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Quick Quotes from Hyatt CIO Eben Hewitt

During HT-NEXT 2022, Hewitt participated in a firechat where he explained how CIOs get fired, Hyatt’s experimentation mindset, and more.
Eben Hewitt CIO Hyatt Hotels
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At HT-NEXT 2022, attendees were given the opportunity to hear Hyatt Hotel’s CIO Eben Hewitt and Hospitality Technology’s own Abigail Lorden, VP and Publisher, discuss a wide range of topics including (among others): How Eben’s view of the relationship between vendors and hotels has evolved,  the difference between product management and project management and why it’s important, some of Hyatt’s most recent tech initiatives, and hyatt is working through the current labor crisis.

Here are a few quick quotes that really resonated with HT’s editors and we feel will also resonate with you. To hear the interview in full, which we highly recommend, subscribe to our YouTube channel or view it via the video link below!

The Vendor/ Hotel Relationship

[First of all], we all move around in this industry. You’re going to see people again, so be nice to them. [Second,] it’s easy to enter a vendor relationship in an adversarial way. A younger version of myself thought vendors were “out to get me.” That’s just not the case. It’s not adversarial. We’re all just trying to understand what our guests, franchisees, our operators, need. We all want to get the same things done.

On Customizing a Vendor’s Product

There is a trap out there that we’re all aware of: the customization of commercial off-the-shelf technology. [When] we realize as hoteliers that we need to outsource a technology, we buy the off-the -shelf product and then we customize the hell out of it because we don’t want to want to change any of our processes. That’s how a CIO gets fired.

Product Management vs. Project Management

There are two ways to participate in technology: SaaS product vendors whose job is to make the product and IT departments. IT departments are a service department like HR or Legal and are a necessary evil. IT departments don’t think like vendors. They don’t think of themselves as product developers who are presenting an API to the world. [Instead,] many IT departments think about cost in terms of the initial push. Product managers, however, think in terms of a roadmap with goals and metrics far into the future that need to be delivered upon. We tend, in IT, to do projects – because finance gives us a set budget and we go to the meetings and do the thing. But it’s not as strategic.

Hyatt Tech Initiatives

One of the wonderful things about Hyatt is that [we have an] experimentation mindset. We’ll throw out 1000 seeds, watch them bloom, and then do some gardening. We have senior leaders in charge of getting agile pods together to figure out experiments we can work on. We don’t make assumptions that we know anything to be really true. We test everything first.

[For example,] think of the number of hours you spend on your helpdesk with password resets. That’s a drag, and expensive [because it uses] our people resources. Imagine a world where instead of saying: We’re going to be the best at solving this problem, you imagine a world where that problem just doesn’t exist. For example, if guests don’t have a password – they can’t forget it, there’s no helpdesk resources allocated to it, there are no friction points. How do you stay secure with no password? [Hyatt figured out how to do it with our technology called] Magic Link.

Workforce Woes

At the property-level, we’re wondering how much we can automate. [Right now we’re constantly asking:] Can I depend on my labor force? Do I have quiet quitters? Some hotels have a 200 percent turnover rate. [To survive,] you can automate things so you’re less dependent on labor. Or you can say I need to really focus on training [employees quickly] – so instead of three weeks on training on a PMS, find a way to make topical 3 minute videos. [Or even having] a Genie (AI bot) at your fingertips to walk new hires through a specific task as it comes up.

Drive Revenue in Non-Traditional Ways,

Knowing what your guests care about [for each specific property] is the first successful step to ABS. There’s something special and unique about most places. [For example,] one GM in Arlington has a $70/night hotel that is near the Dallas Cowboys stadium. [He noticed that] fans will show up to tailgate, so the GM began selling parking spaces for the same amount as his room rates.

[If you’re only measuring success based on] RevPar you ignore untapped possibilities. Focus instead on GoPAR – maybe you’re only making 50 percent of your revenue on rooms, but the rest could be coming from conferences and events and F&B. So, don’t focus just on rooms. That’s an old model. The guest experience in the center of the universe, so focus on that.

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