Uncovering digital transformation at SKIFT Global Forum 2020
I’ve been attending the SKIFT Global Forum, one of the premier global events for the travel and hospitality industry, for many years. This year was unique for a few reasons, first among them being the fact that the event was a completely virtual experience. Another difference this year was that my colleague David Peller, Managing Director, Travel and Hospitality for AWS, had the honor to be joined “on stage” by Brian Kirkland, CTO of Choice Hotels International as part of the event programming. While the in-person event connections, conversations and (let’s be honest) cocktails were missed, SKIFT did a great job adapting to the digital format, offering ample opportunities for interaction, virtual showcases to engage with participating companies and provocative polls to gain real-time insights throughout. There was no shortage of inspiring and thought-provoking interviews with CEOs and other industry leaders discussing the most relevant topics of the day – including Arne Sorenson, President & CEO of Marriott International – who also recently participated in this Executive Conversation with AWS.
The all-digital format for the event was a harbinger for the topic Brian and David were there to discuss: Digital Transformation. While I missed being in person in the theater with Brian, David and Jeremy Kressman of SKIFT who moderated, it was great to hear the discussion — particularly around Brian’s first hand account of leading his organization through digital transformation. Choice Hotels was the first global hotel company to go all-in on AWS, and as such Brian’s been on the front lines of leading both cultural and technical change. The process has resulted in great innovations and also enabled Choice Hotels to become a more agile organization, to better face current day challenges and industry disruption.
The session started with Jeremy sharing key findings from the recently published The 2020 Digital Transformation Report. The Report surveyed close to 1,000 industry decision makers who answered a range of questions about the state of their digital transformation plans, budgets invested, digital capabilities, and talent, staffing and training. The responses were then supplemented with executive interviews and case studies gathered from some of the leading companies in the industry today. Among the findings Jeremy highlighted was that the report revealed the top 3 business priorities for travel and hospitality leaders to be (i) providing consistent high-quality customer experiences (61%), (ii) growing traveler or guest base (60%), and (iii) deepening existing customer relationships (58%).
Brian and David then joined Jeremy for a discussion on the importance of utilizing digital tools and systems in helping companies run more efficiently and better serve their customers. They discussed how cloud computing, digital analytics, and data-driven strategies like machine learning are being used to help companies uncover insights, stay ahead of the competition, and ready themselves to thrive in today’s rapidly changing business environment. Specifically, they dove deeper on some of the Report’s findings about the benefits of cloud, which respondents prioritized as (i) better data security/privacy, (ii) making it easier to scale; and (iii) more flexible / agile business. I could go on, but instead invite you to take just 25 minutes to check out the full video of the session for yourself, at the link below. Thank you to the team at SKIFT for hosting a great and innovative event that will set the bar moving forward — and for Brian for sharing his insights. Congratulations to all involved in making this possible. May we all be together again, soon.