At Best Western Hotels & Resorts, a move to the cloud has been on the radar for years.
The idea of replacing existing infrastructure with a public cloud provider has been in the works since at least 2013, when Greg Adams, SVP and chief digital officer, joined the company.
The announcement came earlier this week, when the company laid out plans to migrate its business application stack, supporting 4,700 properties globally, to Amazon Web Services by the end of 2020. The apps are critical systems, including its hotel reservation system, customer rewards platform and contact center.
Asked how the company approached its selection of a provider, "success leaves clues," said Adams, in an interview with CIO Dive.
"With the robustness of what [AWS has] to offer, from the standpoint of having data centers, globally, that was a big positive for us," Adams said.
In migrating to the cloud, Best Western seeks improvements in system availability and day-to-day operations. Prioritizing core processes in the migration will allow for early customer feedback at a time of increased digital expectations from customers in the hospitality realm.
The challenge lies in carrying out the process uniformly throughout its structure, which sees hotel operators as "owner members" and has affiliate operators overseeing Best Western's presence abroad.
Leveraging the cloud to reshape critical processes means digital transformation — and the work it supposes — will be atop multiple to-do lists across Best Western.
But Adams doesn't seem concerned about the challenges of the migration period, since transition "has been the norm" during his tenure there.
The way the company is approaching the migration, with core processes at the forefront, indicates the hotelier "has done its homework," said Dave Bartoletti, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, in an email to CIO Dive.
"Any part of an organization today that's successful, you can't rest on your laurels," said Adams. "The status quo is no longer a viable solution."
To break free from the status quo in a key customer-facing aspect of its operations, Best Western will work to infuse automation into its customer service platform through Amazon Connect. The platform's tools will convert speech to text and derive insights that help workers deliver more personalized customer experiences.
By moving the reservations system to the cloud, Best Western hopes to improve its system availability
"Let's say that you've got a hotel that has one room left, and somebody's trying to book it on Expedia, or Booking.com or on Best Western.com," said Adams. "Our ability to get that information quickly and to make sure everything's in sync is really critical."
The migration path ahead
In digitally transforming the way they do business, companies are called to make decisions that deliver sizeable change on the business as a whole. For Best Western, a brand founded in 1946, ditching data centers for the cloud will undoubtedly mean profound changes.
According to Bartoletti, the brand is taking a correct approach to migration as it uses customer experience as its bellwether, asking first how it can improve customer experience and second, how it can use the cloud as a tool in that objective.
"Starting with core reservation systems and contact center services means they will get early critical customer feedback to guide their further migrations," said Bartoletti.
Guidance from customers is a key element in cloud migration success stories, since stakeholder commitment leads to increases in productivity and collaboration.
"I'm encouraged that [Best Western] is starting with important, core systems – cloud platforms are feature-rich and have such a broad range of proven services that, in my view, it's time for more enterprises to look to cloud to modernize core business applications (not just some web or mobile apps)," said Bartoletti.
Best Western joins Hilton in its patronage of AWS. Hilton relies on the hyperscale provider to power its Connected Room concept and address a common room lock issue.