Kris Burnett
Oct 1, 2013

2013 CIOSummit - Washington, D.C. Sept. 4-6, 2013

2013 CIOSummit - Washington, D.C. Sept. 4-6, 2013

Kris Burnett
Oct 1, 2013

Four score and seven years ago… well actually just a few weeks ago, 60 of the hospitality industry’s leading CIOs converged on our nation’s capital. If that didn’t make the city nervous, I’m not sure what else would.

The conference got off to a roaring start with a full-contact technology scavenger hunt in and around the city. Forty participants zigzagged across the mall in front of the Capitol through several of the Smithsonian museums, down to the Washington Monument, over by the White House and back again toward Lincoln Memorial, and accosted many tourists and unaware national parks employees to join them in photos. Highly entertaining (i.e., blackmail) photos and videos are available for view on the HU website at: or in this issue on page 60-61. From trivia to physical stunts, and speed walking combined with some very creative thinking, this was by far the CIO Summit attendees’ most favorite pre-event activity in all 12 years of the event, even over the deep-sea fishing, white-water rafting and golf tournaments in years past.

It’s never easy to get up for the very first day of a conference after traveling across the world, but the attendees toughed it out and were very glad they did. Dr. Bryan Williams, an expert in customer service excellence, did an absolutely amazing job in the first session, covering some great tips on how to lead a five-star team. From leading by setting an example, to performing one task each week in order to cement the relationship with  or “rehire” five-star employees, Williams made some fantastic recommendations and fielded many questions, which was demonstrated by the line of more than 20 people who wanted to speak with him after his session.

“There are many employees who want to work for a leader who has high expectations and believes in them,” Williams said. “It’s up to you as leaders to help reboot them… It begins with you believing in your heart that they have worth… Five-star leaders continually invest in employee development.” To get a sense of what these CIOs experienced, go to to view a video sneak peek of Williams’ very popular session. This session was by far the most popular, and one that really set the tone for this year’s event.

Following Williams was the session on “Data Overload: What’s Next,” with Chris Harrison, president and CTO of Epsilon Marketing Technology. He addressed the challenges of big data, and how companies can actually use data to help their businesses grow. He shared a great quote from biologist and researcher, E.O. Wilson, with the audience: “We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom. This world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.” From 5 billion Google searches each year, to world data actually doubling every 1.2 years, he may have a point.

The chief marketing officer (CMO) is trying to merchandise offerings, convert customer relationship marketing (CRM) data and tackle social media – all before lunch, but what Harrison reminded the group was, not only does the CMO need to understand the guest and his or her needs, so does the chief information officer (CIO). The CMO wants the CIO to build the tools, but the CIO might have a better understanding of what tool to build for the best ROI.

He said the CIO is asking, what is a solid problem I can align big data to that drives better returns, while the CMO is asking, how do I use all the data at my disposal to determine the value of our guests to our brand. “There’s an opportunity for you (as a CIO) to partner with the CMO and really tailor the guest experience,” he said. To hear more from Harrison, please go to the HUTube page online to watch his and others. (

Greg Duff of Garvey Schubert and Barer, has been a popular speaker at previous events, and this time was no exception. When he asked, “Do you know what your employees are signing when you’re asleep,” a few of the CIOs sat a little higher in their chairs and pondered his question themselves.

“Sales and marketing people, I love those people. They keep me very busy,” said Duff. He covered not only contracts, agreements and questions to ask in order to protect a company, but also some very useful tips on how to empower employees without sacrificing a comfort level.

Please go to our video page online for takeaway from Duff’s session -

In the next session, Dave Pavelko, director, Google Travel, Google, Inc., explored the current trends in distribution technology. As he mentioned, online plays a major role in bookings – users spend 1.5 times the amount of time on travel online compared to three years ago. For travel, users spend about one third of their total time on mobile, with the majority of travel research (62 percent) beginning on a mobile device. Pavelko suggested that mobile is the first opportunity to engage users and the smartphone experience is easy to undervalue. Among those who use smartphones for travel planning, one in four book their hotel via a smartphone. (25 percent hotel, 29 percent cruise, 25 percent car, 19 percent air.)

Consumers expect rich content and content is the key to differentiation; features like a 360-degree interactive tour can bring the interior of a hotel to life, Pavelko said. “If the customer can see the room type, we think they’ll book it,” he said. “ converts very well because they have very rich photos.” Online travel video usage is also increasing, with 55 percent of affluent travelers watching travel videos online. Fifty-one percent of leisure travelers watch online travel videos and 69 percent of business travelers do the same.

Additionally, there are 100 million reviews on TripAdvisor. Users increasingly rely on reviews to aid in their decisions and reviews drive the conversions, and according to Pavelko, understanding the conversion path is an important key. Personalization can deliver the next level of innovation, he said, and using data across platforms and distribution channels can personalize the experience.

“The industry has continued to adapt its business models as the distribution landscape evolves,” he said. This includes the growth of the OTAs (online travel agencies), the rise of meta and convergence. He said, “The power of the data everyone in this room is sitting on, in personalizing the customer experience… you have a huge role in terms of breaking down these silos, (and) where to invest.”

To hear more tips from Pavelko, please go to our video page online for a takeaway from his session -

Another one of the more popular sessions came from Scott Gibson, CIO of Best Western, whose main focus was on the role of the CIO and whether this role was one that most are content with, or one that they consider a stepping stone to another position.  He posed several questions to panelist Steve Brown, Carlson’s SVP/chief information and innovation officer, and Todd Davis, CIO of Choice Hotels International, as well as the audience.

He began the session with a poll of the audience. “Where do you see yourself in five year’s time?” he asked. Forty-two percent said in a bigger CIO role, while 11 percent said CEO. Eight percent said another c-suite, 11 percent said they were happy where they were, and 29 percent said other or somewhere else all together.

Gibson reminded the audience that all in attendance are uniquely positioned to understand the business in general, not just IT. Eighty-five percent of the audience agreed with him, but that is where the survey came into play. Even though CIOs are in a position to understand the business better than others, very few end up running the company. He pointed out that CIOs have not become the strategic partners they need to be; they don’t engage with the executive management board on key issues as much as they should. He also pointed out that their peers don’t see their value the same way as the CIOs do either, further exemplified when he asked how many in the audience had been asked to fix someone’s laptop or phone in the board room before. Eighty percent said yes.

Only 17 percent of CIOs polled have a position on the executive leadership team and 55 percent of CIOs aren’t currently being consulted on business strategy. The good news is, 76 percent said they do have the opportunity to expand their roles within their organizations.

Gibson then opened a discussion with Brown and Davis. For more from this highly informative panel discussion, please go to our HUtube video page online -

David Atkins of Digital DNA Infusion focused on current trends in mobility and social media, and how to provide a consistent guest experience across multiple devices and applications throughout the customer life cycle.

Like Harrison, he pointed to the importance of working together with different departments. He asked the audience how many actually have weekly 1:1 meetings with their CMOs. “You are now two sides of the same coin to the consumers/customers and internal stakeholders, especially for social and mobile success,” he said.

However, “The basics don’t change,” he said. Atkins said you need to increase profit (sell more rooms and sell ancillary items) and save on expenses (efficiency and cost cutting), and additionally, increase revenue (RevPAR), occupancy and customer lifetime value.

Where should you invest? Atkins said mobile first. (Check out Atkins’ article, “Thinking Mobile First Leads to Success,” in the fall 2012 issue of Hospitality Upgrade, page 156.) Travel m-commerce or travel direct spend was $2.37 billion in Q1 2013. Atkins said, according to Comscore, an average hotel site sees a 48 percent increase in traffic exclusively from mobile devices. That is just the global average. As Atkins said, mobile is more than last-minute hotel deals, and is also more than apps, websites, tools, media and marketing. “Look at your traffic today and look at it a year ago,” he said. “If it did not increase by 48 percent, you are behind the curve.”

Three major areas Atkins recommends to focus on with mobile include: customers (consumers, business travelers, business partners), inside teams (corporate staff, hotel staff, field teams) and future investments (how do you plan and test).

Atkins noted that social media for travelers includes review sites, photo sharing, video sharing and blogs, but the priority will change based on your business and customer objectives as a property. Social media isn’t just for leisure travel either; 46 percent of business travelers regularly share their travel experiences on a social network. “Killer content is the key to social success,” he said. Photos garner the most interactions, and the No. 1 picture travelers want – the room.

Atkins recommended the attendees think about mobile and social usage on property. “With the right cross-functional alignment between sales, marketing, operations and IT, there are huge spaces to win here vs. allowing new entrants to further erode your business, especially at large resorts or metro properties,” he said.

Aside from taking calculated risks, he recommended, “Invest in training and retraining your team... Strong integrators; it’s going to be about putting everyone together in a fused environment… I don’t care about cross-functional any more, it’s about fusion.”

Please visit our video page to hear how Atkins summed up his session -

The last day of educational sessions began with Bill Oates, former CIO of Starwood and current CIO of the City of Boston. Oates presented a fascinating look at the changing role of technology in government – engaging citizens and citing Boston's experience surrounding this year's Boston Marathon bombing. From the role that social media has played to technology and how it was applied during the identification, pursuit and capture of the suspects, Oates was able to give a glimpse into his team and its very beneficial efforts in bringing the city together over the last few years.

As Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in his inaugural address January 4, 2010, “We are all urban mechanics. Smartphones, GPS, wireless technology, and a resurgent spirit of civic engagement mean that all of us are eyes and ears on the streets, that neighbors are our greatest source of data, and our citizens the best civic entrepreneurs.”

Oates and his team had to ask themselves if they could create the same personal approach to service and expand its audience with an app on a smartphone. They developed an iPhone® app: Citizens Connect 1.0/Basic City Services Reporter with the goal of helping constituents report problems so they could improve the city. This is how it works: a person sees a problem, opens the app and selects the service request (i.e., fix pothole, remove graffiti, etc.), and submits the request with a photo and GPS location. Citizens Connect 2.0 progressed from transactional to social where others/the public can also respond and make recommendations for problems reported.

To Oates, CRM is constituent relationship management. His team built a good data platform and a good telephony platform, as well as several other apps that help constituents connect with the government and connect with the rest of the city. “Technology is pervasive around all the things we do in the city now,” he said, and this was very apparent earlier this year.

On April 15, 2013, the Boston Police Department (BPD) tweeted confirmation of the explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The BPD also asked for tips and continued to update the public on the escalating situation. They were also able to respond to the many inaccurate and conflicting media reports of early arrests and additional suspects, using social media. Video and photos submitted by witnesses as well as surveillance helped the BPD in putting its case together in the pursuit of the suspects. They were able to communicate warnings of active incidents during the apprehension of a suspect, as well as communicate a shelter-in-place advisory and then its subsequent lift. Boston Police had 48 million Twitter impressions in a 7-day period surrounding the Boston Marathon bombings.

“It’s about not being defensive, it’s about (collaborating and) aligning with the leadership,” Oates said. “The public service stuff we do here, it’s easy to attach to it, because you are seeing the benefits.” As a CIO, taking risks is important, and being a leader is as well. He said, “Live up to commitments, and develop that level of trust.”

To hear more about how technology has advanced the City of Boston and was able to help in the time of an emergency please visit our HUtube page online -

It was difficult to begin the last session of the conference after such an amazing story of how technology not only helped a large metropolitan city grow and thrive, but also opened unbelievable lines of communication and aided in the public’s safety and security in an emergency situation, but Lisa Woodley, XD practice lead for MISI/NTT Data, was up to the task.

Woodley’s focus was on customer-centric IT, with the goal of meeting and exceeding customers’ needs.

Like Atkins and Harrison, Woodley stressed the importance of different departments working together and really understanding the customer or guest in many cases. She asked, “Do you just build or supply what they need, or do you ask questions about the end goal and the audience? Who is the customer when you’re the director of IT?” They can be both internal (like the CMO) and external (the guest), she said.

One case study she cited was that of a marketing team asking its IT department for an e-commerce site… but is that what they really needed? By asking questions, IT was willing to build what would work, and found out it was not what the marketing team actually needed. The IT team created a document management system that was a tremendous success and was not at all what marketing had asked for.

If CIOs begin to think more like the customer and have an understanding of the audience (become more customer centric), the rest of the team will begin to see that you are the person who can actually help them within the company, Woodley said. According to Woodley, in this case, it also opened a door as IT got a strategic seat at the table because the CEO asked why CMO/marketing hadn’t thought of the same solution.

“Again, IT is sitting squarely at the decision-making table,” Woodley said. “Bring together experts from different areas, get them together and you can start to co-create something.” For more information on Woodley’s session, please visit our HUtube page online -

There were many key takeaways from the sessions, but those that stood out included how important mobile and social have become in enticing guests, both leisure and business travelers. Also, good leadership through the empowerment of employees and aligning with other departments, as well as becoming more customer centric and understanding what the customer (internal and external) really wants, can actually earn a place at the strategic table, because as several of our experts said, technology people are in a great place to understand and benefit the business as a whole.

Special thanks to this year’s CIO Summit sponsors: Infor, Enseo, HP, Duetto Research, Garvey Schubert Barer, HFTP and NTT Data. Additional appreciation goes to transportation sponsors Newmarket and CENDYN.

2013 Attendees

Peter Engel, Marcus Hotels & Resorts; Sukhvinder Singh, Host Hotels & Resorts; Vineet Gupta, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International; Laurent Idrac, Accor; Page Petry, Marriott International; David Barbieri, Red Lion Hotels Corporation; Stephane Magnat, Clubmed Americas; Andy Tjan, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts; Todd Davis, Choice Hotels International; Vivek Shaiva, La Quinta Inns and Suites; Brian Garavuso, Diamond Resorts International; Monika Nerger, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group; Ben Guanzon, Coast Hotels; Jeffrey Stephen Parker, Stout Street Hospitality; Mike Dickersbach, Thayer Lodging Group; Martin Stanton, Destination Hotels & Resorts; Alan Zaccario, New Castle Hotels LLC;  Scott Gibson, Best Western International; Jeff Linden, Red Roof Inns; Jeremy Rock, RockIT Group; Jim Lamb, Interstate Hotels & Resorts; Richard Tudgay, Omni Hotels and Resorts; Martin Thell, Scandic Hotels; Tony DelMastro, Loews Hotels; Rajiv Castellino, Great Wolf Resorts; Bernard Gay, Brookfield Hospitality; Ken Barnes, White Lodging; Ron Strecker, Al J. Schneider Co.; David SanClemente, Sonesta International Hotel Corp; Jeff Winslow, G6 Hospitality; Gustaaf Schrils, IHG; Ron Hardin, Davidson Hotels and Resorts; Peter Chambers, Viceroy Hotel Group; Kris Singleton, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas; Scott Nowakowski, Denihan; Jon Inge, Jon Inge & Associates; Simon Eng, CTF Development, Inc.; Paul Major, Aspen Skiing Company; John Wimmer, Xanterra Parks & Resorts; Bradley Koch, HEI Hotels & Resorts; Chris Friday, Mohegan Sun; John Burns, Hospitality Technology Consulting; Nelson Garrido, Interstate Hotels & Resorts; Alex Zoghlin, Hyatt Hotels Corporation; Mark Read, Firmdale Hotels PLC; Gerald Lampaert, Benchmark Hospitality International; Greg Taylor, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants; Joe Tenczar, Hard Rock International; Mike Blake, Commune Hotels & Resorts; Steve Brown, Carlson; Rich Jackson, Hilton Grand Vacations; and Bill Murphy, Hilton Worldwide.

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