IT Management

With more than 3,500 lodging properties in the U.S. and 69 other countries and territories, revenue of nearly $12 billion for 2010 and a daily workload of more than 750,000 new reservations, Marriott is one of the largest hospitality companies in the world. The demands on its hotel reservation system are enormous. Transaction throughput must be rapid and unfailing, non-stop, from anywhere. If problems arise, failover must be swift and absolute. The customer experience and Business Intelligence (BI) systems must be able to “right fit” pricing and accommodations for customers because they’re integral to achieving and maintaining competitive advantage. Marriott must also be able to extend its reach to customers. To do this, it must be able to offer reservations processing on its own Website as well as make this online reservations processing capability available to the Websites of its various business channel partners around the world.

“One of our goals is to increase the number of strategic distribution channels for our inventory,” says Misha Kravchenko, vice president, Global Enterprise Mainframe Systems for Marriott International. “The increased use of the Internet around the world enables Marriott to expand distribution opportunities.”

Marriott also has other business goals for its inventory of accommodations. It wants to optimize the customer experience. This means instantaneous order fulfillment at any time from any point and best pricing for any given location, coupled with the ability for Marriott Rewards customers to capitalize on the special qualities of that relationship. Marriott also wants to optimize occupancy rates.

Marriott processes an average of 1,500 transactions per second. Ninety-nine percent of all transactions take less than one second, regardless of where you are in the world.

“Many of these transactions come in through Internet threads that are parallel-processed,” says Kravchenko. “We’ve seen an 18 percent jump in Internet shopping over the past year and we expect that trend to continue.”

Here’s how the parallel processing works: At the time the customer is shopping, the customer reservation transaction is simultaneously run on zEnterprise with BI software that looks at member status, inventory status, and dynamic pricing models. Factors considered include whether the customer is staying over on a Wednesday night or through a weekend, and whether the customer is a Marriott Rewards Platinum member. On the room inventory side, systems also consider whether rooms in the area the customer is requesting lodging for are in high or low demand. All of this system intelligence comes together in a “best price, best yield” scenario for both Marriott and the customer in less than one second.

“The goal is to book inventory down to the last room available to maximize yield,” says Kravchenko. “We can expeditiously do this from a centralized reservations system, no matter where in the world the reservation is requested.”

Role of IT

Creating the technology to handle multiple market objectives can be challenging, but Marriott found it could continue to leverage existing information technology  resources while acquiring and making conversions to others. To achieve its desired market positioning, Marriott needed to:  

•    Ensure its mainframe system could and would continue to meet the growing demands of its worldwide customer base, while maximizing the yield on its accommodations inventory
•    Provide a friendly, pleasant online experience to customers while rewarding them for loyalty
•    Capitalize on a growing number of Internet-based and other business partners that were interested in reselling Marriott products and their own offerings, thus expanding the reach of Marriott’s products
•    Operate in a real-time, non-stop environment where customers can make a reservation anytime, anywhere
•    Perform the entire process cost-effectively.

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