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Ready, set, compete: The benefits of IT innovation

Stacy Collett | Jan. 15, 2013
Welcome to 2013. As IT budgets loosen up and new projects get queued up, IT is learning to quickly tap into creative ideas for competitive advantage in a cutthroat marketplace.

"Quite honestly, almost every idea fails fast. The solution we settle on relies on iterations of the original idea. Many times, perhaps as high as 60 percent of the time, we find that we revisit the original idea and find the solution to be something completely different," says Prusnick. The projects that don't make the big time are chalked up to "return on experience" rather than ROI, he adds.

One of Hyatt's most successful ideas emerged from the business side and was put to the test in a lab hotel. Hyatt International's president announced that the company needed to change the way guests check in. The Rooms Operations team, together with IT, decided to get rid of the front desks and make every associate a "host." The IT team created a mobile tool to untether front desk staffers and allow them to move about the lobby and interact with guests in a more personal way. The iOS-based iPad application includes hardware for credit-card swiping and encoding room keycards. The lab trial was so successful that the company decided to expand the mobile solution even further.

At the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Chicago, mobile hosts are now stationed at the airport shuttle center, where they greet guests, check them in and issue room keys. "That has been a huge win for us from a customer intimacy standpoint," says Prusnick. "The guests feel like they're being greeted in a VIP way. They don't have to wait in line, so that saves them time."

As the keeper of Hyatt's major innovation projects, Prusnick's biggest challenge is making sure everybody realizes that they're all on the same team.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm stepping on other people's toes," he says. "Making sure that we can facilitate great cooperation between IT and the business can sometimes be a challenge." That's especially true when other departments come up with innovative projects on their own and Prusnick has to intervene to make corrections or stop the project until the innovation team determines if it's really needed.

"At the end of the day, everybody is looking for the best experience possible for our guests and [employees]," he says. "We all have the same goal. It's just a case of who gets to run it and be the project manager." In fact, all employees are trained in "Hyatt Thinking," meaning they're encouraged to come up with ways to improve existing solutions. "We're trying to introduce this culture of innovation," he adds. "That's everybody's job."

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