Of the three key levers for improving quality--product, people, and process--people are the most important in the hospitality industry, asserts Gary Whitney, VP of global learning at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), the parent company to brands like Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, as well as InterContinental. "If you're going to tackle the people element of how to win, you've got to understand how they connect and work," he said, and social software can be a means to that end.
"We're putting people in the heart of our business strategy for great hotels that guests love," said Gary Whitney, VP of global learning at IHG. "If we have great brands, delivered by great people who share great values, and they have great ways of working, then we're going to get to the right results." By doing a better job of training and connecting employees, both at IHG corporate and its franchised hotels, the company aims to deliver more consistent, higher-quality experiences to its guests and keep them coming back, he said.
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Currently, the company provides a number of collaborative tools, including those associated with products like Saba Social Learning. IHG does not have an overarching enterprise social network for people to share information and make connections across the company, but it is participating in the beta program for the Saba People Cloud, which is Saba's entry into the market for private corporate social networks where it faces competition from IBM Connections, Jive, Yammer, and Salesforce Chatter.
"We definitely are putting a very heavy focus on the social enterprise area, which has started to emerge in the last six months as a company priority," said Randy Lummus, director of human capital technology at IHG.
"We have several internal products that have been used in a more siloed way in the past," Lummus said. Products from Jive Software and Lithium Technologies have been used to power special event websites, as have custom applications built on Drupal, the open source content management system. Now IHG believes the time is right to settle on a companywide social software platform, he said. While IHG has not made a decision, Saba looks to have the inside track.
Even if IHG doesn't elect to have Saba host its applications as a cloud service, Lummus said the revamped user interface of the cloud version reflects a consolidated technical architecture he expects to see adopted across the Saba product line.
Saba's strategy presumes its experience with people-centric systems for training, talent management, and performance management gives it a head start on creating software to connect people within the enterprise. For IHG, which has already consolidated most of its software for learning, training, and career development around Saba products, that could well prove true.
Making employee systems more social is important, Whitney said, "because how people connect and learn and work has changed, so that means we have to change the way we hire them, involve them, train them, and reward them."
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