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Leveraging Business Intelligence To Improve Business Operations
By Scott Strickland, CIO, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
Wyndham Hotels and Resorts is the largest hotel company with 9300 properties. That’s about 940,000 rooms; think of the volume of guests checking in and out of those rooms on any given day. It’s growing, and we have to be very efficient to accommodate the data involved there. We have three types of customers here at Wyndham. One is the internal team member; the second customer is our franchisee themselves, and then third is the guest, “the actual head” that sleeps in that bed. So when we talk about our BI (Business Intelligence) model and the customer that we’re trying to collect intelligence on, we have to be careful as to how it is defined.
We want to learn about our guests (we don’t need to know everything about our guests). People might check-in and check out once their entire life into one of our properties. But if you start to come in frequently, you’re a loyal guest, and then you ought to become part of our loyalty program. And that’s where BI can play a huge role because we can identify our loyal members. We can stratify them and look for ways to improve the guest experience and service.
We also want to know as much as we can about that franchisee: how is their property is performing and help them be successful. A franchisee has a hotel; is that hotel performing well?; If it’s not then how we can help them and also analyze whether their rate structure is set up properly or not; do they need help with advertising? Are the digital assets and pictures that they’re giving us that we in turn put up on our websites for them are of high quality? And so on. Thus, there are a lot of reasons that go into performing well as a franchisee, and we want to help them achieve those. These are just some of the questions that we’re going to ask out of a BI tool.
How has the business changed over the years and have the expectations of the customers or franchisee changed with the times or has it remained the same. Accordingly, how have your BI strategies and processes changed?
Over the years our both our franchisee and guest have matured, and they’re participating in the consumerization of IT. They expect that the enterprise-level reporting that we’re going to provide them will be as simple to access as them getting on to a web site. In addition, both the franchisee and the guests expect to have a mobile-first experience. They expect that they can view these reports, check into a hotel as a guest, and view their folios after they check out all on a mobile device. This was a nice to have - but now providing a mobile-first experience to both our franchisee and guest is considered table stakes.
In terms of the way we support those expectations, we’ve had to build a new operating model and build out a proper BI organization. We had to build out a new organization structure.
The future is going to be about where the physical world meets the digital world. In an interview with CIO Applications, Scott Strickland, CIO, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, explains that “The days of “we’re going to build a data warehouse in five years from now, everyone is going to be able to look at it and see some data” are over. So you’ve got to build some quick wins without sacrificing your long term vision.”
And ultimately what this looks like is we had to define clearly what IT’s and business’s role and where do we overlap. We need to have clear roles and responsibilities so that we’re each contributing independently. The expectations of our internal team members have also matured alongside those of our franchisees. They expect new tools to be simple and also to be web-based, very intuitive, simple user interfaces like drag and drop. Whereas five years ago you could still end up generating a lot of reports that looked like they were coming out of Excel and that’s no longer the case. Expectations of all three of our customer groups have matured, and we’ve had to mature alongside them by building out a new operating model and an organization by understanding what each one of these wants.
What goes on in your leadership discussions, and what are the preparatory steps to follow while using BI tools?
The first thing is, do not make the decisions on your own; you had to have a cross-functional team when you make the decisions and secondly work with your vendors and make them partners. This isn’t the time where vendors and you have a contract, and everyone delivers to the contract. This is a time to say what vendors am I going to place bets on who in turn place bets on you. Because once you establish a BI infrastructure, it’s not easy to move. You need to work with your vendors and make them partners to place appropriate bets.
Next, you have to have some quick wins. The days of “we’re going to build a data warehouse in five years from now, everyone is going to be able to look at it and see some data” are over. So you’ve got to build some quick wins without sacrificing your long term vision of course. But you do have to build out for some demonstration of business value as to “here is where we’ve solved some real business problems quickly.” That way people get excited and then, in turn, are willing to give you the money and wait for the investments so that you can scale.
Lastly, we don’t have a data center anymore. That means when you look at your BI tools, they should also be cloud-based. The rest of our infrastructure is cloud-based then why aren’t BI tools? That has been a significant mind shift change for us as well. Just because your data is housed in the cloud; doesn’t mean it’s not your data. It just means that you need to change your security, approval, and access model around that data; now that’s someone else’s hosting, and I’m running it for you.
Would you like to give a piece of advice for the CIO community as to how should they approach this industry?
You toned to publicize some of your successes as you go through. The other aspect is, experiment a little bit with data enrichment, and as you enrich that data, you can look for trends and patterns across your guest and customer group. For us, for example, our diamond tier loyalty members-are they all high loyalty members of an airline? If so, which airlines? As we will be partnering with them. Taking those same loyalty members, do they have a guest credit card? If so, why aren’t we partnering with them as well so that they can earn hotel points? If I learn about that guest, then I’m able to influence the direction that my business would go.
In the future, how do you plan to make more of BI?
The future is going to be about where the physical world meets the digital world. When they walk onto our property, how are we enhancing that guest experience for them? Are we immediately providing a mobile key? Are we allowing them to text us when they need any assistance, and checking them into our Wi-Fi without authentication because we know who they are? The key interaction point is going to be the mobile device for them while they’re on the property.
We should be able to offer them a better-personalized experience due to IoT and all it will enable. So let’s say you check-in, we know that you like the thermostat to be at 70 degrees. We let you adjust the light level to be at a certain point. We know that because of the IoT devices that recorded that information at our last hotel you checked in. At this hotel, we should be able to offer you an immediate personalized experience to make it more consistent for you. The only way we can offer those capabilities is via BI.