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Technology Rock Stars Brian Kirkland Choice Hotels

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April 08, 2022
Technology Leaders
Fran Worrall - fran@hospitalityupgrade.com

2022 Technology Rock Stars:
Brian Kirkland

CIO, Choice Hotels International


 

Brian Kirkland is chief information officer of Choice Hotels International, where he oversees all aspects of IT, including strategy, infrastructure, operations and development. He joined the company in 2015 as vice president of engineering, where he led engineering teams at the company’s Phoenix-based technology headquarters. Prior to joining Choice Hotels, he served as vice president of engineering at GoDaddy. He is a member of Arizona’s Information Technology Authorization Committee, serves on the Board of Governors for Hospitality Technology Next Generation and is on Arizona State University’s Executive Council for the Department of Information Systems.

Brian Kirkland 2022When Kirkland joined Choice, the company was looking to replace its outdated central reservation system, which had been in use for three decades. He and his team began working on a cloud-based distribution solution called choiceEDGE, a state-of-the-art system that manages distribution of core availability, rate and inventory information to the company’s website, mobile apps and third-party distribution partners and supports more than 7,100 hotel properties globally. The system is at the heart of the company’s digital transformation.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a solution from the ground up,” Kirkland said of the project, noting that the hospitality industry’s legacy reservation systems simply can’t handle the volume and velocity of today’s digital transactions. “choiceEDGE harnesses the power of cloud computing to provide powerful data analytics-driven solutions for franchisees and intuitive and personalized experiences for guests.”

It also served as the springboard for future projects, including ChoiceMAX, the company’s recently-launched, award-winning revenue management system that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to help franchisees manage room rates, channels and inventory. As the industry’s first mobile-enabled revenue management system, ChoiceMAX features enhanced forecasting, customizable real-time alerts and a 365-day optimization window. “We built a lot of capabilities around optimizing top-line revenue for our franchises in a tough market.”

In fact, Kirkland views his role as serving franchisees and guests. “I want to help our owners run their hotels as efficiently as possible, especially with today’s staffing challenges,” he said. “I also want to meet guest expectations, which are vastly different today than they were two years ago and changing all the time.”

Currently, Kirkland is overseeing a multi-year migration project to move everything to the cloud, utilizing Amazon Web Services and updating systems along the way. “With the cloud, we can do things that were impossible before, leveraging technologies to drive insights and business value without having to add staff or maintain costly technology,” he concluded. “It’s opening up a whole new set of opportunities for the entire industry.”



 

BRIAN’S BEST:

  • Family: Married, with two teenaged sons and a West Highland White Terrier.
  • Hobbies: Travel and coaching his sons’ football teams.
  • Go-To Periodical or Website: The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review and various hospitality publications. 
  • Book: The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt.  “It’s a management-oriented novel that talks about the Theory of Constraints in supply chains, but its message is relevant to software.”
  • Music: Modern and classic rock.
  • Favorite Travel Destination: Napa Valley, the Caribbean and any Disney destination.
  • Advice to Young People: “Don’t be complacent. Always act with purpose and focus.”
  • Dinner With: Jerry Rice, who is regarded as one of the greatest players in NFL history. I love his quote: Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t. That has always resonated with me and my boys, especially in their football lives.”

BRIAN’S INDUSTRY PREDICTIONS:

The changing business environment and digital expectations will transform the industry roadmap.  “The ability to react quickly will be vital, particularly when it comes to meeting guest expectations.”


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Data will be key to success. “We can capture more data and leverage it in more ways than ever before,” he said. “If you can democratize that data and put it in the hands of the business team, it will drive insights that lead to overall profitability.”

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Staffing will become a primary focus of hotel technology teams.  “Both the industry and employee expectations have changed," he said. “If we want to find good people, we have to look everywhere. And if we want to retain good people, we have to be flexible.”
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