When I was editing one of your articles about examples of poor CEO/CIO partnerships, Mansur, I'd already interviewed Todd, and felt like calling you to tell you that I'd found a positive example! This clearly shows how important it is for the CEO to view IT not as a cost center, but as a way an organization can differentiate itself from competitors. Multiple times, the CEO went on the record to say Choice Hotels is not only in hospitality; it's also in technology -- refreshing insight for all involved in IT at the company.
You're right, Harry -- and thanks for bringing up that important group. In fact, Choice Hotels has seen its corporate business increase, and gives partial credit to its technological investments (plus investments in the properties, of course).
I enjoyed this story as a great example of a CEO/CIO partnership. Yes almost all companies are in the IT business -- and it is refreshing to see CEOs who recognize that and embrace this powerful partnership which can propel a business to heights unthinkable by others who are still wallowing in the muddy waters of the old model.
There was, historically, a whole overnight shift that would deal with a few customer issues and then spend all their time making up statements, Etc. so people could check out in the AM. Computers made that easier but clearly, the advent of yield management, groupon type offers, and other such things added a lot more complexity to the up front selling process.
Fancier services, data, phone, food, in room mini bars, and other services like SPA, Etc. can make a hotel very complex.... Plus you have a staff that is often selling add-ons like tours, reservation making, Etc. all of which add revenue..
I would add there is a 3rd customer, which are tour operators, and similar bulk buyers.
On Wall St, companies like EF Hutton, Shearson and ML all survived by building solid back offices allowing them to swallow competitors who couldn't handing the growing volume and complexity of the transactions. Seems like Choice Hotels is doing something similar.
Choice Hotels' back-office technology is extremely sophisticated. As a hospitality business that has so many franchises, it has two layers of customers: Both the franchise owners and the guests who stay at the hotels, so IT really has its work cut out to ensure things like reservations are fast, seamless, and reliable. The fact that Choice Hotels was able, years ago, to centralize upgrading/updating its systems really gave it a headstart over many competitors -- and is one reason the business decided to spin-off the separate company. Other hotels asked how they did it -- and whether they could buy the solution. Now they can.
It's surprising to realize that hotels are among the most high-tech businesses out there. It's a very old industry of course. But it takes a lot of tech to meet the demands of the modern traveler, and WiFi access is just the beginning.
Much of this tech is invisible to the customer, as good technology usually is.
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