Paul Armstrong was inducted into the RSPA (Retail Solutions Providers Association) Retail Technology Industry Hall of Fame July 31 at RetailNOW 2023 in Orlando, FL.
Armstrong is a five-decade veteran of the point-of-sale industry. He currently serves as Vice President of Food and Beverage at Oracle.
Armstrong is a native of England who grew up working at his father’s cash register business. He started his career with MICROS where he supported technology transitions from early POS systems to SaaS. After a brief retirement, Armstrong reentered the work force to develop numerous innovations to help the hospitality technology industry. He has contributed to the development of POS systems used across the world.
Armstrong was presented for induction by Alan Hayman of Hayman Consulting Group.
Following is the complete text of Hayman’s introduction:
Paul Armstrong is an engineer, Architect, Tech Evangelist, Business Executive, husband, father, brother, colleague, and friend.
He is best known for his ability to read markets, recognize customer opportunities, and create elegant tech solutions that provide restaurant operators a competitive advantage. Over the past four decades, he has been on the forefront of hospitality technology innovation. Well over 200,000 restaurants around the world have utilized POS systems that Paul is responsible for developing.
Today at Oracle, as Vice President of Food and Beverage, Paul has led a team of hundreds of engineers spread around the globe, including the Simphony product group. He has been responsible for strategy, development, and cloud operations utilized by the largest restaurant operators in over 100 countries including companies like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Brands, HMS Host and Aramark.
Paul grew up near Liverpool, England, and during school holidays, like several of us in this room, he worked in his father’s cash register business by learning the business from the ground up, watching technology migrate from “old school” gears and clutches to exciting new CPUs and software.
While studying engineering at Cambridge University and as a summer intern in Japan with JCM, he got a taste of what a successful global business looked like. After graduating from Cambridge, Paul started a master’s program while working in his father’s business. Fortunately for Paul, in 1978 the company became one of the first MICROS international distributors.
As a result of a chance meeting with CEO of MICROS, Paul was easily persuaded to complete his master’s thesis in the U.S. designing a new MICROS product line. Soon after, he joined the company as a full-time employee. For the next 27 years Paul was instrumental in MICROS’ product success and technology evolution from early POS to open solutions to SaaS.
From his first ICRDA show in Reno, he learned to appreciate the insightful feedback from our members. MICROS leveraged our reseller strength as the foundation for its global distribution. On the product front, Paul and his teams created multiple generations of very successful POS solutions including the MICROS 4700, 2700, 8700, 3700 and mymicros.
In 2008, at age 50, Paul became a US citizen and decided to retire from MICROS where he had risen to become CTO. After the first six months, the realization set in that you can only play so much golf, scuba dive, and kick back. The intellectual challenge of running a competitive business is so much more engaging and a central tenet of Paul’s DNA.
Over lunch in 2009, Paul and I, as long-time colleagues and friends, decided to create a smartphone app publishing business called XCO Digital. Over the next decade, the mobile business and platform created by Paul thrived while publishing hundreds of well-known XCO consumer apps for professional sports teams including the Miami Heat, presidential libraries, museums, the Smithsonian National Zoo, tech conferences, and the 800-unit Hair Cuttery chain.
In 2014, Oracle purchased MICROS but struggled to get meaningful traction in the restaurant market. Larry Ellison and Mark Hurd recognized the need for a turnaround. In 2018, they formed the Food and Beverage Global Business Unit with a new proven leadership team. This strategy included persuading Paul to join Oracle as its global product development leader. Despite huge challenges, Oracle’s F&B business is now healthy, growing, and one of the few global options for today’s growing restaurant enterprises. The business has migrated from being POS centric to digital centric, leveraging Oracle’s tech and cloud stack. Paul has driven this evolution
And now, after 40 years of leading our industry by creating multiple generations of hospitality technology, it is my distinct honor and pleasure to recognize our friend and colleague, Paul Armstrong, as the newest inductee to the RSPA Retail Technology Hall of Fame.
Following is the complete text of Armstrong’s acceptance speech:
It’s a great honor to be recognized by this 75-year-old association.
Thank you to everyone who nominated me, all 23 of you. Most like Alan, have been customers, colleagues and friends for many decades. I am deeply humbled.
Thank you to Jim Roddy and the RSPA for all you do for our businesses, bringing us together for these valuable events, helping us evolve to make our customers more competitive.
Like Alan, I grew up in the shadow of my father’s cash register business. As a teenager I worked my school holidays learning to repair and recondition mechanical cash registers. But what I really enjoyed was going on sales calls with my uncle Bob, our VP of Sales. That started my lifelong desire to create things people want to buy.
As Lou Brown, the founder of MICROS and RSPA Hall of Famer, continuously reminded me, put your smartest people in front of your smartest customers, great things come from those engagements. Actually, our successes are because of those smart customers. I think this maxim is just as true today.
Living in a world where tech is continuously changing is a challenge to all of us. Every decade there’s dislocation and our products and services need to evolve to be competitive. Over the years, we have all seen so many successful startups that have not been able to make that next generational leap.
Looking back, as much as I love all things mechanical like cars, it’s great that our industry became software driven and is now becoming AI [artificial intelligence] and ML [machine learning] driven. AI and ML are fantastic media for next gen creativity, for which there really are no boundaries. I love this kind of Machine Learning, no going home with oil and purple ink on my hands.
So over almost 50 years, I have worked for my dad, MICROS, myself, and now Oracle. What really shocks me is how much I have learnt in the last five years and continue to learn. And despite Covid, over the last five years our Oracle restaurant team has been able to turn around MICROS and the business is now on an upward trajectory.
Follow your instincts, leverage technology, do what’s right for your customers. In my experience, everything else follows.
So, thank you to all of you, thank you to our industry. I am just one of many that have become the human I am today because I grew up here.
Finally thank you to my family, Katherine, Meg and Drew, all of whom are here today, for supporting me and putting up with my single-minded focus for many years.