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2015 CIO Summit Review: Loews Coronado Bay Resort in San Diego

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October 15, 2015
CIO Summit Review
Kris Burnett - kris@hospitalityupgrade.com

A sunset dinner cruise aboard a beautiful 48-foot catamaran, a sailboat regatta with eight teams competing in San Diego Bay, a beach party on Coronado Island and a visit to the USS Midway – it sounds like the perfect vacation, right? But it wasn’t… what it was, was the perfect conference.

Now don’t get me wrong, the 14th Annual CIO Summit attendees definitely enjoyed these extra-curricular activities and sites, but what they really enjoyed was the unmatched opportunity for networking with their peers and the highly informative educational sessions, in addition to the beautiful weather that only San Diego can provide.

For those who arrived the night before the conference, Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) and Hospitality Financial and Technical Professionals (HFTP) hosted a fantastic dinner on a catamaran during an amazing sunset over San Diego Bay. And, in place of a golf tournament or scavenger hunt, this year’s attendees were placed in crews of six to compete in a regatta. While the competition was stiff, the team of Hard Rock International’s Wendy Mertz, Tim Dickson of Auberge Resorts, Greg Taylor of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Marriott’s Jerry Ulrich, Jason Shane of Hersha Hospitality Management and Shannon Provence of Golden Nugget Casinos edged out the other teams to garner first place. Second place honors went to Dominic Van Nes of Pebble Beach Company, Bradley Koch of HEI Hotels & Resorts, Tony DelMastro of Loews Hotels, Marcus Hotels & Resorts’ Peter Engel, Peter Chambers of Viceroy Hotel Group and Enseo’s David Simpson. And, awarded “Most Likely the Sink,” in last place, we found HTNG’s Mike Blake, McLean Xavier of Westmont Hospitality Group, Nader Nemati of Montage Hotels & Resorts, Delaware North Companies’ Kevin Quinlivan, Scott Nunn of Commune Hotels & Resorts and HFTP’s Frank Wolfe. The day’s events were capped off by a very creative – and you could say global – ice breaker, followed by a welcome reception on the Coronado Island beach.

This year’s educational session topics ranged from the legal side of vendor/supplier agreements to a look at guest experience in another “fast-paced” industry, to mobile as Google sees it, to the benefits of having your leadership aligned, to an open discussion on EMV adoption and where each of the represented companies stand, to understanding customers in order to provide the best services, to a CIO roundtable covering just about every topic under the sun. Add in three mini sessions led by attendees themselves, and you have the recipe for one of the most popular sets of presentations in The CIO Summit’s 14 years, based on attendee feedback. Mini-session topics this year included: EMV adoption and where the attendees are in the process, advice for a new hospitality industry CIO, and future-proofing to stay ahead of the game, and were led by Richard Tudgay of Omni Hotels & Resorts, Scott Nunn of Commune Hotels & Resorts and Lance Kobza of Pillar Hotels & Resorts.

Session One – The Blame Game
Greg Duff, chair of Garvey Schubert Barer’s hospitality, travel and tourism practice, discussed contracts and the liability that goes with them if not properly composed. From vendor relationships to third parties, Duff provided an outline for being proactive and preventing the finger pointing associated with a security breach or other technical issue that might affect a hotel’s employees and its guests.

Duff said the days of one vendor are over and the term “vendor” is misapplied. “Today’s hospitality IT system providers must be viewed as integrators of multiple systems, products and services,” he said.

It all comes down to the fact that when contracting with a vendor, or integrator partner as Duff said, you have to do your due diligence with regard to knowledge and awareness, contractual protections, representation and warrantees, costs and fees, indemnity, joint and several liability, support and maintenance, service-level agreements (SLA) and assignment.
By far the most important consideration with regard to the cloud according to Duff are data protection and security, privacy, IP preservation and jurisdiction – where your data is stored and transferred. One recommendation was to review your privacy policy every year. Duff touched on the Wyndham case when the guests were promised one thing and what they were getting was something completely different. “The approach taken by your IT system provider and its third parties with regard to privacy and data security must mirror the approach taken by you,” he said. 

In the case of the cloud, Duff said some argue that if you place a trade secret in the cloud, it is no longer a trade secret. Also, because of data centers in other countries like India or Singapore, it can be a nightmare for lawyers to figure out where the law applies.

Paul Major of Aspen Skiing Company brought up the concern over not just guest data but employee data now that his company has all of its HR systems in the cloud. With regard to human capital management, this is a growing concern. As he said, “If there’s an issue (a problem with employee data), you’re not going to have any employees.”

Brian Garavuso of Diamond Resorts pointed out some issues when working with third parties, including when a hotel company is working with one solution provider and it is also working with a cloud provider, but the hotel company has no relationship with the third party that has its data. As Duff explained, three-plus years ago this was routine and most didn’t understand the relationship. “Having an awareness of the third parties that contribute to your IT system is critical,” Duff added. His recommendation is to go back to the PMS provider and also go directly to the cloud service provider and address any concerns over data storage and liability in your contract.

As a consultant, Jeremy Rock of RockIT Group cautioned that sometimes companies can strong arm hoteliers. “If you have influence, that’s great, but what we see is, ‘Sign it,’ and there is no negotiation. It’s either take it or don’t take it.” Depending upon if it is a larger vendor, he said, sometimes you may not be able to walk away from the deal. Duff’s recommendation was to see how far apart your privacy policy is from what the vendor is willing to do. “That’s where I would start,” he said. “If far, you probably don’t want to deal with that vendor.”

Everyone agreed that one challenge is dealing with larger companies like Amazon or Apple. As Duff mentioned, you may not have as much leverage.

Session Two – New IT and Marketing Trends
Some of the more popular sessions at past CIO Summits have been those where the attendees get a look at technology inside a different industry, and this year was no exception. When you think of NASCAR, you may not think of guests, but they are exactly the focus of this unique industry – the experience these fans have through the fast-paced world of professional racing and the challenges associated with attracting and retaining this audience. Jon Bonanni, senior director, business development – emerging technologies for NASCAR, and Michael Donovan, industry chief technologist – consumer, retail, travel and transportation for HP, led this eye-opening session.

“Leveraging the power of social media analytics and a strong partnership between IT and marketing teams has allowed NASCAR to improve both understanding and engagement of fans, sponsors, teams and venues to improve the race experience,” said Donovan. He also mentioned digital experience – examples like Hilton offering the ability to select a room type… how do you push the guest to eat at the property’s restaurant instead of going off property? “It’s not about social media, it’s using the data to impact the guest experience in a positive way,” he said.

James Lingle asked the panel where they see the IT and marketing relationship going today. Bonanni said NASCAR pulled in a Disney executive at one point and created technology that follows everything from happenings on the track to the people in the stands. He suggested a closer working relationship with marketing to add dimension to CRM, fan outreach, and other services because they all require technology. With NASCAR’s mobile app and new website, they are just starting to figure out how to increase engagement as Bonanni said, but they are on their way to improving the fan experience through the use of technology.

Session Three – Embrace Mobility and Unlock Real Transformation
Andy Zmolek, partner development manager for the Android for Work program at Google, gave attendees a look at how mobility can transform the hospitality industry even further than it has already.

“We live in a world with screens, and now our screens go everywhere with us,” he said. Mobile devices have changed the way we buy, entertain and learn, but we have not seen this transformation at work (59 percent can’t access content attachments on mobile, 79 percent can’t access video conferencing on a mobile device, and 72 percent need a PC to complete a complex task).

Zmolek said that mobile is more of a shift than a trend; four years ago mobile device use surpassed that of PC use. “Mobility should impact the workplace like it has impacted our personal lives,” he said. In his mind, we can transform businesses by making them 10x more efficient and 10x better at engaging customers. “The future is mobile only, not just mobile first,” he said.

Most field workers still rely on paper and manual processes, but he referenced a quote from Matt Cain of Gartner Group, “Enterprises that focus on creating a more engaged workforce through a more social, mobile, accessible and data-driven work environment will gain significant competitive advantage over companies that continue with a traditional IT orientation.”

Now that mobile devices come in all types and prices (i.e., watch, wearable, phablet, laptop, television, phone, tablet, signage and billboard), Zmolek said we need to push ISVs and integrators to develop true next-generation solutions.

Session Four – Navigating Change: Using Intentional Leadership to Disrupt the Status Quo
In by far one of the most popular sessions of the conference, and definitely the most interactive, Renie Cavallari, founder, CEO and chief instigator of Aspire, brought her engaging and animated style to the group, promoting quite a bit of discussion, sharing, and some really good kazoo playing. Cavallari exposed the advantages of aligning leadership within an organization, and provided some extremely beneficial recommendations for creating teams that can consistently deliver on the brand’s/company’s mission in an effective and efficient manner.

The first question she posed to the group was: Who wants to learn how to work smarter? That’s a given, right? The next question to the group was: What are the greatest challenges you face as you navigate the evolution of your organization and disrupt the status quo?
Mike Blake of HTNG said that many companies are stuck in habit or tradition. He said, “All of us are dealing with the same thing, tradition. We want to make changes, but they’re like, ‘Not so fast.’”

Monika Nerger of Mandarin Oriental compared her situation to that of Mark MacBeth at Starwood. “We face the same issues… but we are two very different examples.” As she noted, her company is steeped in tradition (with the same CEO since 1998 in a company with a long history and based in Hong Kong), while Starwood is younger and is very much driven by the market. Both face similar adoption challenges, but for very different reasons.

According to Cavallari, “Today’s technology leaders must be responsive and agile, balancing employee engagement and customer demand – and maintaining the status quo is not an option. Deliberate disruption is the key, and an aligned team unlocks more potential than you can imagine.”

As part of her presentation, Cavallari discussed her Six Pillars of International Leadership with the group: connection, clean communication, compassion, purpose, participation, and 100 percent responsibility and accountability. As she pointed out, along with alignment, these pillars are directly involved in promoting trust in an organization, understanding among team members, boosting innovation and initiative, and creating a successful environment.

Session Five – Security (Securing Vulnerabilities)
Once again, Michael Donovan of HP lended his expertise to the group, leading an open discussion about vulnerability concerns across the industry, not just guests’ personally identifiable information (PII), but employee information, legacy systems and the challenges of system integration with multiple vendors and third parties.

“Five years ago, if we talked about security, it was a very technical conversation (i.e., firewalls, etc.),” he said. Now it is more about who is accessing my critical information and where is it going; what am I doing to protect it.

Donovan pointed out that today, it isn’t a conversation about if your systems will be compromised; it’s about when and what you’re going to do about it — what is the impact to the organization and how do I manage the likelihood that it’s going to be compromised.

Stealing Big Data is big business. According to Donovan, contractors are one of the most likely breach points in your systems (heating and air, A/V, etc.). They use these systems to get into the network and look around. He said, hoteliers have to focus on detection; they have to learn to look for who wants to disrupt the functionality in your organization.

He recommended comparing copies of reports like financial data to make sure someone has not gone into your system and changed things.
When you detect a breach, Donovan said you have to go out and hire someone (have a CIRT team on standby), and then give them access to your system – but this could take months. “When I talk about CIRT teams, it’s really about rapid response,” he said. “Effective security incident response is the ability to respond rapidly and efficiently to an incident.”

He asked how many in the audience have a CISO (chief information security officer), and about 8 of the 60 CIOs raised their hands. (In some cases, companies have renamed this position chief risk officer).

Mark MacBeth of Starwood added that education of employees is very important as well. “We all focus on intrusion. What we haven’t focused on is our people,” he said. “Which is the biggest risk? A USB… no it’s your people… It’s an ongoing issue. I would like 45 minutes of computer training, but I can’t get anyone on board.” While his company mandates sexual harassment training, he cannot get approval for employees to get computer training.

Brian Garavuso said his team does have security awareness training from a solution provider, as does Vivek Shaiva of La Quinta. Richard Tudgay from Omni said they have training as well; Omni brought in a company that was 100 percent dedicated to security to train employees and every week, they send out security-focused podcasts.

Another recommendation that Garavuso mentioned was that his company has hired a security firm to look at the company’s security risk policy… which in turn also gives his team a way to increase its budget for security.

As Donovan concluded, “Security is no longer just an IT issue, but has been raised to the board level. It is about managing risk and a deliberate program to identify, evaluate, protect and respond to threats to key assets in the enterprise.”

Session Six – The Art of Selling
After some very positive feedback at last year’s CIO Summit, industry consultant Jeremy Rock brought his unique style back to this year’s event, providing a forum for open discussion behind closed doors. We would love to tell you the details of what was discussed, but we can’t.

What we can tell you is that the very animated discussions included a sales skit with attendees Ron Hardin of Davidson Hotels & Resorts, HTNG’s Mike Blake and Nelson Garrido of Brookfield Hotel Properties/Thayer Lodging. This session also covered several experiences from those in the audience where they had to get more funding for a project but the budgets were tight, the role of CIOs at the executive table and how it is changing, challenges when selling ideas to owners and franchisees, and selling new technologies to developers. The sharing of experiences definitely could have taken up an entire day, but the group had one last session left before heading to the airport.

Session Seven – Engaging the Customer
With the myriad booking options available today, hoteliers have the challenges of attracting potential guests and retaining them. The last session of the conference covered the technology behind this process, understanding different guests’ needs and how the hoteliers can come out on top. Peter Eckert, co-founder, and chief experience officer for projekt202, a company focused on experience-driven application development, and Traci Terterian, user experience director for HP, provided insight to the group.

Topics included four customer engagement trends focused around hoteliers moving beyond repair and starting to future-proof their digital experiences. As Eckert and Terterian described, the shift from “app-centric” to multichannel can include experimenting with different interfaces, attempting future-start journey mapping, and broadening engagement channels, partners and offerings. With regard to the trend of context-aware, highly personalized experiences, they recommended collecting and managing deeper digital fingerprints, sharing and collecting data through alliances, and experimenting with localization technologies. Another trend, the shift from data to “actionable insights” can be focused around experimenting with new technologies, moving from data collection to insights-driven architecture, and partnering with your CMO to develop insight teams and processes. And the last trend described, the Internet of things (IoT), augmented reality (AR) and new interfaces can include starting to smart-tag items, experimenting with new interfaces and technologies, but as they cautioned, don’t jump in too quickly. Create an integration strategy or philosophy first.

Terterian emphasized the importance of that deep level of customer understanding and having a strategy in your company to use this information. For example, mobile keys are not a great idea if you have a large percentage of older guests who do not use smartphones.
The CIO dilemma also presented in this session, and many in the audience agreed, included the lack of a deep understanding of customer needs; delivering quality experiences across the channels; no adequate tools and processes to measure real success; and the responsibility for driving business value vs. “keeping the lights on.”

As she concluded, “Focusing on a clear understanding of your customers – their needs, wants and desires – is an essential foundation for customer engagement. CIOs should join forces with their C-level counterparts to develop horizontal customer experience teams that master the soft skills, like journey mapping, to assure that their organizations are delivering relevant and personalized experiences for their guests.”
You just cannot beat this forum for promoting discussion between the technology leaders in the hospitality industry. The opportunity provided to encourage open discussions in a casual environment without interruption from outside distractions and multiple vendors is unmatched. The networking and ability to open a line of communication with their peers is invaluable to all who attend. Don’t take it from me though, listen to the 100 percent (nope, not a typo) of attendees who said they would unwaveringly recommend this conference to others in the industry.

“The CIO Summit is an experience more than an event,” confirmed Stephane Magnat of ClubMed Americas. “It’s always a great opportunity to network, to share ideas and insights, where sessions are informative and on topic for current trends and technologies.”

Special thanks to event sponsors Infor, Enseo, SkyTouch Technology, Thing5, association founding partner, HFTP and program partner, HP, as well as transportation sponsors Newmarket, Cendyn, Rainmaker Group and Venza Group.

- Review by Kris Burnett, Editor - Hospitality Upgrade
©2015 Hospitality Upgrade
This work may not be reprinted, redistributed or repurposed without written consent.
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CIO Interviews: What technology initiatives are you and your company focused on currently and over the next 12 months?

John Burns, president of Hospitality Technology Consulting, and Hospitality Upgrade’s own Kris Burnett had the opportunity to sit down with several of the CIOs in attendance at HU’s 14th annual CIO Summit. These leaders revealed was the most challenging issues they have faced over the last 12 months, their experience finding, hiring and retaining qualified IT staff, and how their role has changed during their tenure. To hear more about these topics from some of the leading executives across different markets in the global hospitality industry, please scan this page using the LAYAR app, or visit our HUTube page on the Hospitality Upgrade website.

Todd Davis
CIO, Choice Hotels International

(Note: Choice Hotels International has 6,100 hotels globally, with brands ranging from economy to midscale, and a few recent additions in the upscale arena.)

“We have a lot of major projects going on right now, everything from revenue management to further maturing our future state distribution platform, and we are constantly doing integrations around loyalty – as we all recognize how loyalty and customer satisfaction are important. (We are) getting more and more into the mobile arena, both on Android and iOS... We just implemented a brand new ChoiceHotels.com website earlier this year that was a very significant effort; it was a ground-up rewrite of the entire system.”

Laurent Idrac
Worldwide CIO, Accor

(Note: The Accor portfolio contains 3,800 hotels in 92 countries, 1,400 of which are owned by Accor.)

“There are eight programs that we are currently focused on. (The eight initiatives are centered around mobile, seamless journey – to make sure they are able to provide guests with a consistent experience, CRM – as its loyalty program has grown from 10 million to 22 million this year, B2B, employees – to give them the tools and understanding of the digital transformation, partners/owners – as Accor works with owners in 2,400 of its 3,800 properties, infrastructure transformation, and finally, data.)”

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