First class hospitality

In the first of a new monthly series, Arabian Computer News sits down with leading IT bosses from a variety of industry verticals to find out what the major issues affecting that market is. This month, the roundtable focuses on the region’s hospitality sector.

Tags: HospitalityInterContinental Hotels GroupKempinski Hotels SAShangri-La International Hotel Management LtdTourismUnited Arab Emirates
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First class hospitality
By  Imthishan Giado Published  January 23, 2012

In the first of a new monthly series, Arabian Computer News sits down with leading IT bosses from a variety of industry verticals to find out what the major issues affecting that market is. This month, the roundtable focuses on the region’s hospitality sector.

IT teams are the true unsung heroes of the hospitality industry. Few people are more crucial to the successful day-to-day running of a successful hotel and yet get so little credit for their efforts.

Try to imagine, if you will, a modern hotel without internet, without computers enabling the connection between the diverse departments, without printers to provide billing, without internet booking to bring in revenue.

Which arm of senior management should IT report to — the finance department or the general manager?

Haitham Natour: We should be reporting directly to the GM. If you reach this level, you have already created your IT image and this will be respected. Acting only as a support department and ensuring that systems run 24/7 is our basic skills set. We as directors should be doing more to improve things in hotels.

Prasanna Rupasinghe: In terms of Kempinski as a chain we report to the general manager, but we’re pretty much independent in terms of the IT infrastructure. Traditionally IT has never been managed by business; rather they have been supporting technical aspects. With the change of the industry, IT has to be a part of business and strategic thinking rather than focused on technical things.

What we are seeing today is that IT is your lifestyle.

Five years back we would have been system administrators, but now we are looking at completely transforming the business processes and driving them from within. IT has to have that background — only then can it move forward.

Soroush Nazemi: IT used to be a utility. You always need electricity. Now it’s different. IT used in a hotel can make you competitive compared to all others. At Hyatt, we report to finance. What interests me is not who you report to that makes IT respected or not; it’s what you deliver that makes your department respected.

IT started in banks in the 1980s when they realised that computers could do the job much better. Who in the bank has the most control? Finance. IT started reporting to finance from there. But we are not communicating only to finance, we communicate to everyone else. It’s the communication part that matters, not who you report to. I report to finance but I communicate with managers in all the different markets.

PR: Finance are not as guest oriented. They always look at the amount that you spend. You cannot bring a return on investment for everything you do in IT.

HN: If what I implement will improve the business and increase the revenue, he [the CFO] will have to agree. He has no choice.

SN: This is the whole deal. You guys need to make them agree with you. I don’t need to report to you because I’m reporting to them already! They feel like I’m a part of their department, so it becomes very easy for them to approve the projects that we have.

HN: Reporting to the finance [officer] means that you are one step lower compared to the other departments like HR, engineering and sales and finance. Why would you want to be one step lower?

Imran Khan: In my hotel, I report to finance directly.

Rashed Iqbal Qureshi: At Shangri-La, we report to the general manager. It is important to me because we can highlight all concerns directly with the general manager. If you go one step down reporting to finance, your issues and requirements are not conveyed directly. If you’re reporting to finance, they normally think about money first and don’t consider the importance of the actual functionality.

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