Interview with Andrew Furrer - Corporate Director of Information Technology, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants

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March 01, 2006
Face to Face
Richard Siegel - Rich@hospitalityupgrade.com

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Note from Rich: I was first exposed to Kimpton in the 1980s when I lived in San Francisco. Kimpton had great restaurants and a few boutique hotels. Today they are approaching 50 hotel properties. As companies grow, the way they address their technology needs becomes more important. It was very enjoyable hearing Andy explain how Kimpton is handling this growth. What a great interview that I am sure you will enjoy. As you can tell by the pictures Kimpton really can be considered the King of Boutiques. My last comment: We should all have “other jobs” similar to Andy. I am impressed.

Rich: Let’s start with your background.
Andrew: You would be surprised about my background.

I love surprises.
I started with Kimpton in January 2000. I was hired as a regional IT manager and then promoted to my current position as director of IT.

And before Kimpton?
I owned a company for 10 years. I was a systems integrator with about 12 people working for me supporting, servicing and installing networks and systems for clients.

Here in Portland?
Yes.

So, you owned your own IT organization. Is this your first venture in the hotel business?
We had a few hotel clients. In fact, Kimpton was a customer of ours for two years. Fifth Avenue Suites Hotel brought me in because its networks were unreliable. The hotel purchased some equipment, we installed it and made everything work. And so here I am today. I also must add, on a completely different note, that I have a background in emergency services. I am currently a captain of paramedics for our local fire department.

Really? That’s great. How long have you been doing this?
I’ve been doing emergency services for 27 years.

That is very impressive.
This background also helps me deal with technical problems.

How so?
Technical problems are the same as financial problems, the same as any other business problem. You have to find out what the problem is, figure out what you are going to do to fix it, and then implement a plan to fix it. If you don’t, you’re squandering time and resources away. I think that the emergency services background has helped me develop my ability to find resolution very quickly and be customer service oriented.

That is an interesting correlation between emergency medical training and business.
I have my own plan of how to handle problems which I try to teach to my people so that we can quickly narrow down what the problems are and get the IT systems back up. If you sat down and asked, how many times a day does IT play a role in what you are doing you would be very surprised. Everything we do has some sort of IT involvement.

No argument here, and I believe everyone in the hospitality industry would agree. How many properties did Kimpton have when you joined them?
25 going to 30.

How many are there today?
43.

What is your business model for expanding Kimpton properties?
Our whole business model in prior years was to find distressed properties, purchase, rebuild and open them as Kimpton hotels. That’s still our primary business model according to the CEO, but we have many ground-up/new builds coming. We have a lot of management contracts.

What was your most recent opening?
The Muse just opened in New York about a half-block away from Times Square.

Will you ever franchise?
You never know, but today we manage and own our own hotels and also manage properties for third party owners.

It’s interesting how you look at IT when you are building a hotel versus converting an existing hotel to become a Kimpton. Which do you prefer?
I’m sure to no one’s surprise I prefer building a new hotel. We have a pretty significant footprint when it comes to technology in a hotel. Every room is wired with high-speed Internet access. We put in Wi-Fi, property management systems and all the infrastructure. A hotel cannot run profitably and efficiently today without a sound IT structure.

Do you have an IT person at every one of your properties?
No.

So you maintain the IT for your properties here?
We have regional IT people – approximately 25 individuals – from global disciplines such as database administrators, system analysts and project managers to regional and city IT managers and technicians. For example, in San Francisco we have four IT technicians called city IT managers. They manage the hotels in San Francisco. We have IT people in Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and in Canada.

They don’t support an individual hotel, correct?
Typically the model is three or more hotels with one IT person. And so we are trying to figure out a matrix of where we cut off IT people. Our current ratio is three hotels per one IT person.

You are very much into centralized systems, right?
Yes.

Tell me about that.
Centralized systems, for me, is a better way to implement technology quickly. Centralized systems for us go all the way to phone/voice over IP. We are just starting to dabble in voice over IP. I think it’s good for our business to be very flexible and to put up an office very quickly. All I need to have is an Internet line and I can start delivering systems to an office. We have centralized accounting systems, management systems, sales and catering and business intelligence. Our centralized systems allow us to easily comply to Sarbanes-Oxley 404. Even though we are a private company we still think it’s a best practice to comply with SOX 404.

That seems to be the strategy with most private companies today.
That is the white paper for business and IT today. If you don’t conform to any kind of compliance standards or any kind of standards then your IT systems are all over the place and you can’t manage it. Eventually your IT will collapse. When I talk about collapse, we used to have decentralized systems for a long time. We were running on Novell, which to me is still legacy, and we had an older PMS which was another legacy application that ran on DOS or Windows 98. We had decentralized management but we could not comply with any kind of standards because even though we had published policies and procedures it was still hard to tell the IT manager that was at a hotel, ‘no you can’t do this and you must do it this way.’ We are moving to Windows 2003 active directory, and we have moved to centralized e-mail services and communication. By the end of this year everything will be an enterprise model and will be centralized.

Everything will?
Everything.

Break it down a little for us. Where do you have your property management systems?
It’s in a third party co-location center, which means we have our servers someplace else.

If I was building a hotel and you were going to manage it, tell me your process for the property management system.
It is a big process. First of all we have a boiler plate contract. We sign on the bottom line, either the third party does or Kimpton does depending upon how the management or the ownership of the property is, and then we schedule training. After we sign the contract, our property management system company, HIS, goes into our centralized system and builds that hotel. And in a matter of a day the hotel has access to the property management system, but you still have some internal things you have to build (e.g., the amount of room types and all those types of things). Then they implement training and train the individual property. At the time they train, they build the property in the property management system and it’s built to our specifications. You only have so many transaction codes and they must match up because not only are we providing property management, but we are providing business intelligence. It is our ability to take snapshots of what the hotel is doing right now, and what the hotel is going to do 30 days from now based on all the reporting provided through our business intelligence. The engine behind our business intelligence is Cognos.

Hotel Information Systems is responsible for the implementation of the PMS, right?
Yes. I have project managers to assist in the implementation. There is a lot of internal stuff that happens when we open up a new property because I have two project managers for new openings and one project manager for property management and another for our sales and catering implementation. There is dialog between those two people and those inter-disciplines that work to make sure that property management system is installed correctly.

If this is all centralized, what about the servers?
The systems are run off our servers. We have a company, SunGuard, which we pay a monthly fee to supply our servers and server management. The ASP model was an option also, but then you would have to offload mission critical data. I said it’s my data and I need to set it someplace where I can control it. I need to control that data because that’s mission critical information for me. I’m not going to push it off to an ASP because the ASP might not be here tomorrow. SunGuard may not be here tomorrow, but within a matter of minutes I can bring my data over here. Of course, I don’t expect that to ever happen because SunGuard is one of the largest companies doing this.

Do you differentiate between centralized systems and the ASP model because you have the servers under your control?
It’s more than that. The ASP model means somebody else is providing the services for me. That means they have the programs and have everything over there. I don’t know if it’s backed up. I don’t have any control over it. I have to rely on that vendor to provide everything for me. It gives me some heartburn when I’m talking about critical data and services. I have done ASP models in prior lives and for me they really don’t work. I want to sleep at night knowing my data is OK. So I have a third party co-lo where we house our equipment because we lease the equipment and I have the ability to go in and make sure it’s backed up or I can back up the data here.

You have a centralized system for your property management. Do you also do this for sales and catering?
Yes, we use Newmarket International for sales and catering and group business.

Do you have regional sales offices? How do you do sales?
We have sales in each hotel and we also have sales 'pods'. There is a sales pod here in Portland for our Fifth Avenue Suites and Vintage Plaza properties. We are podding San Francisco and Chicago. A core group of people are selling for every hotel that’s related in that city. There are several pods in San Francisco because we have many properties there. We have a sales pod in Washington, D.C. We like the pod because it’s an efficient use of people and technology.

You are really taking the whole regional or centralized system to another level. I think a lot of people look at doing it and for some reason are not comfortable implementing this.
Depending upon how you negotiate your contracts and how you do the start-up process, the start-up costs can be overwhelming, but in the long run because of rapid deployment and maximizing the services you provide, the cost goes down.

Kimpton has a reputation for having an exceptional loyalty program.
We have a very good loyalty program run by Renee Will-George, our director of guest loyalty. We have back-office systems that are managing this whole loyalty program. It’s all based on technology. How many visits you have had at a hotel. We know you like a room that has roses in it, you like to read golf magazines and you like fruit in your room or perhaps water or wine. We cater to those preferences. If you’re a loyalty member and you want to have M&Ms in your room, they will be in every Kimpton hotel that you stay at. We will have them or roses or whatever we can do to cater to you. Those are for the guest loyalty members. We track it on a program called GuestWare. Our whole program is designed around their systems, and it works very well. We have a lot of repeat guests.

It must help that Kimpton has such unique and different types of properties.
They really are. Every property is different. You might come into a Monaco and think that the Chicago Monaco looks like the Seattle Monaco, but they are totally different hotels with a totally different flavor. The Seattle Monaco used to be an old telephone company building where they had all those wires coming into the building. All the cables from Seattle came in there and they would cross-connect all the wires. It was an old telephone building that we made into a hotel.

You mentioned you use GuestWare for the loyalty program. Is it just for preferences?
GuestWare tracks the stays, guest preferences, any problems that we have had with the room when that guest has been there. We do something called rapid response, so when someone is having a problem in their room or a problem in the hotel that an engineer needs to fix, those things are entered in the rapid response module in GuestWare and an engineer is immediately dispatched to fix it. The air conditioner may not work or the lights may not work in the room. We are implementing that program right now so that when the guest has a problem, the engineer on duty is paged and fixes it.

Do you track that the guest had a problem while staying with you?
Yes. If a guest stayed at the Fifth Avenue Suites Hotel and was going to stay at one of our properties in another city, we know that they had a problem at Fifth Avenue. And if we are smart, which we are, we say, ‘I’m sorry that you had that problem at Fifth Avenue. We won’t have that problem here.' But all that stuff is tracked for loyalty members. Even if you are not a loyalty member and you stay a couple of times at our hotels, we know you’ve been at our hotels.

Really?
Yes. But we are trying to get everybody to join the loyalty program so it’s easier for us to track.

In this issue our feature article is all about what is going on in the guestroom with technology. How are you looking at the room today?
We are looking at everything. We’re looking at high-definition TVs, plasma TVs, wired Internet access, Wi-Fi Internet access. Those are very important to us and the basic Wi-Fi services are free to guests. We are looking at business centers to make sure they are perfect for the guest. We are looking at upgrading content delivery for guests. We use LodgeNet and are upgrading all of our systems to be able to manage more of the content.

LodgeNet is your in-room provider? Right?
Yes.

What do you do through them?
For example, we have some feeds that we bring in through LodgeNet for things like yoga or whatever we want to do. Steve Penetti manages that portion of the marketing part for Kimpton. Kimpton lifestyles is huge. Do you know what the Kimpton Five Pillars are?

I am embarrassed, but no, I don’t.
Comfort, care, style, flavor and fun. That’s what Kimpton is based on and you can go into any one of our hotels and see that there.

So you have the ability to use LodgeNet to do some neat things with your content. I noticed here at Fifth Avenue Suites you offer both wireless and wired. Is that the norm?
At the majority of our hotels we offer both wired and wireless. There are some companies and some government agencies that don’t allow employees to use Wi-Fi. So we provide wired in every hotel that we can possibly provide it in.

If you are building a brand new hotel would you wire it too?
Yes. It does not cost that much to pull wire. In fact we pull Cat 5 to every room for wireless for high-speed and then we tag on Wi-Fi.

What about your older hotels?
We do wireless in the older hotels. We try to offer both. Recently, we took over an old hotel, renovated and pulled Cat 5. But if we had to tear into the walls we would do just Wi-Fi. I’m also looking at technology now to deliver the wired solution to the room, either through the electrical or through the coax cable. We are trying to find a way not to tear into walls.

There are some companies doing that.
I’m still looking at that. I have to have a clean solution. You go into some hotels that have LRE or another solution that runs over Cat 3 and you look at the in-room desktop and they have this thing with a bunch of wires hanging out of it. I don’t want that. I want it very plain. It has to pass the straight face test for me. If I stay at a hotel other than our Kimpton brand, the first thing I do is look at how they did the technology in the room. If the technology is delivered very crisp and clean, meaning they don’t have a bunch of wires all over the place and it looks very nice, it’s pleasing to me. If I come in and see wires with rubberbands around them and all scattered about, that’s not a very good installation to me and, in fact, I look at the hotel and say, 'I have questions about that technology.'

Yes, but you’re a tough audience. (Laugh)
I am. (Smile)

Who do you use to do your wireless?
We use Eleven Wireless to provide our support and for their guidance.

They do the support?
They install and support our Wi-Fi. We install the basic infrastructure in a new hotel and they come in and program to ensure security. Then we can deliver content through the Wi-Fi, manage the Internet and deliver a great guest experience.

Have you done much with them?
They do all of our hotels. Their wireless delivery is very good. We are also deploying Mac business centers with them.

Mac business centers?
What other company do you know that has Mac business centers? Our business center at this hotel is Macintosh and PC based.

You rarely see Macs in hotels.
You never do, but it’s a big deal.

I moderated a session in New York at the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show. We talked about people traveling with their iPods and wanting to drop them into clock radios and other devices. Is this something you are looking into?
Yes. With iPods we are looking at a way to provide that solution in the room. And we have some hotels that have the radios that you can set iPods in. Multifunctional devices are good because many people don’t have iPods, and they will still want a radio in the room. Some of the bigger chains are spending so much money on technology in the room. The average person who is going to stay in your hotel will probably only use $2,000 of that technology and many chains are putting in four, five or even $6,000. I don’t know what the exact dollar figure is, but it’s a huge amount of money when the average Joe is probably not going to use all that technology. There is a fine point where you need to say I am going to put in this technology. What is that technology? For me, it is Wi-Fi or high-speed. It’s maybe some concierge software you can use on your phone or on your laptop, the high-definition TV and content delivery. I am not sure what else the guest wants.

One of the benefits of putting in flat screen TVs is it frees up more space in the hotel room.
Yes. You often have very big cabinets for the TV. TVs today are still important to the hotelier. When I am at home, I can go on Comcast and I can select a movie I want to watch and when I want to watch it. Today our customer is willing to pay the premium to watch it right now. I can see technology getting to the point where you order all your room service through the TV or through a phone display screen or through the Internet. There are a lot of things that I think we can deliver in the hotel room, but I think there are some things you might be wasting money trying to do. We have to find the balance. I think it’s great that Hilton and Marriott are spending all that money, because then I can find out where the line is.

(Laughing)
I don’t want to be on the leading edge, because if we are on the leading edge of technology, we’re throwing money out left and right. So every solution that Kimpton implements somebody else has implemented before. Technology delivery in a hotel is no different than technology delivery in any kind of industry, except we have guests. But you still deliver Wi-Fi and you have content on it. So when you talk about televisions and content, it doesn’t take a hotel technologist to deliver technology to a hotel.

What do you mean by that?
Because technology is delivered the same way to a hotel as it is in any other industry, the same pair of wires, the same protocol, the same logins, whatever.

You talked about ordering room service via the television or phone. Do you see phones with display screens becoming more common in hotel rooms?
I think the phone systems with the big display is an emerging technology.

But?
It’s not there yet.

I don’t believe it is far away.
It’s not there yet for me to start to push it, but I think voice over IP and delivering IP to the room on the phone is coming. I see that voice over IP to the room is going to be very important during the next couple of years– maybe in the next five years you’re going to see content as the main stream.

That long?
Yes. We are so used to picking up a phone and dialing. Right now we pick up a phone and whether it’s a voice over IP, analog or digital, it doesn’t matter. We pick it up and dial. When content starts to be delivered on the phone where it’s just starting today, it could be two to three years, but there will be a big push to put voice over IP in hotel rooms.

How close are you to putting in VoIP?
At all of our new properties now, every phone which we upgrade is changed to a hybrid model. So it’s going to be analog or digital plus voice over IP. We have the ability to move over to voice over IP. So all the administrative phones and all the phones that are used by Kimpton/hotel employees will be voice over IP. All the guestroom phones will still be delivered the old fashioned way, but we have the ability to retrofit very quickly.

This is good because everybody talks about voice over IP which has been going on forever.
Or it’s going to go on forever because you have all this old technology out there and you only have so much capital. All new hotels or upgraded switches are going to be hybrid switches so we can deliver both technologies. It costs so much more to put a VoIP phone in a guestroom than it does to put in the other technology. But we are not delivering content to the phone yet, and when we deliver content to the phone, then that is when we will do a voice over IP.

How far away are we from where it’s not going to be a question to install voice over IP?
Costs have to come down.

How long will that be?
Two or three years.

So is the issue now the technology or the costs?
I think it’s cost for me. We pay $100,000 or more for a phone switch. We are spending a little less for the voice over IP hybrid phone switch, but where is the ROI with our spending $400 for a guestroom phone as opposed to paying $200 for a guestroom phone. That adds so many more dollars per key and that’s our matrix. That is how we develop our budgets. If I’m not delivering content to the room yet over IP phones, then why implement it and spend that money?

The argument can go the other way. It’s hard to predict how long it’s going to take before content really starts becoming available. You have to decide today, are you better off saving $200 per phone or investing now because you know it’s coming.
We put all the infrastructure in to support VoIP and when the time is right we will install the phones to enable the technology.

I’m not trying to be argumentative, but….
Yes, we still have to replace the phone, but there is not a ROI to do it now. When we build a new hotel we try to keep it to a certain dollar amount per key, and so if I add another $200 per key it brings that budget up. It is better justified when we are going to deliver content. When we deliver content, if we had the infrastructure in place, which we will, it’s easy to switch out the phone.

Are you getting into the kiosk revolution?
Yes, we have pilots going right now at the Chicago Allegro and at the Hotel Monaco in Washington, D.C.

What dictates where you try them?
The size of the property and the willingness of the third party owner or Kimpton. It costs a lot of money to put a kiosk in. But I think the kiosk is a way to deliver additional services to the guest. Don’t look at it as, I’m going to be able to manage my front desk costs, but that it is how the guest wants to check in. I’ve been on an airplane all day long and I don’t want to talk to anyone, I just want to get to my room and relax. So I go to a kiosk, and if I’m somewhat technology-driven I can check in via the kiosk because I had to do it at the airport.

I agree.
Yes. Especially if there are three or four people waiting in front of you. I just want to get my key and get up to my room.

The question is always going to be usage. Airline kiosks are used because they forced us to use them. With hotels it’s always going to be an option, so you have to have your list of realistic expectations with your pilots.
This is a 60 or 90-day pilot. We have to market it to our guests so they know it’s available, but we don’t want to push it on them because we don’t want to use them as the airlines do. The airlines pushed it on travelers, but do we really conform to the airlines? I check in using the kiosk because I don’t want to wait in line. I can go check in at the kiosk very quickly and get on an airplane. Now will our guests develop the same kind of mentality? They might.

And they might not because there is a whole different discussion about the hotel versus the airline. Have you looked at Web check in?
We are looking into it right now.

How are you dealing with the reservation process?
Pegasus does our central reservations as our third party reservation company, and also manages our inventory and distribution.

What about revenue management?
We just started using the revenue management system from IDeaS.

How is it working?
Very well. They have their algorithms down. You need to make pretty quick decisions on where you are going to put rooms in the distribution and when will you have low occupancy. This initiative is being run by Kathleen Sanford, senior director of revenue management and distribution. She’s actually managing that program. IDeaS ties into Pegasus and pulls information out of inventory that Pegasus manages and then the business decisions are made. We have a couple of pilots going on right now to see if it’s going to work for us. So far it’s going well.

Let’s talk about industry happenings. Have you gotten involved with HTNG?
HTNG is involved with the hospitality industry and how technology is delivered. I’ve just gotten involved with HTNG. Technology at a hotel encompasses everything from front of the house software, telecommunication, in-room entertainment, customer information systems and electronic distributions.

HTNG seems to be more about visions of the future which is good.
I agree. One other item that we need to work on as an industry is how we interface all of our systems in the hotel.

Do you see that ever happening?
Yes. It depends on how you push your vendors.

Keep going.
That’s one of the initiatives of the OpenTravel™ Alliance, the interfacing of systems to be seamless. Why not develop a standard that’s not in the industry but is a technology standard that is in every industry. We need to make sure that when technology is developed that the interface component has the ability to transfer information from one system to the next. This is a standard set on interface specification that the industry as a whole utilizes.

It has been an uphill battle forever in the hotel industry.
But it’s got to change.

But there is so much new technology coming into the industry.
The problem today is most of the interfaces are serial and you need to have these cables running all over the place. Let’s get to the technology where it is done over Ethernet and we just have to plug it in. That’s where we want to be, and I think we will be there, but it’s going to take a push by the industry. Not only the hospitality industry, but all the other industries that are out there because everybody interfaces.

That is the argument as to why can I buy any PC and know it will connect to any printer, but in the hotel industry, is it not that simple?
Exactly. That’s the push that’s going to come from all the technology committees and initiatives like HTNG and OTA. We have to push to one type of interface. The phone systems that we use in hospitality need to be able to interface with all property management systems. You have a whole bunch of different players that have to be on the same page and going in the same direction. I see HTNG making this happen.

Good point. You talked about POS with all your very popular restaurants. How do you address the technology?
We use Aloha pretty much exclusively for our point of sale and Avero for business intelligence. This is great for us to be able to support our systems when we have most all of our systems uniform.

How long do you commit to systems?
Technology, if you don’t upgrade it, is good for about five years and you need to go back and revisit. But you always need to revisit. You always need to make sure you are going down the right path because if you are not, you need to make a change. So we’ve had Aloha in for about three years now. All the properties have Aloha now and in about two years I will be looking at them again just to make sure we are on the right path, because if we are not, we need to change.

That’s good business sense for any type of technology. Has the business intelligence piece from Avero worked well?
Very well. It is a key component to our F&B operation.

What about other parts of the hotel? How about housekeeping? Do they get any technology?
They do. They have room assignments and the rooms they clean are all managed by a property management system. They use technology to put the rooms in and out of service. They pick up the phone to update room status. Technology drives that room to become available to the guest quicker.

The room status update via the phone has been around for a long time and works.
I can’t imagine giving a PDA to a housekeeper to manage rooms that way because some housekeepers may not understand technology. But we can drive it to them. If we could give them a Wi-Fi PDA that they can post and rooms, then that’s the technology to look at.

So what you are saying is…
The housekeeping department is typically not technology driven. They are the people who are going to change the beds and clean the room up. The only times you would use technology is to help them manage that process, but you have to make sure they understand technology or you are going to waste that technology. So if there is a good ROI on picking up the phone and putting the room in or out of service, then that’s the technology that they use. I can see that eventually as we become more sophisticated with our housekeeping personnel that we can have a PDA, but that is a long time off. I can see our engineering people using this because they are more in tune with technology.

You bring up a good point. Technology for the sake of technology is not always the right thing. If something is working and it isn’t broken, it’s a tough decision to try to fix it just because technology is available.
It’s a tough choice to give a PDA to a housekeeper that does not understand technology and is not going to use it. Then the ROI is not there no matter how many published numbers are out there. If the technology is there for them to check in and out of rooms over the phone system, then that’s technology that can be taught.

But you know the whole issue of understanding technology is not just limited to housekeeping. You have new employees and technology training is a big part of your responsibilities.
Front office people have to understand technology too. We train them on the property management systems and the systems they need to use, but they are not necessarily technology driven either. Maybe it’s just an education of everybody in the hotel on how to use technology.

When you hire someone for your front desk do you have formalized technology training for new employees?
Actually there is no formalized training other then what the general manager or front office manager provides. We do have formalized orientation, but when it comes down to technology it’s typically on-the-job training. As a company and an industry, we need to do a much better job with technology training. We need to set up some kind of training so that the front desk person, the back office person, the PBX operator or the sales people understand the technology that’s driven by the hotel. I don’t know what other hotel people do, but I think everybody needs to improve this.

How do you decide which industry events to attend?
The Hospitality Upgrade CIO Summit is No. 1 on my list.

Nice plug. What else?
I think HITEC is important to attend every year.

I agree. What is your thinking?
Have you ever been to COMDEX?

Yes.
For our industry, I relate HITEC to COMDEX in that you need to go out there, shake hands, talk and network because your solutions could be sitting in one of those booths. Your ability to bring IT services is sitting in one of those booths, so you need to meet everyone and have them understand who you are and what they can do for you and what you can do for them. Technology is a partnership. One of the things I do here at Kimpton is hold technology summits where I invite all my vendors and have them talk about what they are going to do for Kimpton.

Would these be potential or existing vendors?
Existing vendors. I expect all the vendors to work as a team to provide services to Kimpton.

How often do you do this?
Once a year I invite everybody in and we have a dinner. We meet for a day or two, and talk about the technology that they are delivering for Kimpton. There have been some really good partnerships that have developed out of this. It’s all about bringing technology to the guest. If the guest is successful, Kimpton will be successful, the investors will be successful and so will the vendors.

That’s an interesting way of putting things. It’s how we started the CIO Summit, and more so why we started the Executive Vendor Summit last year.
There is a lot to be said about alliances, partnerships and understanding where everybody is going.

What is your biggest project that you are working on right now?
I have three projects I am working on. We are implementing our new property management system from HIS, the epitome Enterprise System.

What else?
We are implementing Delphi's Sales and Catering.

And the third?
Making sure a third party co-lo is built properly.

Could you explain co-lo?
This is where we house all our enterprise/centralized systems. We have spent a lot of money there and we want to make sure we are getting a bang for our buck. I strive for my technology to be cost effective and provide services.

Kimpton is very aggressive about adding new properties. Is the formula you have in place today sustainable as you grow?
Yes. That is why we implemented this centralized plan, so that we can grow as large as we need to be.

Have you made any mistakes along the way?
I always take a look at technology before we implement it to make sure we are going down the right path. We test it before putting it in and make sure it is bug free. So, have we made any mistakes? We all make mistakes. I’m just trying to think where we have made a mistake or where we could have done something differently, but everything is pretty well thought out. In the lean years in 2000-2001 when we were implementing Wi-Fi, I probably would have spent more money there, but we did not have the money to spend. We are revisiting some of that technology, but we did not make a mistake, we just did not spend enough money.

That is a situation many were in back then.
I agree. I don’t think we have made any real blunders. I take a look at what other people are doing in technology and then I visit the vendors and make sure we are going the right way before we even start spending money. Then when we spend the money we are dead sure. One of the things we are starting to implement is something called IT governance. In big organizations they have IT review committees which I call IT governance. Everything we are putting in an enterprise model will go through the IT governance. That’s part of all the disciplines within Kimpton, accounting, sales and marketing and finance. All those people will take a look and say we are implementing this technology, it’s going to be enterprise, which means it’s throughout all of Kimpton. Let’s make sure we are heading down the right path. Let’s make sure we are going to do it correctly.

Do you get all parts of the company to buy into what you are doing?
Absolutely. It’s all about ownership and sponsors. I want everyone including all our company executives to sit down, talk about it and make sure we are implementing it properly. Part of the things we need to do, and this is all now getting back to basic IT, is system development lifecycle. You cannot have one person want to develop and then go off on a tangent. It’s all about change, control and the system development lifecycle to make sure we are going down the right path and make sure the solutions that we pick are adequate and we don’t make mistakes. Mistakes cost you money.

Very true. Andy, this has been great. Next time I come out to Portland, would you make sure it doesn’t rain 51 out of the last 52 days?
Come in July. You will be safe then. (Smile)

I just might. (Smile)

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