Dine Brands CIO Justin Skelton on what the Board wants to know from CIOs

Mar 23, 2022
Cloud ComputingIT LeadershipStaff Management

Boards want to know how you are improving, how you are performing, and what’s the return on investment, says Dine Brands CIO Justin Skelton. So, it’s extremely important to be able articulate your performance.

board of directors
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Justin Skelton is SVP and CIO of Dine Brands, a leading chain restaurant company based in Glendale, Calif., with 345 franchisees operating more than 3,400 restaurants for its two flagship brands, Applebee’s and IHOP.

As CIO, Skelton is a member of the Executive Team at Dine Brands Global. His responsibilities extend from digital and business intelligence platforms and product and project management to restaurant and corporate technologies and infrastructure and operations.

CIO.com’s Derek Hulitsky caught up with Skelton at the recent Future of Cloud Summit to discuss leadership strategies necessary to get technology buy-in from key stakeholders from individual franchisees all the way to the Board of Directors. What follows are edited excerpts of that conversation. For more insights, watch the full video below.

On working with the Board:

All Boards of Directors have decisions to make around capital allocation. They have to decide … Are we going to invest in technology? Are we going to do share buybacks? Are we going to pay dividends? So, it’s important for us, at Dine Brands, to make sure we have articulated a clear vision and a strategy for how IT can, in fact, improve company results.

We meet with the Board of Directors probably on a quarterly basis, in various forms, various committees. We talk about the strategy. We talk about our vision for technology. In many ways we educate them around some of the technologies that are out in the rest of the world and how those technologies are applicable to [our business] and how they would add that [business] value.

The other thing that Boards want to know, they want to know how you are improving. How you are performing? What’s the return on investment? So, it’s extremely important that you are able to articulate [your] performance.

On Dine’s cloud strategy:

Our journey started back in 2019, when we endeavored upon getting all of our workloads—all of our data center workloads, as well as workloads we had in our regional support centers—migrated [to the cloud]. We set up a very aggressive target. We said 100% of everything needs to be moved to the cloud. And while we knew that it would not be possible to get 100%—there would have to be some components left behind—that was our target.

We do a lot more buy than we do build these days, and so we are leveraging the marketplace to go off and use some of the technologies that are already cloud-enabled.

When we thought about [replacing] our point-of-sale system, part of that configuration is having tablet capabilities as well. And everything needing to be based into the cloud, right? So, part of that frictionless environment with the tablets is being able to swipe your card right on the tablet. All of the data, all of the information is actually transmitted to the cloud.

So that relieves the operational management support of the back-of-house server, but it also [creates a] frictionless environment for the guest, because we are extending those capabilities with the tablets to our customers.

On IT talent management:

Within IT, it is a challenge already, right? Because we compete for talent across industries.

[One] thing I think is extremely important is that we are doubling our portfolio size between this year and next year, in terms of our capital investments in IT. And in my experience, a lot of technologists want to know they are working on really interesting technologies. And, tied to that, of course, is the opportunity for development, learning new tools, learning new skills.

And then, with IT people, it is important to connect the dots between the work that they do and how that work contributes to the success of the organization. When we are able to connect those dots, people feel a sense of value and worth [tied] into the company’s results.

On being an effective technology leader today:

You have to be able to actively listen. You have got to listen to your stakeholders, listen to your business partners, listen to your staff. And what it means is asking questions for clarification. In my business, in the field we are in, where we have franchisees as stakeholders, we have the different owners as stakeholders, we have a Board of Directors as a stakeholder, and your leaders—your teams—being able to understand what their needs are [is critical].

When you actively listen, it gives you the opportunity to build a strategy where there is alignment.