involved?
  4. How flexible is the kiosk software design to accommodate unique needs including UI, UX and integration between different applications such as loyalty and CRM data

5 Pitfalls of Self-order Kiosk Integration

Some people are surprised to my “no problem” “we’ll just make it happen” approach to self-serve tech integration. But having been in this niche industry for so many years, it really isn’t an issue if things are done properly and with the right levels of knowledge and experience. Five common pitfalls that jump to mind are:

1. Vendors Over-simplifying the Integration Project

The easiest way to get an integration project start off on the wrong footing, is with vendors ignoring the complexities your individual systems and integration needs. This can stem from just overlooking extremely important integration details, through to sales representative/consultants believing their “boxed” solution will easily slot together with whatever you have or may need in the future. If this happens, the risk of incorrect scoping and project planning becomes a very real threat to project success.

2.    Vendors and In-house Teams Over Estimating Capabilities

Combined with over-simplification, over-estimating your own capabilities is a recipe for disaster. PoS systems for restaurants, QSRs, fast food, bars and take-aways, have a unique structure and assuming knowledge of a retail or travel hub PoS system is not good enough when integrated the complex structures of both the PoS and kiosk systems for these types of operators. Likewise, assuming a bit of knowledge about data integration and PoS is a dangerous mind-set.

3. Focusing too Much on Technical Integration

In my view, the goal of an integration project shouldn’t be just a technical solution that enables the various IT systems to exchange data. When this happens, there is a very real risk of excessive mapping which normally results in an overly complex integration framework which is difficult to develop in the future.

A better approach is to find a clear mutual understanding between all project parties i.e. “what we all are trying to achieve here together”.

5. Constant Changes of the Environment

Many integration projects are designed in a way where they are intended to resolve an integration challenge at a single point in time, rendering them obsolete very quickly.

There’s only one sure constant in this arena, and that’s change. With complex system integration projects, the different applications that are integrated hardly ever stay the same. In today’s application landscape the pace of change seems to be ever increasing, and absolutely nothing stays the same for extensive periods of time. Both software and integration must be designed from the onset with both short and long-term change in mind.

Our Approach to Kiosk & PoS Integration Success: 8 Steps

Whatever the integration challenges the existing, and maybe incumbent, PoS presents, there is always a way forward to ensure a seamless amalgamation and data flow between all new and existing applications.

Typically, Kurve approaches the self-serve kiosk and PoS integration project through the following 8 key steps:

  1. Obtain the API document from the existing PoS Vendor: Integration with the incumbent PoS is a pre-requisite and we obtain the API document form the PoS vendor and implement the interface. We don’t always don’t get the support we need from the PoS vendor but its 2019. API integrations and open support is a necessity from the PoS vendors and very few today fully close off their system.
  2. Loyalty System: Second to the PoS, the next possible integration is the link with the chosen loyalty system. This enables customers to redeem offers at the kiosk via the customer’s loyalty app for example Yoyo, Como or Eagle Eye.
  3. Payment Integration: We then review payment integration as there are various options to the most suitable payment provider and we work with the one that makes the most sense for the project. Often the operator has a relationship with a merchant they are tied into a contract with and we simply we work with their chosen merchant.
  4. The Menu: Reviewing the menu is key to ensure the brand identity is maintained and the customer experience is second to none. Kurve evaluates the information architecture of the menu by pulling it from the PoS to work out how this impacts the customer journey and the experience in ‘self service’ mode. 
  5. Designing to Sell More:  Next comes mapping out possible promotions and offers required as part of the build. This is the stage were Kurve looks at  interesting and engaging ways of offering up-sells and meal deals to the user
  6. The User Experience: We take all these findings, and coupled with the brand identity and guidelines, create a unique UI for the business to enable them to provide a slick, beautiful user experience. All of this ultimately enables the operator to leverage the opportunities and benefits of a kiosk solution deliver, including benefits  such as increased throughout, increased revenue, higher ATV and operational efficiencies.
  7. UI Theme Selection: We build different UI themes for our customers to select from – and also help them create something different for competitive advantage. In fact, our UI/UX team love nothing more than to challenge existing ideas and ways of doing things by the hospitality business for an altogether better way of working and serving..  Once the customer has selected an option, we push the design further and move towards a navigable prototype for sign off, and prior to commencement of the build, onto our kiosk technology.
  8. Vendor Engagement: We engage with the PoS partner, and if required the loyalty partner, to ensure they are part of the test environment

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