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Technology Rock Stars John Bollen, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

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

2022 Technology Rock Stars:
John Bollen

CIO, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas


 

John Bollen is chief information officer at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, a 3,033-room luxury property that includes a world-class restaurant collection, full-service spa, 40,000-square-foot concert venue, and 100,000-square-foot casino. His responsibilities include overseeing infrastructure, networking, custom programming and future innovations for the hotel. He joined the company in June 2020 after serving as senior vice president and chief digital officer at MGM Resorts International, and vice president of IT media operations at NBCUniversal. He serves on the Communications Department Alumni Board of the University of California Santa Barbara.

John Bollen 2022When Bollen joined The Cosmopolitan, he faced the challenge of upgrading a number of systems – including the property management system, the point-of-sale solution and the gaming floor system – so that the hotel could take advantage of modern capabilities. “It was a huge initiative, especially considering the sheer size and scale of our operation,” he said.

One of his most successful projects was upgrading the POS solution to launch mobile ordering, pay-at-table and QR code scanning capabilities. Along with the upgrade came a company-wide strategy to brand its QR code. “It’s important that our brand is recognizable across all touchpoints so that guests have a consistent experience,” he said. “By modernizing the technology, we created benefits in other areas.”

Another project was upgrading the hotel’s digital concierge, Rose, to a modern cloud-based chatbot service. It now offers a wider range of capabilities, including larger scalability. “Rose sends a higher volume of relevant offers to guests, which not only increases on-property spending but also boosts guest satisfaction,” he explained. Should guests opt to interact with Rose, she can tell them when their rooms are ready, take orders for fresh towels, make reservations at any of the hotel’s food and beverage outlets, and more.

Bollen also tackled security, cleaning up firewalls, tightening restrictions and implementing property-wide practice drills to ensure that employees are on board regarding appropriate cyber-event responses. Updating firewalls enabled the hotel to roll out a number of upgrades for a remote workforce, including a VPN and remote support. “When the pandemic hit, and the human resources department advised working from home, we had no problem making the transition,” he said.

At the start of the pandemic, Bollen and his team created a COVID-19 Tracker questionnaire and integrated it into the employee database. The questionnaire eventually grew to include a vaccination record and safety tracker. Now, the hotel uses a mobile app to track vaccines and booster shots. “It continues to be a program that protects staff and guests and helps us manage cases,” he concluded. “There was a learning curve at first, but now everyone is accustomed to the system and it’s keeping everyone safe.”

 

JOHN’S BEST:

  • Family: Married, with two teenaged children.
  • Hobbies: Mountain biking. “There are some great trails in the Nevada desert.”
  • Go-To Periodical or Website: The Wall Street Journal. “Grad school made reading WSJ a habit, and I’ve never left it.”
  • Book: Anything by South African novelist Wilbur Smith. “He writes a lot of historical fiction. You feel like you’re reading an entertaining history book.”
  • Music: Black Eyed Peas, UB40 and Maroon 5.
  • Favorite Travel Destination: Turks and Caicos. “You can scuba every day and do a different dive.”
  • Advice to Young People:  "Find what you enjoy and make a career of it. Don’t get stuck in a place where you wonder how you ended up there.”
  • Dinner With: Ray Wang, author of Digital Disruption and Everybody Wants to Rule the World. “His latest book is about digital duopolies, and he really understands the nuances of how certain companies are positioned to ‘rule the world’ in the new economy.”

JOHN’S INDUSTRY PREDICTIONS:

 

Digital self-service will remain, but it won’t replace the human touch. “There has to be a person on the other side of the technology,” he said.
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“That’s what hospitality is all about.” Augmented reality will become a routine part of the guest journey. “It’s already being used successfully in group and convention situations, and I think we’ll start seeing it on the individual guest side too.”
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Hospitality will evolve in terms of security.  “We have to learn how to provide service while maintaining secure data,” he said.    “A lot of our vendors have great products, but they’ve failed to consider all the privacy and security issues.”
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