With control over the revenue gained from digital as well as the IT estate, Fergus Boyd is, as he candidly admits, basically a CIO with sales targets. Having "brought digital home" in a digital transformation exercise to revamp customer-facing touchpoints, he has doubled web sales and slashed the cost of sale by a third. He has also introduced "unconstrained demand" reports (based on website visitor behaviour) to inform hotel revenue managers how their pricing could be better tuned, not to mention "happiness index" tools to track system and staff performance.
Name and job title
Fergus Boyd, director of digital and IT, Yotel.
How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
I have end-to-end strategic and execution control of what gets delivered and how, as I own both back-end and customer-facing IT, plus the revenue we gain from our digital properties. I'm basically a CIO with sales targets!
How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
When I arrived in January 2014 I led a digital transformation exercise to revamp our customer-facing touchpoints, but I also "brought digital home" and introduced digital services to staff to improve comms and interaction.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation's performance
When I arrived, web sales were 18% of our company total and at 18% cost of sale (CoS). Web sales are now (end 2015) 35% of company total revenue at a CoS of 12%. We have also won three awards in digital, which are the first digital accolades ever for Yotel. We also have a vibrant Jostle (intranet) community, where knowledge is shared, removing the need for 30%+ of previous email comms.
Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
I introduced a new suite of "unconstrained demand" reports (based on website visitor behaviour) which inform our hotel revenue managers that their pricing could be better tuned. I also introduced PCI-compliant payment gateways, broadband monitoring, guest satisfaction and "happiness index" tools to track system and staff performance.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
I have a very light-touch internal team who outsource non-strategic thinking and delivery to a range of carefully selected partners. This keeps our costs low and flexibility high – we employ local IT consultants in new regions to get us off the ground, then migrate skills to Yotel staff.
Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
I own and drive all digital work, given my hybrid IT and digital role. I'm accountable for both website performance and also revenue. I own digital marketing and engage expert agencies as appropriate. I have a small internal digital team to support me in this.
Describe how you use and promote technology to redesign the processes, services and structures of your organisation to enable it to become more efficient and customer-focused
We use an innovation process called Next Little Thing (NLT) to vet staff ideas covering service and IT/digital areas. The best ideas get seed funding, and an allocated champion is tasked with showing business benefits. We also use a network of tech scouts to alert us to interesting tech that can add a wow factor to our newer hotels. We use a lot of customer research to inform us of what our guests value and what they see as less necessary.
How do you engage regularly with your organisation about your team and the role of technology in the organisation, and what impact is this having?
Weekly stand-up sessions with the HQ staff (20 of us), plus weekly digital watch articles on our intranet, plus regular articles on IT upgrades and best practice sharing on our Jostle forum. Plus we visit our hotels and host workshop sessions to gain staff ideas and feedback.
How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
As a small hotel group, we punch above our weight on social, and we are very active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. We use Hootsuite to monitor buzz about us and our competitors. We have an active blog which creates engagement and fresh content to boost SEO.
How do you bring the organisation together to explore and discuss technology and its challenges and to develop stronger alignment of the technology function with the full business?
Generally via NLT sessions (see earlier) plus sharing case studies and best practice on our Jostle intranet. I'm also a key part of discussions with new investment partners, and my role is to show them the importance of IT and digital for differentiation, cost savings and driving revenue.
Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
We have a few informal relationships with tech scouts, but generally I find I'm just an information magpie and love attending industry events, talking to peers and reading widely across retail, hospitality, airlines, telecoms. I have a huge network on LinkedIn, who I ask questions of on occasions – ie crowdsourced knowledge.
Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
One of my chaps need to have teleconfs with Singapore and west coast America tech reps, so I let him work at home a day a week so he can rest between the calls! One of my ladies is active on a hotel industry forum and I give her time off to chair and host events (it also helps to get us free places ;). In 2016, one of my team will be taking a New Zealand holiday, so I will let her have three weeks off in return for being on call for part of that and handling work with an 11-hours time difference. We have regular events out as a HQ team to encourage bonding.
Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
I report to the CEO and am influential at exec leadership level as they trust my experience and wise counsel on all things IT and digital. I share best practice and regular performance stats at LT level so my peers can see what my team and I are up to.
Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
I mentor students from my old uni (QUB) and support some London startup communities with proposition, business case and digital marketing advice. I have put myself on a revenue management course (Hospa) so that I can speak with authority to my RM colleagues.
What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
IoT, 3D printing and wearables are under review – eg we will introduce mobile door lock soon. We demo new product designs using 3D printing. Our hotel staff have tablets to track work orders. We used crowdfunding to gain $1m+ for our SFO hotel (an industry first). We have a Yobot bag-check in our NYC hotel, which is a repurposed ex-car production line machine – no tips needed and no union issues ;).
How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
Reading best practice from industry, and common sense. Trialling where necessary.
Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
The team (IT and digital) have KPIs to bring new ideas and vendors to me, so it's part of their day job.
Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
I maintain an IT standards doc which is our current best view of products and partners and this is updated quarterly. Helps inform our two-year-plus time horizon for new hotel builds.
Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the last year and what they have enabled
New website (20%+ conversion uplift), new app (25% of our hotel guests now use it), new email platform (allows weekly campaigns, not monthly as before), new Google analytics reporting to track "almost" sales, basket abandonment emails to recover revenue, new property management system (PMS) with mobile/tablet features, etc.
What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
Global deal with Samsung on in-room smart-TVs to let our guests connect their own devices easily. Time Warner for NYC Wi-Fi roaming. StaynTouch for our new airport PMS – and possible future city PMS provider. We are also reviewing investing in them.
Rank in order of importance your sources for innovative technology suppliers
1 Media. 2 Industry body. 3 CIO peers. 4 Consultants. 5 Analyst houses.
Has your organisation detected a cyber intrusion in the last 12 months?
Is cyber security led and discussed by senior management?
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Are you a member of the board of directors?
What is the annual IT budget?
How much of your IT budget is capital and how much revenue?
What is your budget's operational/development split?
40% capital, 60% ops.
How many users does your department supply services to?
Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?
Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?
Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
Are you increasing your headcount to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
10% inside, 90% external.