EFFECTING CHANGE AT WYNDHAM
Roger Seshadri speaks eloquently about Breakthrough Transformational Leadership, the business practice guidelines Fred Kleisner, Wyndham International president and CEO, set forth a few years ago.
What BTL has done is foster a culture that encourages innovation and change, particularly in technology, Seshadri's focus. As Wyndham's vice president of information technology, Seshadri collaborates with his boss, Mark Hedley, Wyndham's chief information officer and executive vice president. Seshadri and Hedley have worked particularly hard to modernize gaming technology connected to a $16.5-million upgrade of the Wyndham El Conquistador, the Wyndham Condado Plaza and the Wyndham El San Juan, Wyndham's three gaming properties in Puerto Rico.
Both Hedley and Seshadri came to Wyndham from Sheraton.
In a recent telephone interview, Seshadri, a Madras, India native, indicated that his background as a certified public accountant and his experience in the gaming industry make him a natural for this effort. In Puerto Rico, Wyndham has installed new gaming systems and slot machines and has instituted “coinless gaming,” a system analogous to the prepaid phone card that allows people to use a kiosk for their bets. It also does away with cashiers.
Under Hedley's leadership, an IT executive committee meets weekly at Wyndham to “decide on the strategic direction of the company,” Seshadri says. Every hotel company has software like Fidelio and Delphi, so the challenge is strategic differentiation, he says.
Enter Breakthrough Transformational Leadership, which Kleisner introduced in 2003. BTL is about “ontological discovery,” Seshadri says. Ontology is the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.
“Under this program, the whole organization went through 12 to 20 full-day sessions” geared toward “breakthrough results,” Seshadri says. The idea was to not sweat the details but to develop the big picture. The goal was to “enroll” employees in the program, getting them first to understand it, then to believe in it enough to team up and effect it.
Among the Wyndham technology initiatives this year are implementing voice XML, an Internet language that incorporates voice recognition and aims to reduce call volume at its call centers; and development of a proprietary Wyndham web booking engine so Wyndham can cut costs associated with global distribution system (GDS) fees.
Seshadri also is in charge of implementing Wyndham's Capability Maturity Model Integrated (CMMI), a business-technology process from the Software Engineering Institute that Hedley introduced to the hotel company. That methodology sets requirements and acceptance criteria for technology and is more rigorous than customary in the hotel industry, Seshadri says. It has helped Wyndham regain its footing after the drastic budget cutbacks that followed the travel-industry collapse of 2001.
Although the IT budget at Wyndham is still far short of its 2000 peak, it seems to be regaining its robustness, Seshadri suggests. At the same time, his responsibilities have grown to incorporate both IT and project management, covering everything from e-learning to implementing compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley.
Seshadri holds a bachelor's degree in commerce from the University of Madras. He is a member of various CPA associations, has written and acted in plays and promotes Indian classical music.
At Wyndham, he has helped create an integrated data warehouse, brought wyndham.com in-house, and is constantly balancing what can be done within the company against what should be outsourced.
“We talk about core competency,” he says. “Technology is constantly changing. We constantly have to think, Can this be done by somebody else so we can focus on innovation?”
HIS Helps Russian Hospitality
The epitome Enterprise Solution from Hotel Information Systems will be implemented throughout the hotels managed by Heliopark Hotel Management Company, one of the leading Russian hotel chains. According to HIS, the deal also calls for extension of Heliopark's current contract for the epitome property management system.
HIS, a division of MAI Systems Corp., has entered into an agreement for its epitome solution with Libra International, the exclusive distributor of MAI solutions in the Russian federation. The epitome Enterprise Solution includes modules for CRS, web reservations, rate and availability management and distribution channel management.
Heliopark, the first centrally managed Russian national hotel chain, currently manages six properties; eight more are set to open by the end of next year.
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