Marriott International

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Von Carl Wilson

The Change came with CRM

My experience at Marriott International mirrors these changes. I joined Marriott 10 years ago as its first CIO and an officer of the company. Our technology then was predominantly back office. With the advent of CRMCRM, IT moved out to the hotel front desk enabling guest recognition. Then, IT moved into the guest room with High Speed Internet Access. Now with our Web reservation systems, technology is in our guest´s homes and offices. brings in over $4 billion in annual revenue‚Äîthat´s IT driving top-line growth. When our Chairman and CEO Bill Marriott launched his public blog Marriott on the Move earlier last year, I knew that Marriott had reached a new milestone in the power and reach of technology. His blog has had more than 175 000 sessions since its launch in January of last year. The expectation that we will take care of the back-office technology has never gone away, but now we also have accountability for this broader scope of IT. Alles zu CRM auf

Marriott and other companies recognized, however, that a more strategic role for the CIO alone is not enough to sustain a real business/technology partnership. To build a common language and trust between our business and technology associates, my team and I created organizational structures, compensation plans and career development programs to drive alignment. We also educated our business partners about what technology could and, sometimes more importantly, could not do to support Marriott, and we educated ourselves about Marriott´s key business drivers. We have moved beyond alignment to convergence, and Marriotts business and IT teams jointly recognize the potential of technology-enabled business systems.

While technology advances and IT-business alignment account for some of the changes we have seen in the role of the CIO and our respective organizations, other factors have also come into play. Certainly, major events like Y2K ("Year 2000‚Äù) and 9/11 revealed just how reliant our companies are on information technology. With these events, concepts such as business continuity and redundant layers of communication, which had once been side notes, came to the forefront as mission-critical business needs and leadership opportunities for the CIO. Incidentally, I´m one of the people to blame for Y2K. I recall being in a cubicle at Bendix Corporation designing file layouts and trying to fit everything into 80 columns, when a colleague said to me, "You know, this won´t work when we hit 2000.‚Äù I laughed and said, "This won´t be around in 2000‚Äù - what did I know?

More recently, outsourcing, information security, risk management and globalization have grown in relative importance to most companies. Business leaders are looking to IT leaders for our insights, recognizing that we have often pioneered these areas on behalf of our companies as we have looked for greater efficiencies or simply managed day-to-day operations.

Are we there yet?

Today, the role of CIO is a far cry from the days of this magazines launch. CIOs and our teams are accountable for not only using technology to enable business processes, but also for helping to shape the strategic, enterprise direction of our companies and drive profitability. We are now expected to be business leaders foremost. Our business peers ask us for our thoughts about corporate direction or policy apart from technology. They also approach us with insightful ideas about how technology can transform our business.

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