Agile Development Delivers Results for Fourth Hospitality
About The Client
A leading provider of cloud-based forecasting and cost control software to the hospitality industry, Fourth’ easy to use mobile systems and web-based solutions encompass demand forecasting, purchase-to-pay, workforce planning and analytics.
Enabling restaurants, hotels, wine bars, food chains, contract caterers and other operators in the hospitality and leisure sectors to improve profits and increase operational efficiency, Fourth’s solutions are utilised by over 1,100 customers at 18,000 sites in 60 countries around the world.
Big brand names using its solutions include Pizza Express, Travel Lodge, Wagamama, Zizzi and Hyatt Hotels.
Committed to helping customers unlock value from the huge volumes of operational and transactional data they create every day, Fourth wanted to launch an ambitious new service that would keep it ahead of market competitors and revolutionise how its customers could get accurate and timely insights instantly from their point of sale (POS) devices.
Its vision was to implement a powerful PoS data integration platform that would unlock valuable data from every minute of every shift by interpreting masses of data in seconds. By linking labour and purchase-to-pay data with POS, Fourth could enable customers to analyse every aspect of their operations in 15 minute time slots of profitability.
Delivering intelligence on sales, margins, labour, staff behaviours – including upsells, voids and discounts – as well as consumer preferences and ordering habits – the new analytics platform would enable powerful analytics tools that would help customers improve revenue and margin.
Bringing this innovative solution to market fast would mean implementing a fully integrated, configurable platform that offered ready-made dashboards – and the option for customers to create customised dashboards if they prefer.
Fourth knew it needed a partner to help it develop the fully modular and scalable e-POS Gateway platform that would power its new analytics offerings.
“Intechnica had already helped us accelerate the performance of our cloud live production environment, so we knew they had the specialist expertise to help us with the next evolution of our digital offering,” said Christian Berthelsen, Chief Technology Officer at Fourth Hospitality.
“The development methodology process itself would prove core to assuring the rapid delivery needed to make this a commercially viable investment. We knew that design effectiveness would be critical to assuring future-proof and robust scalability.”
The ePOS Gateway needed to cope with up to 200 million transactions a day, handling vast amounts of data. What’s more, it needed to scale fast to cope with daily and monthly demand peaks, as well as seasonal volume upticks. The standard practice for most customers is to upload all data as part of an end of day process, leading to large spikes of traffic in line with restaurant closing hours.
Working alongside Fourth’s development team, Intechnica designed a modular platform capable of scaling up compute resources in seconds to manage load levels and optimise processing costs, scaling the platform to meet the daily end of day peak. Powered by the cloud, Fourth only pays for processing and computational costs as and when these are used.
The new digital platform features a best-of-breed technology stack and open source components to ensure the system is able to grow and scale as new customers sign-up.
The scale and variability of data being delivered meant that a flexible and scalable solution was essential. This made a cloud provider an obvious solution and the Microsoft Azure cloud was selected because of the ease of integration with existing Fourth systems and technologies and the availability of highly scalable data solutions on that platform.
The agile nature of the development process allowed for an emergent approach to be taken to identifying the best solution to the challenge of processing the levels of data being delivered in a reliable and timely manner. After investigation of several alternatives, Apache Cassandra was selected as its distributed nature allowed for a very high throughput of data and would allow for further scaling in the future.
Developed using an Agile and scrum-based framework, the overall solution was built using C#, Cassandra and SQL Server, all of which are hosted in the Microsoft Azure cloud.
Using a performance by design methodology, Intechnica was able to certify from the earliest software life cycle phases that the solution would effortlessly cope with anticipated volume peaks. Employing a continuous integration approach, Intechnica was able to consistently test performance throughout the design process to assure all processes and features worked as expected.
“Intechnica kept the project moved along at pace, with no unexpected holdups. From initial design to proof of concept and build, their stress testing and tooling approach ensured we were able go to market in impressively tight time frames,” confirms Christian.
Designed to deliver to demanding performance requirements, the ePOS gateway went live without a hitch. Capturing data from POS tills, the solution delivers granular detail on transaction details and enables customers to slice this intelligence in multiple ways. POS data can be integrated with other labour and purchase-to-pay data to evaluate sales, margins, and actual versus projected gross profit.
Deployed less than three months from the initial working platform and software showcase, Fourth was able to release its business analysis offering to the market in an incredibly rapid timescale. Intechnica’s highly effective programme management and close collaborative working approach helped enable a speedy route to market for the innovative solution that has enabled Fourth to capture valuable new revenue streams.
“Intechnica was able to certify from the earliest software lifecycle phases that the solution would deliver against anticipated volume peaks. With their help we were able to capture the highest possible business value in the shortest time and maximise our ROI on what was a major development investment,” concludes Christian.