Scott Strickland, chief information officer for the world’s largest hotel franchisor, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, joined the company in 2017 after more than two decades in the consumer electronics, automotive and consumer products industries. His background not only gives him a unique perspective on the hospitality industry’s technology challenges but also enables him to think outside the box when coming up with solutions.
One of his major initiatives at Wyndham has been to consolidate technology. When Strickland arrived, the company was using more than a dozen property management systems and four central reservations systems. “The disparate solutions and their countless integration points had become almost unmanageable,” he said. “I knew we had to improve our business agility if we wanted to remain competitive and differentiate our franchisee and guest experiences.”
And improve agility he did. Strickland and his IT team researched property management systems and selected two for its more than 6,000 properties in North America. Hotels in the economy segment got Sabre’s SynXis cloud-based solution, while full-service hotels – which require robust spa and food and beverage capabilities – got Oracle’s Opera PMS, either as a premise-based or cloud-based model depending on the franchisee’s preference (although Strickland guided them toward the latter).
At the same time, he established in-house implementation and support teams that operate 24/7. “We understand our franchisees’ businesses better than anyone and have a level or urgency that third-party vendors might not have,” he said. Wyndham now provides first-level support for all of its Sabre applications as well as first-level support for its international Opera applications.
Moreover, as part of each property management installation, franchisees began receiving revenue management software, including a program that analyzes rate codes and structures. “We want to make sure our franchisees don’t set up codes that might get them into trouble,” he explained. “These tools help them evaluate exactly what’s going on at their properties and make more informed business decisions.”
Strickland also oversaw an enormous central reservations migration, moving each of the company’s 20 brands to the SynXis CRS. Although nothing had to be done at each property’s physical location, the project required a massive amount of time and manpower, primarily coordination with OTAs, loyalty systems and digital platforms.
Under Strickland’s leadership, Wyndham also has implemented robotic process automation, or RPA, to streamline the company’s hotel openings. “We’ve been able to automate some of the data entry that goes into an opening, which eliminates human error and speeds the entire process,” he said.
Next on the agenda is leveraging data from each property to drive franchisee performance and improve the guest experience. “Now that our hotels are on common platforms, we can gather so much information,” he concluded. “We can study patterns in the data to determine exactly what our guests want and what our franchisees need.”