What Do C-store IT Leaders Think About Most?

TUCSON, Ariz. — Alignment of information technology (IT) with management goals and managing people are foremost on the minds of convenience store industry IT leaders, three c-store executives shared during a 2016 Conexxus Annual Conference educational session earlier this week.

Doug New, chief information officer for Tedeschi Food Shops, a 7-Eleven Inc. company, explained in the session titled “Think Tank-IT Leaders Insights” that IT and business alignment is the “correspondence between the business objectives and IT requirements of an enterprise.” He stressed that c-store retailers must desire for both to be in alignment for this to be a successful marriage.

Why is this alignment so important? For Tedeschi Food Shops, there are seven reasons:

1. Effective communication among executives and between executives and staff;
2. IT is hyperfocused on delivery of high-quality services vs. delivery of discrete capabilities;
3. IT staff understands the various lines of business drivers, processes and goals, and how they feed the overall mission and vision;
4. Having an agile infrastructure to accommodate unforeseen business needs; 
5. Enabling business process automation and best practice procedures;
6. Technology and the IT group is recognized as an enabler of business strategy and outcomes; and
7. IT is a trusted business partner vs. an order taker.

Above all, to achieve the best results, IT leaders must love the c-store retailer they work for, added fellow panelist Hubert Williams, CIO for Maverik Inc., a Salt Lake City-based convenience store chain. 

“You need to love the business first,” he told attendees of the conference, held at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson. “Technology is overrated and will fail eventually. If you have passion for the business, everything else will fall into place.”


To be effective, c-store industry IT leaders must also close the gap between what their employees want and what they are given, relayed Ric Spargo, vice president, Information Systems & Technology, North America, for Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., parent company of Circle K convenience stores. 

To prove there is a gap, Spargo presented the following facts:

  • One in two workers have left a job to get away from a manager;
  • 65 percent said getting rid of their boss would make them happier than a salary increase; and
  • 31 percent are uninspired and feel underappreciated by their boss.

To counteract this gap, IT leaders must “get the basics right,” he said. This entails setting goals, being appreciative and being positive. “We need to look in the mirror and say we are not closing the gap. And even if you are, say you can do it better.”

As for setting goals, Spargo explained that it is crucial to know how the efforts of the IT team help move the entire company forward. In regards to being positive, approachability is important. This means “investing” in employees by knowing the names of their significant others and children. “Don’t only talk about business topics. Have a deeper conversation with employees. This environment will lead to creativity and forward thinking,” he said. 

Being positive also means bringing the atmosphere of a successful IT leader wherever you go. “When you walk into a meeting or office, you bring an atmosphere with you,” said Spargo. “Will it be stagnation, or will we choose to be leaders and bring a positive view?” 

And the positive approach goes one step further, the Couche-Tard executive added. IT leaders must find strengths and then grow them and apply them.

“Marvel at their achievements,” Maverik's Williams agreed, noting that complimenting employees for a job well done can go a long way. 

Of course, bringing in the right IT team employees from the start is a vital component of creating and maintaining a positive environment, both Spargo and Williams stressed.

“Employees must fit the culture of the company,” concluded Williams. “If you don’t fit the culture, we don’t want you here, no matter what your skill set is.”

The 2016 Conexxus Annual Conference took place May 1-5. Conexxus (formerly known as PCATS) is a nonprofit, member-driven technology organization dedicated to the development and implementation of standards, technologies innovation and advocacy for the convenience store and petroleum market. 

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