The LateRooms Group encompasses multiple global brands that provide an accommodation only online travel agency (OTA) service direct to consumers or indirectly through partners. In Europe and Australia we lean heavily on the Laterooms.com brand whereas in Asia we are more focused around AsiaRooms.com. We now operate in more than 13 countries and 11 languages with a view to expanding our global reach rapidly over the next five years.
We are seeing the bulk of our custom come from domestic travellers within each country in which we operate. From a UK perspective, that could be people taking short breaks or maybe having to travel out of their region for a meeting and they just need to spend one night in a hotel whilst away from home.
IT Leader: Adam Gerrard, CTO. My role is most definitely CTO as opposed to CIO. I never really appreciated the difference until taking on this role. As a CIO I put a lot of focus on the bottom line, simplifying and streamlining business processes, whereas now, I have much more of a focus on top line growth, innovation, talent acquisition & retention and every aspect of the customers experience in dealing with any of our brands.
In role since:
Reporting line: CEO
Board level seat: Yes
IT budget: We traditionally invested £6m-£8m per year in the IT function, be that people, hardware, software or telecoms. That is a remarkably low figure for a technology company with a total annual transactional turnover is fast approaching £500m. This year we have embarked on a radical transformation programme to provide a platform that will allow us to take the business into the next phase of growth. This platform is the first stage of a transformation plan that will underpin our objective to cement our position as a leading Global OTA and take us through the £2bn turnover milestone within the next five years. We will spend something like three to four times our 2011 IT budget in the next 12 months and probably double our current trend numbers in 2013.
IT estate and or number of log on accounts under the control of the IT leader: We are a technology company. We generally have hundreds of thousands of unique visitors per week and serve up over two million page impressions per day and it’s growing all the time.
Level of the workforce that relies on technology to carry out their tasks: Everyone relies on technology to be able to do their job. More interestingly, 30 per cent of our headcount as an organisation sits within the IT and Business Change Team.
IT staff currently employed: Our current forecast is to have 200 full time employees in IT.
Split between in-house/outsourced staff: Currently, everything is done in house.
IT management team and reporting structure: My management team includes a Director of Service and IT Operations, a Director of Development, a Director of Business Change and IT Governance and a Head of BI. We have just finished ITIL v3 training and are adopting a service centric approach to IT. This doesn’t just cover the relationships across the business, but also up and down the supply chain from customer to hotelier. Because of the tight integration of the IT team into the wider business everyone in IT is a relationship manager.
Primary technology platforms at the organisation: Our primary technology stack is based around Microsoft’s offering and so we are heavily invested in SQL server and .Net. Most of our front and back-office is bespoke with some small packages integrated here and there. We are looking at making some large scale package purchases over the next six months to help us focus our development teams on just the innovations and developments that we can deliver to really add value, rather than having to build and maintain some of the technology stack that I would describe as “commodity” in this day and age.
Primary technology suppliers: Dell and Microsoft are the main two to date. We are just in the process of adding a few more names to that but I cannot comment until the deals are closed.
Strategic aim of the CIO and IT operations for the next financial year: My strategic objectives over the coming couple of years that will get significant focus in 2012 are;
• the delivery of the new trading platform to support Global growth
• to attract and retain the best IT talent to build a world class IT team
• to leverage our tools, technologies and our people to better understand our customers, their expectations and to delight then at every opportunity
Technologies considered by the leader to offer their organisation potential: Consumerisation and social channels are probably the biggest and most important aspects of modern technology on my radar today. Virtualisation is practically a hygiene factor these days and cloud gets a lot of hype plus a lot of bad press in my opinion. Having built cloud based services since before a bright marketing consultant got hold of what we did and called our solutions “private clouds”, I have absolutely no issue with the concept.
We will most likely use some SaaS over the coming few years in LateRooms. The problem I find with SaaS is securing and integrating solutions across multiple providers to create a seamless solution. The big move in this space will come in a few years time when Oracle & SAP have fully integrated their recent acquisitions and can offer an all encompassing PaaS solution with fully integrated ecommerce, ERP, BI & CRM capabilities that can support a whole business end-to-end. Now that starts to get interesting when you think about the whole front and back-office as a commodity service.
How do you see technology transforming your organisation in the near future?
We are undergoing a transformation right now. We need to ensure that technology remains an enabler and not an inhibitor to growth. We need rapid cycle time to get ideas to market and we need to stay ahead of the curve and offer technical solutions that can leverage the power of consumer IT and monetise any investment social channels. Today IT is viewed as an essential part of our business. Over the next few years we are seen as a force for business transformation, growth and competitive advantage.
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