Implementing technology for technology’s sake is something that the IT department at Whitbread would never countenance. All IT projects have to support the business, either by creating easy-to-use systems, bringing cost reductions or providing a way of sweating assets. They must also help establish a good environment for people to work in and help the company provide great service across the business, rather than just pockets of excellence.
“These are the five things that guide our actions. If people are not doing something that focuses on one of those things in IS, then they should stop and go and do something else,” explains Ben Wishart, group IT director at the hotel, restaurant and leisure group. This last year has seen the dust settle on a number of major IT projects at the company, including the completion of the Premier Lodge chain integration and a major Oracle implementation.
“A year ago it was a new implementation and not stable, with weekly planned outages, but we’ve got to the stage now where we have very few of them,” says Wishart. “More importantly, we’ve done a lot of work to simplify the user interface, so a lot has been done with holiday bookings and other areas to simplify the process.”
"Whitbread has been through an enormous organisational change and IS is part of that"
Ben Wishart, group IT director, Whitbread
The company also demerged the Marriott hotels from its portfolio. “Whitbread has been through an enormous organisational change and IS is part of that,” says Wishart.
Over the last 12 months, the company completed its mobility programme, migrating from GPRS and deploying Blackberrys (after a hiatus when legal proceedings in the US made its future unsure). It also began an initiative to provide remote workers with easier access to company data. “So quantity surveyors who used to have a Whitbread laptop will now just need the internet. It’s a lot cheaper for us and a lot simpler for them,” says Wishart.
One of the main initiatives this year has been to try and get commonality across the business and IT systems, while still allowing each business some autonomy. Although there are many different types of Epos systems in the various businesses, Wishart is striving to implement a common service management approach across all of them.