At any time, there are seven to nine unique projects under way at the lab hotels, and IT spends no more than 90 days on any one idea. Failure is definitely an option.
"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% 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.
IT Management Challenges
Show Me the Money
IT departments are developing creative ways to fund innovation projects -- from both inside and outside the company.
For instance, at Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, depending on the scope of the project, "we either get some funding from the hotel [where the project takes place] or we take corporate dollars and invest in those properties," says John Prusnick, director of IT innovation and strategy. The hotels are corporate-owned, "so we're not taking particular interest in an individual owner or franchise," he adds.
The hotel chain also works with third-party IT partners that "sometimes have brilliant ideas and wish to try them out," Prusnick says. "We give them a venue and opportunity to [try out new ideas], and they help to fund some of that effort."
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.