CSNews' 2017 Technology Leader of the Year Is...
LA CROSSE, Wis. — Tom Colbert began his career as a developer at Kwik Trip Inc. 23 years ago, long before technology became the vital part of the convenience store industry that it is today.
“I think we all thought technology would make things simpler, but for an IT department, it has become quite complicated with many more integrated parts and dependencies,” he said. “There are many days I miss the simplicity of the past, but the way technology continues to help all of the business units here at Kwik Trip and as their demand for technology grows, it is full steam ahead.”
Colbert, who has spent more than two decades improving Kwik Trip’s IT Department from within, has been selected the 2017 Convenience Store News Technology Leader of the Year. This annual award honors a convenience store retailer — company or individual — who demonstrates exceptional vision and innovation in the development and utilization of technology solutions for the good of their own organization and the industry as a whole.
As director of IT at Kwik Trip, Colbert has maintained a focus on innovation, improving Kwik Trip through the IT Department with the adoption of clearly defined change management and project management.
One of the key changes at Kwik Trip that Colbert has implemented is to have projects be, as he puts it, “Business Driven, IT Enabled.”
“I am sure I stole that from someone along the way. But it really makes a difference to the success of the project when the business units drive the projects instead of IT,” he explained to CSNews. “We do a good job of looking at how we can extend a proposed project or idea to others areas of the business, trying to take advantage of the resources — both people and financial — that we have focused during that time.”
For instance, in the case of Wi-Fi in the stores, it was proposed for a single purpose and Colbert and his team immediately found four or five additional uses — some of which were implemented even prior to the original purpose.
Other technology improvements that have come under Colbert’s leadership in recent years are Kwik Trip’s expanding loyalty program, Kwik Club, and its first retail native mobile app that was deployed in March of this year. Colbert’s goal is to have 1 million loyalty member accounts at the one-year mark of the Kwik Club program.
While Colbert’s tangible accomplishments in Kwik Trip’s IT Department and elsewhere in the company are undoubtedly impressive, the regard his coworkers have for him is perhaps even more so. Kwik Trip’s IT management team, along with Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Wrobel, have lauded Colbert for his management style that “allows his coworkers to be creative” while being “willing to make tough decisions” himself.
“[Tom’s] passion for excellence and strong work ethic originally helped him achieve success within the Kwik Trip IT Department and now, as the leader of the department, these same traits have allowed him to be a key leader in Kwik Trip’s overall success,” Wrobel told CSNews. “He has earned widespread respect from leaders and coworkers throughout Kwik Trip while, at the same time, earning similar respect among his peers in the convenience store industry.”
For more on Tom Colbert, look in the October issue of Convenience Store News.