by Peter High, published on Forbes
Martha Poulter joined Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide just over a year ago after spending 19 years with General Electric, most of it in the financial services side of GE. Her final stop was as CIO of GE Capital. Switching companies and industries is a challenge for most executives, but given how strong GE’s culture is, some executives find it difficult to operate in a new culture, especially one that differs substantially from GE’s metrics-driven, up or out culture.
Sensitive to the need to bring her strengths of experience while deferring to the successes of the team she was inheriting at Starwood, Poulter began her tenure at the company listening more than pontificating. She internalized the strategy that the team was already operating against, and chose to keep most of it, agreeing with the logic of it, by and large. Therefore, she has spent more time capitalizing on the strengths that she found, and was pleased to see that a culture of innovation was already in place, though she has pushed it to an even greater degree. She is now spearheading initiatives related to mobile check-in, development of apps that work with wearables, and further investigating opportunities related to the Internet of Things, all of which we discuss herein.
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Peter High: Can you talk a little bit about your role and your vision for the IT organization at Starwood here in the relatively early tenure of your time with the organization?
Martha Poulter: Absolutely. As a business we have a really big agenda that focuses on our guests and customers, figuring out how to marry the elements of our core business, which is very service-oriented, very high touch, with the high-tech capabilities that we can bring to bear on that service model. Over the course of several years, you will see that we have had an opportunity to marry those things. Our keyless initiative has taken a very age-old, analog process from our guests and converted it into a very digital process that allows guests to bypass the front desk and go directly to their assigned rooms. So we are very excited about that kind of marriage of high touch and high tech.