Toast powers tens of thousands of restaurants of all sizes with a combination of point of sale, front of house, back of house, and guest facing technology. They have nearly 3,000 employees, 80+ technology partners, and over 300 engineers in the U.S. and in Dublin, Ireland focused on delivering a complete technology suite for the modern restaurant. Maria Loughlin, VP of Engineering in the US, and Robert McGarry, VP of Engineering in Ireland, strive for engineering excellence that delivers customer value in a good cadence. They invest in tools, processes and environments to empower engineers to be the best they can be.
In order to maintain a high performing engineering team while scaling rapidly, Toast set out to optimize their engineering teams through evidence-based reviews of effectiveness, identifying excellence, and sharing best practices. As engineering has grown quickly, it has become increasingly challenging to manage and measure their distributed teams They are implementing a two-part strategy to continue to deliver engineering excellence to the market:
The second part of their strategy was in line with their overall objective to be more data driven as an organization. However, they struggled with consistency in their reporting, McGarry commented, “Like any high performing org, we’ve always tried to analyze and assess as many data points as we can. But we were doing that differently in different groups, and it wasn’t very scalable, it wasn’t very repeatable. So rather than getting the results we wanted, we were drowning in the data.”
They tried to automate the reporting process with a combination of add-ons to their existing systems and macros to create dashboards, but quickly realized that they were spending too much time on questionable results. McGarry detailed the problem, “The amount of effort involved in sourcing the required data, cleaning it, ensuring it represents what you think it represents, and keeping up with the changes in the process and products that you’re sourcing it from was a significant workload that requires a singular focus.” And because different groups created different reports, there was even more time lost interpreting and debating the resulting data. They needed a solution that would deliver consistent, accurate quantitative measures.
It was an easy decision for Toast to turn to Jellyfish to provide the solution they were looking for. McGarry recalled making the decision, “We chose Jellyfish because they are an innovator in the engineering management space and they are pioneering this field. Plus they provide a consultative approach with their technology and recommended solutions to our problems, rather than us trying to figure it out ourselves.”
Jellyfish provided the structured approach Toast needed to gather all the data required to manage and optimize their engineering teams. They now have meaningful data-driven conversations with teams and individual engineers, helping them understand how their day-to-day work impacts company performance, identifying excellence and providing guidance on how to best contribute to a world-class engineering team. Managers are now proactive day-to-day as the work happens to recognize great people and facilitate continuous improvement across all teams. “Jellyfish is uniquely good at getting to the right levels of granularity from a holistic set of data, to help us improve team performance and investment balance. Too much data, and you’re drowning. Too little data, and you’re not seeing the full picture of what’s happening. Jellyfish focuses our attention on meaningful data.” McGarry stated.
Maria Loughlin recently joined Toast, and has been impressed by Jellyfish, “Before joining Toast, I had never seen this level of granularity in engineering performance data. It gives us the ability to have conversations across all teams about what’s typical, and what excellence looks like. We have up-to-the minute data showing trends in performance that we can analyze and manage”
In addition to data-driven performance reviews, McGarry, Loughlin, and the Toast engineering team are using Jellyfish’s allocation framework for investment reviews and decisions, as well as the cost-capitalization process. “Jellyfish has given us a really good perspective on the anchor of tech debt we’re carrying, and where we’re paying for that tech debt, which helps justify investment decisions,” McGarry commented.
Since implementing Jellyfish, the Toast engineering team has recognized significant time savings that they previously spent manually gathering and reporting on the data, “Jellyfish has brought an evolution to how we utilize performance data. Now that Jellyfish reports the right metrics automatically for us, the numbers we need are just there. We have higher trust in the data because it is consistent, and no longer sourced ad-hoc by different individuals. As a result, we devote more time to the qualitative aspect of performance and other work that requires our attention”.
Jellyfish has helped Toast realize their goal of data-driven engineering management, “Engineering teams always strive to be more data-driven, and Jellyfish is a tool that lets us actually be data-driven throughout the organization,” Loughlin concluded.