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John Novak

John Novak

Senior VP and CIO
La Quinta Inns, Inc.

What are some of your responsibilities?
For La Quinta’s approximately 300 company managed and 60+ franchise hotels and our corporate locations, I am ultimately responsible for the technology decisions we make, developing and executing against our information systems plans, ensuring reliable operational systems, providing voice and data network services to hotels and guests, providing linkages to electronic channels, maintaining a robust, competitive, and reliable Internet presence, and providing responsive help desk and field support services. I am a member of our executive committee reporting to the CEO.

What do you like most about your job?
At La Quinta, information systems (IS) is an integral part of the business, including the strategic and operational decision making on a day-to-day basis. This close business alignment permeates deep into the management structure – not just at the CIO level. There is never any doubt that we are working on the right things. We have successfully implemented the concept that “there are no IS projects – only business projects that are IT-enabled.” Our executives from all dimensions of the business take active ownership of their technology-enabled projects. This keeps everyone engaged with a common sense of purpose, and makes it fun (and easy) to lead. (I’ve seen it the other way – been there, done that, no thanks.)

What do you like least about your job?
Let’s be honest – doing budgets. Especially these days!

Did you go to undergraduate school? Where? What was your major?
I graduated from Duke University with a double B.S. in Physics and Math (go figure.) Although low-profile most of the year, I’ve been known to be obnoxious during basketball season.

What is your favorite movie?
In my youth, I was hooked on “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” I saw it 15 times – each time in the theater (that was when videos weren’t available.) More recently, I rarely miss an opportunity to watch “Field of Dreams.” Although, I caution that the mantra “If you build it, they will come” is not a good way to develop systems. A little more commitment up-front is a good idea.

What is your favorite song?
Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl” and Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and “Black Dog.”

What is your favorite line from a movie or song?
“The problems of two little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world …” I seem to find frequent opportunities to use that line.

What was your first job?
Usher in a movie theater. An eye-opening experience at a young age.

What was your most interesting day at work?
Some years ago, as an executive at Walt Disney World, I had the “opportunity” to learn “the bucket” during cross-U training. The bucket, as you may have guessed, follows the horses around during the 3 o’clock parade.

What would you do if you won the lottery?
Throw one heck of a party!

When you are not working what do you enjoy doing?
Sailing (or dreaming of sailing) or golfing or attending one of the million activities my kids are involved in.

What is the next technology to impact the hospitality industry?
Although not as exotic sounding as wireless check-in or smart cards, I think the most impactful technology will revolve around guest recognition and personalization. We’ve all been talking about it, even dabbling in it, but the technology and the MOTIVATION are now clear and present. So the combination of data warehouses, CRM, IVR/ANI, Web personalization, extending the exchange of information through electronic channels, integration at all points of contact, possibly even one-to-one revenue management, is right around the corner. My apologies to those who are already there (or think they are), but you are few and far between.

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