Shattering Silos – Strengthening Communication between Marketing & IT

HSMAI & HTNG Enable Awareness and Collaboration

SHORTFALLS IN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION between a hotel brand’s marketing and IT groups are not rare and are definitely not inconsequential.

Everyone I know has a story – or multiple stories – about projects where, early on, the decision was, “Oh, we don’t need to include them on this.” Weeks or months later, when unexpected facts or issues become apparent, the new line is “We should have talked with them about this.”

I would like to think that we are making progress, what with the widespread move to marketing (or operations or finance, etc.) being the project initiator/owner and IT being the fulfillment agency. But we are still far from perfect. HSMAI/HFTP research indicates that 78% of the hotel group staff they polled feel that their marketing and IT teams are only somewhat, or not at all, aligned.

As marketing initiatives become increasingly dependent on technology for their effective operation – for successful digital presentation and reservation capture, for personalization, for data mining and insight development – this shortfall becomes a steadily more critical issue.

The pandemic helped – forcing much closer communication and collaboration – at least temporarily. And the emergence of a CCO – chief commercial officer – position in many organizations positions that individual to pull together the traditionally semi-autonomous parts into a coordinated and cooperating team. But it is not the total solution.

Leaders of HSMAI and HTNG/AHLA saw the opportunity to further address and improve the situation. They agree to apply a proven-effective, grass-level approach to the issue. They formed a joint workgroup – Optimizing Relationships between Marketing and IT. Shannon Bedard of IDeaS and Donna Hale of 5P Consulting agreed to co-chair the workgroup and HTNG’s Sandy Angel agreed to serve as its facilitator.

A call was issued for workgroup volunteers to join in discussion of how marketing and IT communication and cooperation on IT projects could be improved. More than 50 industry professionals of hoteliers, vendors and consultants responded. Discussions began.

The outcome of the discussion was workgroup agreement to develop three resources which they felt could strengthen communication and cooperation. The first of those deliverables is a detailed “Marketecture Diagram”. The diagram identifies the systems commonly used in a hotel group’s Marketing, Sales, Distribution, Revenue and Reservations operations. In addition to the systems themselves, the diagram indicates the interactions and dependencies between systems, including their inputs and outputs, and the sources/destinations of those inputs and outputs.

Next, the workgroup is developing an “Integration Workbook”. It is a guide to effective project management of initiatives that impact, and should involve, both marketing and IT. The workbook describes workflows that aim to achieve a deep and sufficient understanding by the two groups of the involvement required from each to ensure project success.

The third deliverable is a set of “Best Practices” in designing, developing and operating multi-party systems. The workgroup’s charter describes it as “… best practices to help organizations navigate through their IT departments to advance the enablement of business goals through digital transformation.”

These are worthwhile objectives for the workgroup. So, will they be accomplished? The news on this front is positive. Sandy Angel shared with this author that the Marketecture Diagram and the Integration Workbook have both been drafted and are in final review. With those deliverables largely completed, the workgroup is now compiling its set of Best Practices in project design and project management cooperation.

Long-honed patterns of departmental independence, independence that in some cases can jeopardize the success of a project which requires close Marketing and IT awareness and cooperation, won’t be eliminated by the joint HSMAI/HTNG workgroup and its three deliverables. But progress is made one step at a time and the efforts of the Optimizing Relationships between marketing and IT workgroup are a worthwhile and substantial step in the right direction.