Laura Miller, IHG
InterContinental Hotels Group named Laura Miller chief
information officer in February. She's responsible for
infrastructure and operations, enterprise architecture and data, IT security operations,
application development and corporate support. IHG franchises, leases, manages or owns more than 5,500 hotels in
nearly 100 countries, with more than 1,800 hotels in development.
For our November theme, PhocusWire talks to technology heads on the challenges of their roles and the rapid pace of change in travel technology and distribution.
been the biggest challenge as you develop the new guest reservation system with
We chose to
partner with Amadeus because they are experts in the field, and they could
bring great insight from the airline industry.
But even with that great
experience, this endeavor was a challenge because we were the first in the
industry to develop a large scale, multinational-capable cloud-based guest reservation system.
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We are replacing and upgrading the Holidex system that has
been the backbone of our business for decades and embarking on something
So complexity was a given. Challenges were expected. And the
unexpected was inevitable. We had to make sure that 50 years of business logic
was incorporated into the new state-of-the-art system.
That’s why ensuring
Amadeus and IHG were equally committed to making this work has been
instrumental to success. The program is tracking very well, and we will be
talking more about that next year.
hospitality technology facilitate a more personalized experience for hotel
company is on their own technology journey - one that reflects how they are
thinking about their brands, their guests and their owners.
help us facilitate choice, but a "personalized experience" is just that -personal - and there is no one definition of how we should deliver that.
how much personalization is expected, which will change depending on the guest
and why they are traveling.
So in an industry that welcomes hundreds of
millions of guests each year around the world, we have to make that choice easy
(and not overwhelming) for the guest, and equally easy for our hotel teams to
deliver seamlessly every time. Technology, along with training, is central to
emerging technologies do you think will have the biggest impact on your
business in the next decade?
On the one hand
it will be technology solutions that help a guest to feel more at home or can
remove any friction from their journey, e.g., IHG Studio, which allows guests to
stream their own content from their devices.
But it’s the ones behind the
scenes that will that will also help the industry change immensely over the
coming decade - solutions like our cloud-based IHG Concerto technology platform
(featuring our new guest reservation system) that allow us and our hotel owners
to manage this dynamic, complex business more effectively.
may not grab the headlines, but they are fundamental to delivering a better
could talk to travel tech vendors, what is one thing you’d want to tell them?
technology that supports hotels is still predominately on-property, which makes
it harder to make large scale changes quickly.
The one thing I would tell
them is i they want to help IHG move the needle for our guests and our owners then
invest more in moving these solutions to the cloud.
A shift to
cloud-based hotel technologies will help to dramatically improve the guest
experience and will drive down owner costs.
the greatest challenges of your role?
The pace of
our growth! Scale is vital in our industry, and that in itself brings
incredible opportunities and complexity.
We are opening hotels every day around
the world - some new-build properties, some that are converting to our brands.
Each one has to plug into our ecosystem, and we have to deliver from day one.
Hotels are a 24/7 business, so we must have highly reliable systems.
challenge that everyone is facing today is securing our systems and our data.
We have a huge responsibility to protect the data of our employees and our
guests and this requires increased investment, focus and support from our
view on big consumer brands (Apple, Amazon, Facebook) and their impact on
travel going forward?
We are all
in it to win it - and they are no different. Travel is an incredibly exciting
industry, and one where companies can create valuable and deep relationships
It’s no wonder that many brands are looking at how they can
create a space for themselves in this industry.
Technology can help us facilitate choice, but a "personalized experience" is just that -personal - and there is no one definition of how we should deliver that.
Each of the companies looking
at the industry brings a different view, and we can learn from each other but
also recognize where we add best value.
One of the things we never forget is
that as a hotel company we are the ones that create and deliver the experience
of each and every guest.
They stay in our hotels for at least 24 hours - and
that is an invaluable opportunity to get to know them, learn what they want
from their hotel partner and create a meaningful relationship so they chose to
come back again.
That’s something we don’t take for granted, and something
most other big consumer brands don’t get the chance to do.
ever really be a seamless traveler experience?
aim, and we work towards achieving that each and every day. But will we ever
I don’t think that’s a target that will - or should be - achieved, because the goalposts are always going to be changing.
Especially with the
leaps in technology made every year. We’ll always aim to get closer and closer,
but expectations of what a seamless experience means will continue to change,
adapt and grow.
But that’s what keeps us hungry and keeps us striving to do
CIOs/CTOs in travel companies now have the standing they should with the CEO?
Do you see those partnerships working effectively generally in the industry?
believe CIOs/CTOs are well recognized in this industry.
At IHG, we’ve always
understood the integral role technology plays in delivering a great guest
experience, and value for hotel owners. That comes from the very top here.
bit of advice would you give an experienced technologist from another sector
considering a move into travel?
industry is complex - there are so many stakeholders that aren’t obvious from
the outside. Franchisees, owners, online travel agencies - the list goes on.
Technology is one of the key parts of the business that helps to make this web
of organizations and businesses work cohesively.
So my advice is to get
under the skin of what makes this industry work and to have a passion for
Getting everyone aligned around a common vision or what we are
trying to achieve - for the guest or for our own businesses - are a critical
part of achieving success in our world.