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Technology Rock Stars MIKE RAWSON

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April 19, 2021
Technology Leaders
Fran Worrall

The People Leading the Industry

In HU’s second annual ‘Technology Rock Stars’ special report, we feature 10 technology leaders who have set themselves apart as hospitality’s best and brightest. Selected by a panel of hotel and gaming consultants and insiders, these men and women not only are driving change within their organizations but also are at the forefront of innovation in the industry. Our profiles provide an in-depth look at their recent accomplishments and highlight their predictions for technology’s future. We also share some of their personal bests ó ranging from favorite travel destinations (everywhere from Napa Valley to New Zealand) to favorite periodicals (in addition to Hospitality Upgrade, of course). We hope you enjoy this year’s special report.

citizenM Hotels

Mike Rawson is chief information officer for Amsterdam-based citizenM Hotels. He joined the organization in 2019 after serving in technology leadership roles at The Heineken Company, DB Breweries and Kohler. In the early years of his career, he held a variety of technology positions, including business analyst, solution architect and programmer.

One of the things that attracted Rawson to citizenM was its unique business model that vertically integrates almost every element of the technology stack. His primary initiatives since joining the company have been to streamline processes and restructure the IT department to maximize efficiency and enhance its ability to collaborate with the larger business. The result has been a significant increase in the delivery speed of products and features to both guests and the organization.

Rawson is implementing digital twin technology – which pairs the physical and virtual worlds to simulate, predict and improve outcomes – to help citizenM plan for the future. “We’re unique among hospitality companies in that we build and own more than 80 percent of our hotels,” he said. “Digital twinning allows us to run simulations before we construct a new property so that we can build faster and with higher quality and head off problems before they occur.”

In addition, he introduced robotic process automation to citizenM, which helps the company deliver rapid integration across multiple systems and reduces repetitive tasks so that staff can focus on value-added activities. The IT team also implemented an off-the-shelf enterprise resource planning system to centralize the organization’s back-end structure.

When it comes to guest service, Rawson has invested heavily in guest journey mapping and customer profiling solutions, both of which enable citizenM to offer highly targeted service. And last year, the company selected a new customer data platform as part of its We Know You guest loyalty program. “Our new CDP will form the foundation of our customer data strategy going forward and will allow personalization at scale,” he said.

Although the pandemic created a year filled with challenges for the hospitality industry, citizenM has turned crisis into opportunity. “For many hotels companies, COVID-19 mandated innovation through desperation,” he said. “We used the time to remove friction – literally – and add value to the guest journey, both inside and outside our properties.”

Rawson notes the tremendous acceleration of disruptive technologies in recent years and its often unintended negative effects on business. “You could easily argue that we’re drowning in technology and data.” The trick, he said, is to identify the new elements that can remove friction or add value either by synergizing or replacing existing solutions. “These days ‘business’ and ‘technology’ are synonymous – and called digital – and the blending of the two creates a powerful engine to support the guest journey,” he concluded. “Hotels that realize this sooner rather than later will position themselves for success.” 

Family: Married, with two teenage daughters.

Go-To Periodical or Website: The Atlantic. “It offers balanced and thoughtful world views.”

Book: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. “It’s an escapist triumph that’s timeless.” 

Hobbies: Cryptocurrencies, fishing, reading and bodysurfing.

Music: Music from the 80s. “Check out my huge 80s Spotify playlist, and feel free to add anything I’ve missed.”

Favorite Travel Destination: New Zealand. “As a Kiwi myself, I have to say that home is one of the best vacation spots in the world.”

Advice to Young People:  “Learn to program. It’s the future.”

Dinner With: Elon Musk. “I’m really interested in understanding his business philosophy and approach, especially given the incredible diversity of Tesla vs. SpaceX, for example.”

©2021 Hospitality Upgrade
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