Tony Del Mastro
Nov 1, 2019

The CIO Summit

Boston, Massachusetts September 4-6, 2019 Hospitality Upgrade began its foray into hosting a summit for the technology leaders in the hospitality vertical 18 years ago, and once again came through, delivering another first-class event. This year’s summit—attended by 62 technology leaders from hotel, hotel management, vacation ownership and gaming included 14 first timers.

The CIO Summit

Tony Del Mastro
Nov 1, 2019
CIO Summit Review

Boston, Massachusetts September 4-6, 2019 Hospitality Upgrade began its foray into hosting a summit for the technology leaders in the hospitality vertical 18 years ago, and once again came through, delivering another first-class event. This year’s summit—attended by 62 technology leaders from hotel, hotel management, vacation ownership and gaming included 14 first timers.

The host city this year was Boston and the event was held at the Royal Sonesta Cambridge, the same spot where this event was hosted 10 years ago! From the pre-event gatherings held Tuesday and Wednesday through Friday’s final session, the attendees were as usual, informed and engaged. As a former CTO and my 13th year participating at this event, I can say from experience that this is a can’t miss summit. And that is because the secret sauce is not only the great content and speakers, with the fun events sprinkled in, but it is the opportunity to meet, visit and chat with your peers to discuss various initiatives and day to day challenges that everyone is involved with. A special thanks to Mark Haley, co-founder and partner of Prism Hospitality Consulting, who helped organize programming and recruit speakers for the event.

Tuesday night, a group of about 60 people took over Mother Anna’s on Hanover street in Boston's historic north end. The restaurant opened in 1932, with recipes that were kept in the family and passed down through the generations. Currently, John Caparella (Anna’s grandson) and his family continue to carry on the traditions that were started over 85 years ago. The group enjoyed an abundance of food served family style and even a brief introduction to Caparella, the owner/chef.

“The pre-conference dinner is an intimate affair, especially this year at Mother Anna’s where we literally took up the entire restaurant and every available seat. The fact that so many people came in a full day early is a testament to the importance of this event,” Mike Blake, HTNG said. “The CIO summit continues to be a great opportunity to meet with many of the industry leaders and we are proud to have been affiliated with the group this year.” It was a great way to start the week. Thanks to HFTP and HTNG for sponsoring this wonderful dinner.

IBM X-force Command Center Experience

Many folks came in a day early to attend the Wednesday morning IBM X-force Command Experience. With early response high and many CIOs eager to attend this activity, we quickly had all seats taken along with a rapidly growing waiting list. So, Rich did his usual persuasive talking and The CIO Summit was able to accommodate two groups to the cybersecurity exercise. Led by Colonel (Ret.) Daniel J. W. King who aptly and calmly walked the group of CIOs through a real-life scenario, including what executives can expect during a real time threat. Exercising discipline and knowing which team within the corporate company to contact when an issue occurs, when to talk and what to say are all valuable life lessons. The IBM team said it is extremely important to exercise discipline and refrain from using the word breach until more information is in. Too many executives do not realize the implications or the differentiation of the word and use it too quickly which can cause harm or just plain confusion.

“Years ago, when we started in IT, we signed up to solve problems with technology, not to combat manmade cyber threats. So this information and this exercise, understanding the landscape and purposefully planning what to do and what NOT to do, is immeasurable,” said Paul Major, Aspen Skiing Company.

The CIOs were broken into groups – operations, IT, legal, HR/Communications, etc. each with bank of phones in front of them, a short briefing and notes with helpful suggestions for this fast paced, real life, on the spot training.

“I found the IBM X-Force experience at the conference to have been extremely worthwhile and enlightening, especially given how our industry has been targeted given the amount of customer data and transactions going through our systems. While we do cyber security tabletop exercise as part of our normal governance at Loews Hotels & Co, this experience was much more interactive, engaging and highlighted areas on which all companies should be focused. We are looking at taking our Executive team through this same experience later this year. This was very well done – kudos to Hospitality Upgrade and IBM for hosting us,” said Dan Kornick, Chief Information Officer, Lowes Hotels and Co.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat on the Charles River

After the IBM Experience and the sheer terror we put many of the CIOs through, we thought a nice relaxing day on the Charles River was a great reward. Boston provided a sunny, warm day and a beautiful river, and we provided a group of CIOs willing to learn a few new skills.

To host this exciting activity, the CIO Summit teamed up with Community Rowing, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to providing unique opportunities to promote personal and community growth. Since 1985 the organization has been working with local youth and underserved members of their local community to bring the sport of rowing to all.

“The rowing competition was a great way to get to know other technology professionals at the CIO Summit and it gave me a real appreciation for those that row competitively. Some of us as complete strangers had to work together to synchronize our rowing to make our boat go and it is a great analogy for how an IT team needs to work with other departments (in some cases as complete strangers) to move a company forward,” said Stacy Duncan, director of information technology, Chesapeake Hospitality.

“The rowing competition was both a fun and challenging event … and a great lesson in the benefits of teamwork!” said Laura Noffsinger, POST Integrations, Inc., chief operating officer. For the rowing exercise, we broke into four teams. See page xx for the photo summary of this amazing day on the water.

Opening Night Dinner

The event “officially” kicked off with Wednesday evening’s ice breaker and fabulous clam bake welcome dinner. This is always a great opportunity to meet new peers, reacquaint yourself with others, and to find out some interesting tidbits about each attendee, which Rich Siegel annually sprinkles into the event. It was fun to hear the attendees speak about a chance meeting with a celebrity or who (if they had the opportunity) they would love to interview or break bread with. Presentations started bright and early on Thursday with Martha Heller, (CEO, Heller Search).

What it Means to be a Transformational IT Leader - Martha Heller

Martha spoke about CIOs and their senior leadership teams needing to embrace their roles as enterprise leaders in the digital era—digital needs to be a major focus in an enterprise and that a strategy should be in place for how it is managed and leveraged. She led a discussion on how the most successful CIOs think in terms of “products” not “projects” and transform their teams from order-takers into co-creators who work in lockstep and collaboratively with their business partners. She also addressed how transformational IT leaders need to understand that while they are accountable for systems, systems is not their job and that their job is to create a vision for the company’s future. Throughout this session, Martha provided real transformation stories and quotes from some of the world’s most successful companies and with highly relevant lessons learned from the CIOs who led those transformations.

Life After Hotels - Bill Oates

A former CIO at Starwood Hotels and the 1996 HFTP Technology Hall of Fame recipient, Bill Oates spoke to the group about his career after the hotel industry. Since his time as CIO at Starwood in 2006, Bill’s adventures have included the role of CIO for the city of Boston, vice president and general manager for the Perkins School for the Blind and most recently as an adjunct professor, for the Cybersecurity faculty at Boston College. He looked back on some interesting predictions while at Sheraton, like “booking reservations through the internet and through one’s personal computer” (I guess that they got that right!). His challenges in becoming CIO for the city of Boston included obstacles such as a digital void, internal politics and IT/business structure (all referenced by Martha during the previous CIO session). Oates’ job of establishing a strong communication method through efficiencies, engagement and empowerment led to many successes while he was there, including implementation of the Citizens Connect app, which personalizes government through technology. He transitioned from city government to state government taking on similar challenges in order to bring the state of Massachusetts into the 21st century from a technology perspective. From there he left the world of politics to go to the Perkins School for the Blind, again transforming its technology department and introducing the use of data and a mobile app to better student experiences and lives.

5G – Mini session led by Yvette Vincent

The first mini-session was a discussion of 5G, one of the hottest topics in the tech industry today, led by Yvette Vincent, CTO of Delaware North. This interesting session led to discussion amongst the attendees, specifically around the current status of 5G (in progress, and a couple of years away from full implementation from the network suppliers (Verizon, AT&T, etc.), how to prepare for 5G (Hardware investments should be 5G ready or minimally upgradeable to 5G), and expectations of the value of 5G (leveraging data “real time”). Opportunities to leverage this technology for innovation in Security, Video, Marketing, and Communication can be game changers, and industry leaders must begin preparing for this new technology in conjunction with current Wi-Fi strategies.

Cybersecurity 2.0 – Josh Costa

Session 4 was led by Verizon’s Joshua Costa, who provided statistical insight into data breaches overall, as well as breaches specific to the hospitality vertical. This included over 12 years of research and data, across 86 countries, where more than 41,600 security incidents culminated into 2,013 data breaches. Some interesting facts: of the nine incident patterns identified in 2014, 98.5 percent of security incidents and 88 percent of confirmed data breaches today continue to fall into these same categories (led by privilege misuse). Cloud-based email through phishing and/or spoofing, continues to be a preferred tool for hackers to penetrate an environment, with a major focus on C-suite employees. Once in an environment, malware and ransom ware (24 percent of malware leveraged) are the tools of choice for the external threat actor. For hospitality, POS systems continue to be targeted the most by far – at nearly 50 percent of incidents reported. Key findings include: one quarter of all breaches are associated with espionage, external threat actors are still the primary force behind attacks (69%), and chip and pin payment technology have started to deliver dividends. There has been a definite shift in attacker behavior towards cloud-based services for email and online payment card processing. As systems are moved to the cloud, appropriate due diligence in how they are secured is imperative.

After lunch and the customary photo shoot, which for some reason always seems challenging for a group this size, we received an HFTP update from Frank Wolfe, CEO of HFTP, his major announcement being that HFTP and HTNG are partnering for the fourth annual HITEC® Europe on April 21-23 in Palma, Mallorca Spain.

Women in Executive Roles - Fern Kanter

Following the HFTP announcements was an important and current topic presented by Fern Kanter, Managing Director at CHMWarnick. Kanter explained that the Mom Myth, Typecasting, Unconscious Bias, and Dropping Out continue to be the major barriers that women face in hospitality today. The statistics are staggering where men outpace women in securing CEO roles 18:1. For “C” suite positions (CMO, COO), it is 5:1. In the hospitality vertical where women represent 67 percent of the students in university hospitality programs, they represent fewer than 40 percent of the managerial roles, less than 20 percent of the GM roles and by the time they reach the “C” suite less than 5 percent of the CEO roles. Kanter shared about the Castell Leadership Program and its focus on high potential women and Castell@college, where female executives are brought in to speak about and share experiences and details of their successful careers and other components. Here’s what we can do:

  • Recommend women as speakers at industry conferences
  • Give women a seat on the podium
  • Become a champion of support and offer women in our organizations the opportunity to attend the Castell Leadership             Program.
  • Become an Ambassador and introduce Castell@College to your alma mater or a nearby university’s hospitality school
  • Become a corporate sponsor through the Ladder Up program which supports the activities of Castell, preparing aspiring .       young women for the C-suite

HU’s Connectivity Survey Results Shared - Mark Haley

Next up: Mark Haley, partner, Prism Hospitality Consulting, shared the results of a recent survey of CIOs on the issue of HSIA connectivity in their hotels. Of the 52 respondents, the majority identified guest satisfaction as the major key metric in determining the performance success of their hotels. Guest high speed network was next, followed by peak bandwidth consumption, and then social media. The second survey question focused on bandwidth upgrades, where the majority of respondents anticipated some type of increase/upgrade expected over the next few years. The decision to upgrade is being driven by guest satisfaction, quantitative measure and contract cycles. One freeform comment spoke to the need to drive and measure bandwidth to a guest room or individual, rather than examining total bandwidth of the hotel. Next was a question on major network application uses, where inroom entertainment, streaming/casting, and staff communications were prevalent for both current and future application use, with Panic Button system use increasing year over year. The next area analyzed was the potential impact of 5G to the Hotels HSIA infrastructure. The majority of respondents felt that it would have little impact in the near future, but will closely monitor this over the years. Two major obstacles of 5G are its lengthy deployment cycle and its inability to effectively penetrate buildings/walls, leading to the continued need for HSIA. The final question centered around future investments in guest HSIA, with infrastructure upgrades/replacements being the major focus, followed by bandwidth upgrades.

Legally Speaking – Greg Duff

The last session of the day was a focus on privacy, specifically the California Privacy Act and GDPR. Led by Greg Duff, principal/chair of hospitality, travel and tourism practice group, Garvey Schubert Barer, this session had the attention of everyone in the room. Where GDPR is still in its infancy and the CCPA is just around the corner, the discussion centered on what lawyers have learned and seen over the first 16 months of GDPR, followed by an introduction to CCPA, a comparison of how GDPR and CCPA differ and the expected impacts of the CCPA. The biggest lesson learned is that there is still a general lack of awareness and preparedness for GDPR. Controls and documentation need to be in place, and agreements need to reflect ownership and responsibilities of data. There are real fines happening. The CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) will come into effect January 1, 2020. There are still certain amendments to the act under consideration (exclude employees from “consumer” definition and permit loyalty member program participation and benefits). Greg provided and reviewed an extensive chart showing the differences between the two programs. Ultimately, focus needs to continue on data collection and retention, data mapping, privacy policy updates (link/button) and vendor/suppliers roles and DPA. Duff also gave us an update on personal digital assistants (PDAs) leveraging voice where primary concerns remain that devices are always listening, that personal data or information is not being secured, and how this information is being leveraged. This was a very interactive session, as Duff offered many details and examples for hoteliers to stay current.

After this session, we then went into competition mode, where all participants were asked to create a mini Boston Cream Pie. We were broken into tables and given detailed instructions on how to build the pie while being as creative as possible. The results were interesting to say the least, with each group sending their best “pie” to vie for overall supremacy.

We were then whisked away by bus to Fenway Park, where we toured the great stadium built in 1912. Our tour guide provided a plethora of Fenway facts and tales, and we were able to watch batting practice and sit in the stands of the “green monster,” where one batting practice hit soared over our heads and into the parking lot beyond. The tour was fantastic, much to the chagrin of this Yankee fan.

The evening ended at Hopster’s Brewery, where we were able to kick back, enjoy a beverage, some great food, and just hang out with new and old friends. We were even privy to brewing a batch of our own beer. A suitable end to a great day. Before the brew-meistering, we heard a few words from Chris Hemmeter, managing partner of Thayer Ventures. Hemmeter introduced Thayer as an early stage venture capital firm with multiple funds invested in travel and hospitality technology. He outlined Thayer’s investment theses and discussed why travel technology in general and hospitality technology were particularly compelling areas for investment. He then gave capsule overviews of some of their portfolio companies, followed by some great one-on-one interactions with curious CIOs. Then it was time to brew!      

GOYA – Dr Roy Siegel

Friday morning comes early at the CIO Summit, and this year we had a special guest with us. In a rare repeat performance, world-renown chiropractor to the stars and brother of Rich, Dr. Roy Siegel joined us with practical insights into wellness and good health. GOYA, or get off your (bum), was the topic and it was the motivation behind making healthier decisions for a happier and better life. Posture is important now that technology has us bent over for most of the workday. Dr. Roy advises to be aware of the weight of your head forward when on the computer or reading phone screens. Standing desks and holding phones up to eye level are ways to combat this. “Hardly a person over 40 doesn’t have this damage to their vertebrae already and we are seeing it in younger and younger children, too.”

Dr. Roy offered solutions to the group of busy, desk chained executives: to roll a racquet ball behind your back while sitting in your office chair or on flights; get a standing desk; park as far away as possible and get those extra steps in; take the stairs; laugh for at least 15 minutes every day; get plenty of antioxidants. Many in the group were unaware of the radiation exposure during airline travel. Dr. Roy recommends boosting your antioxidants when traveling, especially overseas or for long flights – snack on organic baby carrots, blueberries or any of the colorful fruits and vegetables to boost that antioxidant level.

Lastly, be wary of where you purchase your vitamins and supplements. Some warehouses, like as has been reported of large online retailer's warehouses, can reach temperatures over 100 degrees which would reduce the benefits of supplements.

Dr. Roy said, "The bottom line is almost all health challenges can be prevented or improved if you make the necessary changes in lifestyle, behavior and daily choices."

The Annual CIO Roundtable – Jeremy Rock

One of the highlights of the entire event has always been the final session of the CIO Summit. This session inspires conversation and debate and consistently leaves attendees wanting more. With CIOs seated in a circle, we talk about things no one else dares discuss. This year topics focused on innovation, being the protector of the business and innovator in chief and finding better communications skills for all.

Charles Bureau said how important it is for CIOs to clearly articulate innovations in IT. “When we innovate, we need to explain to our executives because their perception might not have the innovation within their current vision.”

Danny Hudson made a great industry observation. “Looking at the new entrants into the hotel industry, Airbnb, OYO, etc., (hotels) need to look at how we need to change to lead, and not react to the market.”

When touching on the topic of innovator in chief, examples of initiatives come in many forms. Scot Campbell, CIO, Live Nation, shared an initiative whereas employees at concerts could accept cashless and mobile payments using QR codes. “We found a way to break down a POS barrier and gave every employee the opportunity to sell.”

The use of kiosks was a topic discussed and surprisingly there weren’t that many who had deployed self-check-in/kiosk solutions. Jeffrey Stephen Parker said that Red Lion had implemented this technology but that there were still some challenges and the team was still tweaking things. The system required that they have someone in the area to assist guests, especially with processing credit cards and encoding keys.

Rock asked the group if they are seeing an industry trend to train engineers to do basic IT service or combining engineering and IT departments completely. The Hotel Group’s Robin Koetje said his team created a basic IT toolkit for engineers to address issues on property. “Most engineers appreciate the information and it increases their skill set.”

The most important thing for CIOs was summed up by Parker, “Get involved. Stay involved. Be involved.” All in all, the 2019 CIO Summit was another successful event pulled together by Rich and his team.

Group Photo Reference:
Row 1: Frank Wolfe, Hospitality Financial & Technology Professionals; Danny Dang, Coast Hotels; Michael Lederman, The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd; Mclean Xavier, InnVest Hotels; John Flack, Hilton Hotels & Resorts; Alan Zaccario, New Castle Hotels LLC; Nelson Garrido, Brookfi eld Properties; Andy Tjan, Proper Hospitality; Mark Mospan, Kessler Collection; Charles Bureau, Groupe Germain Inc; Matt Schwartz, Sage Hospitality; Mark Haley, Prism Hospitality Consulting; Kristin Gassick, Enchantment Group; Marina Willis, Edge Communications Row 2: Scott Fisher, VENZA; Ali Saeb, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG); Mercedes De Luca, Pebble Beach Company; Michael Duff y, Seaport Companies; Stacy Duncan, Chesapeake Hospitality; Scott Nowakowski, Loews Hotels & Co; Christos Andreopoulos, Oetker Collection; Leroy Prout, HRI Properties; Smit Patel, John Cahill Honorary Student Seat; Tony Gaeta, Benchmark; Yvette Vincent, Delaware North; Mike Scott, Waterford Hotel Group; Ethan Brown, Sabre; Laura Noff singer, POST Integrations, Inc. Row 3: Andrew Arthurs, Interstate Hotels & Resorts; Mike Dickersbach, HEI Hotels & Resorts; Roy Crawford, Al J. Schneider Company; Fung Shum, Stanford Hotels; Lance Kobza, Aimbridge Hospitality; Michael Morgan, Atrium Hospitality; Michael Attenborough, Pyramid Hotel Group; Scott Nunn, Canyon Ranch Row 4: Sherry Marek, Datavision Technologies; Jason Arabian, TPG Hotels & Resorts; Richard Tudgay, Highgate Hotels; Mark Banaszewski, Stout Street Hospitality; Anthony Delmastro, Prism Hospitality Consulting; Rajiv Castellino, Marcus Hotels & Resorts Row 5: Bill Martin, AEG; Paul Major, Aspen Skiing Company; Charlie Lystrup, Spire Hospitality; Jim Forester, Xanterra Travel Collection; Jeff rey Parker, Red Lion Hotels Corporation; Robin Koetje, The Hotel Group; Matt Durham, Columbia Hospitality; Steve Marino, Marriott International; David Starmer, Sonesta Hotels; Jason Shane, Hersha Hospitality; Tim Kinsella, Amadeus; Bob Magliozzi, Cendyn; Harold Dibler, Best Western Hotels and Resorts Row 6: Doug Rice, Hospitality Technology Network, LLC; Simon Eng, CTF Development, Inc.; Christian Cooper, Dream Hotel Group; Daniel Kornick, Loews Hotels & Co; Brian Kirkland, Choice Hotels; Ron Hardin, Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort; David Elrod, Blueprint RF; Ron Peterson, Blueprint RF Row 7: John Burns, Hospitality Technology Consulting; Bill Oates, Public & Private Sector CIO; David Sjolander, HTNG; Danny Hudson, Wyndham Hotel and Resorts; Joe Deff ert, Schulte Hospitality Group; Jason Segebrecht, First Hospitality Group; Heide Werthamer, Edge Communications; Scot Campbell, Live Nation; Roger Franke, Aramark Leisure; Jeremy Rock, RockIT Group; Matthew Bortniker, PM Hotel Group; Kevin Sweeney, Enseo Back Row Tom Winrow, Sabre; David Simpson, Enseo; Greg Duff , Garvey Schubert Barer; Juli Barter, POST Integrations Inc.; Not Pictured: Jason Floyd, Infor Global Solutions; Mark Speck, Infor Global Solutions

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