The Witness Group Discusses the Evolution of Data and Actionable Intelligence
Hetal Patel - Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree
VP of Technology
The Witness Group
Founder and President
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VP of Technology for The Witness Group, Hetal Patel, discusses the evolution of data and actionable intelligence.
Hello, and welcome to the comSpark podcast, where you will get to meet today's technology thought leaders. To learn more, visit comspark.tech.
BK: Hello there! We are here today with Hetal Patel, who is the VP of Accounting and Technology at The Witness Group, which is based in Lewis Center, Ohio, and they specialize in real estate management and hospitality. My name is Bryan Kaiser. I'm the Founder and President of Vernovis, and also part of the executive host committee for comSpark, and I will be your guest moderator today. So, let's get started. How are you doing today, Hetal?
HP: I'm doing great! How about you?
BK: I'm doing great! So, how do you measure the success of your IT organization?
HP: It’s mainly delivered, or mainly measured, between efficiency and productivity as to how we can help operation team or any department achieve efficiency and productivity based on the business process that they outline.
BK: Wonderful. What are the key outcomes that you look to achieve?
HP: Mainly to deliver, talking with different departments to say, hey, what are the key outcomes that you like to do? And taking that into consideration on the IT side – okay, what we can do to make AI look better from the operation perspective. And from the financial side, how we can grow. The structure is pretty much defined based on productivity and efficiency and the outcome all together for different departments. So, whether it's the human resources department or operations department, or the procurement department, it’s how they want to use technology to improve upon to get better results.
BK: That makes a lot of sense. So, how do you see technology changing in the next three years?
HP: There’s a lot of movement, and if you look at since 2008 until now, technology is in everybody’s fingers right now, within their palms. They can do all these different tasks, different processes, and they can get it done rather than sitting at a desk – especially at the executive level, and how they're going to measure the outcome of the product. And everybody's talking about the newer one, which is artificial intelligence or augmented realities, and those kinds of technologies, right? To me, it's mainly actionable intelligence as to how I can look at those data or those reports or dashboards and make a right decision to go forward. So, technology is kind of evolving in that kind of a direction, where nobody has to sit down to analyze anything. It's pretty much, predictive analysis is given to the end user to achieve the outcomes, or what are the next steps.
BK: So, what do you think it would mean to your business and your company to improve in the data analytics and predictive analytics space.
HP: Going backwards to 2006 when we started this analytics project, it was a combination between the HR department and operations to say, hey, how can we build good analytics to measure the outcome, because we are in hospitality and we want to know whether the guests are satisfied with their stay at a hotel and will bring repeat business. So, how we can measure that outcome, because previously the financials were pretty much three months to four months behind after the month’s end. So, how can we give that information right away to the general managers or department head to make those decisions right away, rather than waiting for six months after the financial results and saying, “You know what? We missed that chance.” Rather than that, we provide them technologies or the platform to gather all the information. It's in there, in front of them. So, dashboard, data analytics, those are the key ones that we implemented. And right now, as a company, we are producing daily profit and loss by using the technology rather than waiting for those in accounting on whether payroll is processed or not. End users or key stakeholders are making those decisions at the hotel level or at the business unit level. They can see those technologies, or they can see those data are right there to make all those decisions.
BK: So, you're talking a lot about things that you're doing proactively to improve your business. What are some things that keep you up at night?
HP: Continually, all the systems. Lately, it's not been any kind of worrisome bother at night as to what’s going to happen. Because once you set your system at the correct level or accurate way, at whatever industry standards – whether it's a high availability – the tension, that worry, of whether it's going to work or not – that goes away. Because you know that whatever you establish or whatever you put it in, that's going to work. It’s nothing so far in the last 10 years that bothers me, saying that, “Am I going to sleep tonight or not?” But there are some incidents, there are some downtimes, but those are the challenges that you're going to see that come and go.
BK: That's great. I've been doing a lot of interviews over the last couple of days and there's many things that people seem to be worried about, and I'm glad to hear that you seem to be pretty calm about things. So, that's good. So, last question. What is one of the most exciting disruptive technologies that's beginning to impact your work or your life?
HP: The most major one, I would say, is artificial intelligence. That’s playing a key role in our industries, especially in the hospitality market, and predictive analysis based from artificial intelligence or actionable intelligence as to how we can perceive or how we can know a guest or audience. You know, it, it may apply to any other business, not just hospitality, right? If we know that the guest is staying, and based on their past history or past stay, or they may be coming in for the first time to the town, right? How can we sell them better? Again, block chain, AI – those are all going to play a big role in terms of understanding the end users or guests. I mean, look at how much change happened, and now you really don't need to go to the bank to do anything. You know, from a business perspective – everything is in their mobile. You look at how much money the company has saved by giving technology at the forefront to the end user to do any kind of small task. And now, we are working on those kinds of projects as well to see how, not only customer-facing, but from the business-facing perspective, right? How we can make our department heads’ or general managers’ lives easier, to make the business decisions right away. And they don’t have to wait for somebody to either look at reports, or…and we’ve been here for like 16 years in this industry, and we’ve seen a lot of paradigm change in how everybody’s booking. I mean, you can see now, if you try to book a room you get 20 more vendors trying to get your business, right? And if you look at it from the transient versus business markets, nobody’s looking at billboards to book a room or anything, they already know ahead of time. So, why can’t we get that information ahead of time so we can provide better customer serve to our guests?
BK: Folks, this is Hetal Patel. My name is Bryan Kaiser. To learn more about us, please visit comspark.tech. Goodbye, until next time.
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