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Forbes Business CIO Series: Bruce Hoffmeister, Global CIO of Marriott

Bruce Hoffmeister’s Path From SVP Of Revenue Management To Global CIO Of Marriott

by Peter High, published on Forbes.com

07-28-2014

Bruce Hoffmeister’s path to the role of Global CIO of Marriott has been an interesting one. He actually grew in the Finance function of the company. Having minored in computer science as an undergraduate before receiving his MBA with concentrations in finance and accounting, he had an appreciation for technology. He realized early that there was power at the nexus of technology and finance. One way in which he brought the functions closer together at Marriott was by developing a training module for IT employees on the basics of finance, with a special emphasis on the financial metrics that were of particular importance to the hospitality industry.  An example is revenue per available room, or RevPAR, as it is commonly referred to in the industry. He found that too few members of the IT team were familiar with its make-up, and therefore were disconnected with the role IT could play in improving it. His training modules ensured that more people in IT were thinking about applying technology to great value for the company.

Just as more IT employees had reason to think further about finance, Hoffmeister had more reason to think about the power of technology. He left his post as SVP of Global Revenue Management to become the head of Global Sales & Marketing Technology and the Shared Services before becoming Global CIO.

When I asked Hoffmeister about the logic of his rising to the role with his background, he indicated that he believed he was the right person for the role at the time he took it, but he also said that he realizes that the needs of a company change, and the ideal executive today may be the wrong one in the future as needs change. This humility is rare among executives with such a broad purview, and has served Hoffmeister well in focusing on the present needs of Marriott, but also in preparing the future leaders of the IT function.

(To listen to an extended audio version of this interview, please click this link. This is the sixth article in the Business CIO series, featuring executives who have emerged from other corporate functions to become CIOs. To read future articles in this series, please click the “Follow” link above.)

Peter High: Bruce, I thought we would begin with your own career journey, which is a very interesting one. It’s one that came through the Finance organization rather than through a more traditional route. And I’m curious, what was it about your background, as well as perhaps your interests, that made your being named  Marriott’s CIO?

Bruce Hoffmeister: First of all, from an interest perspective, technology is very ubiquitous today; it is an obvious tool to have a large impact on all areas of the business.  So that was very intriguing to me.

As far as why the executives at Marriott had thought I was the appropriate person, I think it’s interesting to look at the evolution of technology in the business world, as well as in peoples’ personal lives, and where we were as a company in our journey with our technology discipline.

There’s a concept that a leader of mine shared with me once, that I think is very important. She said that you need the leader at the right time. When you look at where technology is going and where Marriott was, there’s much more of a shift from the CIO perspective, from just the running of the systems, and keeping the systems up and making sure your data is safe and secure, to really being much more closely in tune with the business overall, and much more in tune with driving strategy.

So I think there’s a shift going on right now within the CIO world that is moving more from a pure operational aspect of automating processes using technology to drive the company forward? How do you use technology to reach your customers? How do you use technology to drive revenue in such strategy because it’s becoming the expectation of the customer?

My background at Marriott through my various roles in Finance, gave me a very strong understanding of Marriott’s business and of our business model, bringing new insights into the technology discipline to make sure we are running our discipline as a business to drive value for the company. I think that’s why I ended up in the role that I have today.

Additional topics covered in the article include:

  • Marriott is an extraordinary digital business. Last year you derived $10 billion in revenue from e-commerce essentially from your website, and obviously IT has a big role to play there together with a variety of other parts of the organization. How do you partner with other parts of the organization to facilitate this massive digital development?
  • To what extent are the different disciplines coming together?  To what extent are you cognizant of developing Marketing skills in your IT team versus insuring the Marketing or eCommerce has at least enough knowledge about IT to understand where the bridges need to be built?
  • You also benefit from working in a business that your entire team can partake of.  You and your team members are Marriott customers in the same way that I am a Marriott customer.  So I’m wondering to what extent do you counsel them to tune their experience with the product so to speak, and with the customers that they’re walking past in the hallways, or checking in next to?
  • Obviously another way you impact that traditionally is through your loyalty program, as a lot of hospitality organizations do.  I know that the concept of loyalty is actually evolving, especially among younger travelers, and the organization is historically, understandably made the lion’s share from those customers who are most loyal to the organization. How do you think about the changing habits, the changing wants and needs of the younger travelers and how to incorporate that into the way in which we think about marketing to them, interacting with them, providing an experience with them and so forth?
  • You mentioned earlier the Plan function that you have incorporated as a response to the need to partner to a greater extent with the various functions of the organization, and weave yourself more into the fabric of their planning process and vice versa. You have also put into place a Build and a Run part of your organization as well, and I wondered if you could take a step back and talk about what the thought was in the timing of that.  Why now?   Why was it important to make these kinds of changes?
  • Yours is an organization that has developed a particularly tight alignment with Marketing.  I mean there’s a lot of talk these days about the relationship between IT and marketing.  Today there is a lot of marketing that is done outside of the company’s Marketing department and outside of the company’s control. How do you think about that?
  • There is such a tidal wave of data, as you suggest. What sources of data do you use?
  • You’ve also said that the IT components of the guest experience need to be intuitive. Please explain your perspective.
  • Can you provide some examples of some of the innovations that IT is involved in that will enhance the customer experience and make it more invisible to them?

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To listen to a Forum on World Class IT podcast interview with Bruce, click here.

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