Starbucks Readies Wireless Access For Managers

District managers to get on-the-go access to job-related data, letting them spend more face time with store managers and customers.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

January 16, 2003

2 Min Read

Starbucks Corp. is about to give its district managers the same wireless access it gives customers at its stores.

For two years, Starbucks has networked nearly 2,000 of its stores with Wireless Fidelity technology, letting customers surf the Web wirelessly while sipping their coffee. Now Starbucks is introducing the Wi-Fi technology to its district managers: Starting on Jan. 20, about 600 of them will be able to access job-related data from the company's stores via wireless-enabled notebook computers.

The district managers were outfitted with Hewlett-Packard Evo Wi-Fi-enabled notebooks and wireless LAN cards for those with older-model computers. Carrying these devices while performing site visits will give district managers access to information when they need it, and encourage them to spend more time connecting with store managers and customers, says Karen Metro, Starbucks' VP of North American business systems.

Andrea Streedain, a district manager in Portland, Ore., who participated in a pilot program of the managerial wireless initiative, says having quick access to sales stats, E-mail, and contact information helps her provide more thorough assistance to the store managers that report to her. Otherwise, Streedain says, she would have to wait until she returns to her office to access the labor and financial data that resides in a proprietary program she connects to through the company's intranet. Not being tethered to the office also gives Streedain more time to learn firsthand about the challenges and opportunities store managers face.

In the future, Starbucks is considering networking home offices with Wi-Fi technology. "We're trying to lower our infrastructure costs in field offices," says James Snook, Starbucks' VP of IT and enterprise architecture. "If you need to tear out or change a network setup, it can get expensive if delivered with cabling." However, he adds, "you can reconfigure quickly with wireless." Such changes can occur frequently, particularly in the retail business, which has high turnover rates.

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