Just Eat CTO: ‘A shift to cloud allows us to focus on customers’

25 Aug 2017

Just Eat chief product and technology officer Fernando Fanton. Image: Just Eat

In the latest in our Five-Minute CIO series, Just Eat’s Fernando Fanton reveals how the on-demand food app balances innovation with scale.

After graduating with a computer science degree, Fernando Fanton joined Microsoft as a graduate in its Redmond headquarters, where he stayed for six years.

He left Microsoft to undertake an MBA at Wharton Business School and joined Goldman Sachs as an intern while studying. From Wharton, he spent almost three years as a consultant at McKinsey & Company.

In 2012, Fanton joined Elsevier in New York as head of technology strategy and, in 2013, he set up Mendeley.com in London, where he was SVP of global product and technology.

Fanton joined Just Eat in March 2016 as chief product and technology officer, and was recently in Dublin to attend a Just Eat food technology innovation day at The Digital Hub.

‘One thing that is really critical is the need to be focused and data-driven. It can be easy to chase rabbits down holes if you become fixated on an idea without understanding the data’

Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology roll-out across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?

Technology at Just Eat is not just about bringing improvements to the company. Instead, we are constantly looking at the benefits that we can bring to our 27,600 restaurant partners in the UK (75,400 worldwide) and to our customers. Everything else follows from that.

So, for instance, we have invested significantly in our OrderPad technology, which makes it far easier for restaurants to receive and process orders as well as enabling them to better manage their delivery fleets, which in turn leads to greater customer satisfaction. Around 55pc of UK orders were made using this technology in the first quarter and we are rolling it out across our other 11 markets. We have also worked hard on our app, which became the first Top 50 five-star app in the Apple app store, underlining our commitment to give our customers the very best product.

What are the main points of your company’s IT strategy?

At the heart of it is the principle that we should focus our internal technology teams on the areas where they, and only they, can create the maximum value for our customers, whether they be restaurant partners or consumers. That is what we excel at and where we should expend most of our energy. As an example, we host our infrastructure in the cloud, which gives us the freedom to develop new products such as those we have created with Amazon Fire, the Xbox and Apple Pay, for instance.

We also focus on the future. We have already run one successful accelerator programme – supporting and mentoring five start-ups – and we are currently embarking on our second. It helps us to keep at the forefront of technology in the food tech sector – a sector we want to see continue to grow.

Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?

We shifted our IT infrastructure into the cloud. This has enabled us to operate as the number one player in each of our markets, supporting the IT needs of more than 2,300 colleagues in 14 offices around the world, on top of providing our e-commerce platforms.

In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?

One thing that is really critical is the need to be focused and data-driven. It can be easy to chase rabbits down holes if you become fixated on an idea without understanding the data.

The second thing is always to remember why you are doing something. Again, it is easy to get carried away with what can be done, but you always need to recall why you are doing it; what do customers want and how can you best create value by providing it? It’s vital to be able to measure the benefits so you can prioritise what is really important.

How complex is the infrastructure, are you taking steps to simplify it?

We took a massive leap in simplifying our internal IT a number of years ago by moving it into the cloud. This meant we no longer had to worry about building and refreshing our own data centres. This step has ensured that my teams can focus instead on areas where we can really create value for restaurants and customers.

We have an e-commerce platform that processes up to 2,700 orders a minute across 12 markets in a number of different languages and across a suite of different platforms, from the Xbox One to the iPhone. Simplifying our infrastructure so we can concentrate on that is a key part of our success.

Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?

As a technology company, we have a great in-house team delivering our e-commerce platforms and internal IT systems. Rather than outsource, we work with partner organisations to supplement these resources where we need to deliver on key projects.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?

For us, they are one and the same – it is impossible to separate technology and the rest of the business. It’s my role to ensure that my colleagues in technology are delivering on the key business initiatives that make up the agreed corporate strategy. I work seamlessly with the rest of the executive team, which is extremely supportive of what we do.

What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?

The sector really is rapidly evolving, which presents some fantastic opportunities for us as well as challenges in terms of not only meeting the needs of restaurants and customers, but also being ahead of the curve to anticipate them for the future.

We are focused on ensuring we can grow the sector itself, as well as our own share of it, by increasing the breadth of our ordering platforms, many of which use entirely different interfaces, such as voice in the case of Amazon. We learned so much from being a launch partner for the Amazon Echo that we are applying this learning to other products.

Are there any areas you’ve identified where IT can improve, and what are they?

One of the key projects we have in place is to ensure closer alignment with our colleagues across the world. At the moment, the Just Eat businesses in other markets are run in a semi-autonomous way in a number of regards. What we want to do is bring them closer together in the technology space so that we can all benefit from our experience and expertise, wherever in the world it sits.

What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?

We are always working on new things, but you wouldn’t expect me to give too much away. All I can say is that they involve more channels, more products and more ways to improve our offering for restaurants – and, ultimately, to help customers find their flavour!

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years