Hyatt Merges Financial And Operational Data - InformationWeek

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1/17/2006
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Hyatt Merges Financial And Operational Data

With a little help from its beta-test vendor partner and some ambitious integration work, Hyatt Hotels begins to pull together financial performance management information and operational-level BI data into a common dashboard.

Three years ago, executives at Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels decided the company needed a way to consolidate its disparate financial data so that it could more easily forecast future sales and plan its business accordingly. In other words, the company wanted to install a typical financial performance management layer, with dashboards and scorecards for top-level managers. But after some discussion on the matter, the installation grew not-so-typical. Gebhard Rainer, Hyatt's vice president of hotel finance and systems, wanted to combine these financial elements -- budgeting, planning, modeling, and reporting -- with operational data from the hotels themselves. The idea was that a complete picture of the company's business, available on a daily basis to executives as well as hotel managers, was not possible without having the two together in the same dashboard.

Motivating the concept was a changing world, with terrorist risks and natural disasters causing an ever-shifting array of business variables. Rainer, in a Middle Eastern country in the aftermath of a terrorist attack several years ago, confronted these issues first-hand -- as did the company, which owns hotels in New Orleans and along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast. The first line of business is the safety of hotel guests. But in terms of the big picture, hotel companies must re-forecast their business goals from the ground up based on a set of entirely new metrics dealing with issues from resource allocation to skittish tourists rethinking their travel plans. It wasn't a job for spreadsheets.

Privately held Hyatt proceeded slowly with its plan. The first phase involved implementing only the financial consolidation programs. Establishing that "single version of the truth" was the primary goal, whether it was quarterly earnings reports for the IRS, investors or executives. The company looked at four or five vendors, including Cognos and Business Objects, says Sufel Barkat, Hyatt's assistant vice president for financial systems. Hyatt selected Hyperion based on its "integrateability" with the company's source systems, as well as its user-friendliness, he says.

Phase 2 of the plan arrived last year, when Hyatt decided it was time to build a business-intelligence layer on top of its already-existing financial performance management system. Again, the company hunted around for vendors. "We actually didn't even think Hyperion had a BI offering, but that proved not to be the case," says Barkat. Indeed, Hyperion had purchased Brio about four years earlier, which represented its entry into the BI market. (BI now accounts for around half of Hyperion's business, says Rich Clayton, the company's vice president of product marketing.) Hyperion, then, had a product to sell, one that seemed to dovetail with Hyatt's original requirements.

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