In his first year as global CIO for Marriott’s hotels and resorts, Bruce Hoffmeister accelerated a program for independent luxury hotels to tap into Marriott’s customer data sets. These “boutique” hotels – including The Carlton in New York City and others in Budapest and Granada – use their existing operating systems, but Marriott backs those with its service oriented architecture to connect end points for sales, marketing, distribution and revenue management.

Participation has grown from a handful of independent hotels in 2010 to 33 and counting this summer, expanding Marriott’s brand and potential destinations for its 39 million loyalty program members – both of which show business returns that Hoffmeister said is “a must” for tech initiatives.

“There’s a balance of trying to do new things with these technologies and new features, and maintaining what you have, and there are always cost pressures. There may be a lot of technology that you want to implement for your company, but usually you don’t get a whole lot of budget to do that. So you have to find a way to be more efficient with what you have to free up capacity to do the new things,” says Hoffmeister.

On the leading edge of change, Hoffmeister said there is already a shake-up from the proliferation of mobile devices in the hands of patrons at Marriott’s hotels and resorts. The entire hospitality industry needs to dial into CRM and even social media available to the growing mobile population, Hoffmeister says.

“It’s making your reservations, or checking in, or payment or redeeming your loyalty points, communication among associates on the property … I think mobility is going to be the big driver of change in the next few years that we’re going to have to tap into and find some benefit from, in efficiencies as well as guest experience,” he says.

Quotable: “As I tell my team, it’s not enough to be an IT leader, you also have to be a business leader.  That means you have to understand our model, how we make money, who our stakeholders are and what their needs and wants are. The approach to technology projects should not be any different than the approach to any project we’re doing in the company.”

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