By Valentina Tomov
Chief Program Officer
There are many lessons learned from the hardships experienced by businesses, communities and families in the past three years. We learned how to be resilient, flexible and innovative, to transform our organizations and press forward in difficult times. Through the uncertainty, having access to timely, reliable and accurate data became essential. We relied on it to make life- and business-saving decisions in a complex, extraordinary environment. We relied on technology more than ever before to help us evolve faster to keep up as the world changed overnight. While few had predicted or planned for the impacts of a global pandemic, some organizations that had thought long-term, invested in advanced data-driven decision-making capabilities and adopted up-to-date technologies fared better than others; some even leaped forward while competitors struggled.
I stepped into the chief program officer role at FEDA at a crucial time for the foodservice equipment industry and FEDA. From my first day in October, my primary focus has been on the further development of the FEDA Data Portal, formerly the Data Repository, a project that combines accurate and timely data and technology and that can transform the industry and ensure its ongoing success and resiliency.
Since it launched at the end of 2021, the newly renamed FEDA Data Portal has provided uniform and optimum data standards for product information. Once uploaded by manufacturers, that data is stored in a centralized location where it can be used by foodservice equipment dealers. We’ve seen a lot of progress over the past year as many manufacturers have joined the initiative and dealers are learning how to incorporate the Data Portal into their daily operations.
This year’s move toward FEDA’s new Data Portal and Support Center was the result of manufacturers sharing that they needed more support to complete all the required fields and a more straightforward upload and update process for their data. Also, distributors asked us to put in place automatic safeguards that ensure product data is always rich and up to date. Based on this feedback, FEDA has worked with SmartSource Management to create a fully functional and editable database, the Data Portal, that will soon make the upload and update process fast and convenient while guaranteeing that the data is robust and current for distributors to use. The looming launch of a support center for the Data Portal will provide ongoing tech and staff support for stakeholders who have limited resources and capacity or who are experiencing any other specific challenges.
In 2023, we will continue to consult with distributors and manufacturers to make enhancements to the Data Portal. In addition, a newly assembled FEDA Standards Committee will convene quarterly to govern and guide the data rules within the database. The committee will help us assess new product data standards and adjust existing standards.
FEDA is also in the process of launching beta test groups that will test new features as they are developed throughout the year. SmartSource Management and FEDA will work together to add more help-at-a-glance guides that will be made available through the FEDA Learn website, including short how-to videos and FAQs that address common problems.
As FEDA’s chief program officer, I am excited to lead these efforts to make the FEDA Data Portal an indispensable industry resource. But my focus is not limited to the data project. I look forward to bringing my experience in leading and developing programming for trade and economic development organizations to enhance FEDA’s other programs, including Young Industry Leaders and those offered during the annual conference. Making those programs paragons for the industry will require support and feedback from the association’s members and I’m excited about engaging with and learning from members about their needs, ideas and vision for the future of FEDA’s programs. This will ensure programs remain relevant, resourceful and forward-looking. Finally, yet importantly, I want to thank the many FEDA members that have reached out to me and FEDA’s small but mighty team for the warm welcome.