By Monika Nerger, and Chief Information Officier,
Embracing Cloud Computing
As Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group continues to expand globally, cloud infrastructure enables us to scale our core applications in alignment with our new developments, from Turkey to China. We began our cloud initiative by transitioning our hotels and corporate offices to Microsoft Office 365 and we are about to embark on a Salesforce initiative in conjunction with our partner, Newmarket International.
Tactics for Proactive Usage of Data to Drive Business
We have a strong focus on accessing and sharing data across the Group. By implementing an ESB (Enterprise Services Bus) we are able to share and transform the data between legacy applications and the Cloud. Eighteen months ago, we embarked on a Business Intelligence strategy which enables our senior management team to access a wide variety of key performance data (booking pace, ADR, etc.), all accessible on mobile devices including tablets and smart phones. This initiative has unleashed the data stored across multiple systems and enabled real time, proactive access to information.
Mobility and Social Media Intervention for a Consistent Guest Experience
At Mandarin Oriental, we aim to provide an exceptional and consistent guest experience. In order to achieve this, we have identified several key trends:
• All things mobile – organizations must lead with a ‘mobile first’ strategy when designing new applications and guest facing technologies;
• Transparency – the authenticity of brands will be measured directly against consumer information which is widely spread through social media;
• Content – needs to be visual, appealing, informative and distinct. Video is quickly becoming the winner in this space;
• Friction – removing obstacles in the guest journey is key, and will change hospitality industry norms, such as speaking to a Call Center to modify a reservation, or calling banquet services to request more coffee in a meeting room;
• Digital – a digitally connected guest will expect their travel and hospitality experience to be on par with their consumer technology. This will require enabling more digital touch points and accessibility of services to guests without having them call an operator or visit the Front Desk. Whether through a mobile App or a tablet in the room, guests will demand this digital interaction.
“We are carefully following changes in consumer technologies which will drive innovation in the hotel guest room”
A Good CRM to Review the Business
Mandarin Oriental maintains a database of over 6 million guest profiles, based on appropriately collected data which enables us to tailor the guest stay to a more personalized experience. One of the key elements of personalization is getting the fundamentals right such as respecting geographic and cultural nuances of our guests who come from all over the world.
I think the biggest challenge the travel and hospitality industry faces is that there are still too many non-integrated elements of the guest journey. This results in purchasing air travel in one manner, hotel bookings in another, and restaurant dining in yet a third manner. While there is ongoing consolidation in the industry, there is room for improvement to ensure a more seamless experience. My wish list for 2015 would therefore include the emergence of viable cloud-based technologies which incorporate multiple facets of the booking process into a single guest experience, while still retaining unique brand capabilities.
I think the key drivers of technology are the same in hospitality as they are in all mainstream businesses, be that Cloud, Mobile or Social. To this list I would add ‘Wearables’, which I believe will become an integral part of guest service when worn by colleagues. For example, sending a message requesting additional towels for a guest could easily be sent, received and acknowledged by an employee wearing a smart watch, which will ultimately replace phones and be infinitely more discrete. The Engineering department may benefit from Microsoft’s HoloLens, which would enable a third party to see exactly what the Engineer is looking at, and then provide on-lens instructions on how to complete a repair. We are also carefully following changes in consumer technologies which will drive innovation in the hotel guest room, from the latest content streaming capabilities to wireless power charging standards.
Working Parallel with Technology Changes
The CIO role has changed to the extent that all areas of our business are being influenced by swift changes in technology, requiring a different purview. A strong understanding of changing business needs, a collaborative approach and an intense awareness of emerging trends and technologies is needed. Fortunately within Mandarin Oriental, my role reports to our CEO, Edouard Ettedgui, who has a very strategic view of technology and therefore is closely aligned with these changes.
Skills for Success
Communication and collaboration are two of the most important skills a CIO must have to thrive in today’s world. As Mandarin Oriental’s business becomes more global and geographically diverse, I have found a different leadership approach was needed in order to connect our colleagues around the world. CIOs are faced with unique challenges every day – from the accelerated pace of technology to evolving security threats. It is critical that we continually strive for innovation and be open to new technologies in order to be leaders in our respective industries.