Marriott International, Inc., a leading lodging company, has more than 3,800 properties in 74 countries and territories. The company operates and franchises hotels and licenses vacation ownership resorts under 18 brands, including its full-service Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, and Gaylord Hotels brands.
The company’s culture embraces excellence and change, and this includes technological innovation. Marriott was growing quickly and wanted to better leverage the sales force across its brands and hotels and continue to expand its group events business. To support this model, the company looked to move many salespeople from specific properties to offices closer to the customers they serve. Marriott required a group sales and event management solution that could enable this innovative, distributed approach.
The hospitality leader partnered with Oracle to design a new solution, Oracle’s Siebel Group Sales and Event Management, which the company is rolling out across the organization. The solution enables Marriott to locate its salespeople closer to customers, equipping sales professionals with the information they need to respond more quickly to inquiries. Today, Marriott uses the system to capture more than 5,300 sales opportunities each day and generate more than 7,300 quotes per day.
As it rolls out the solution, Marriott is seeing higher utilization of its event space. Sales professionals also have visibility into a customer’s historical relationship with Marriott brands so they can provide more personalized service. In addition, the system provides better insight into what customers are buying across Marriott brands, enabling the company to adapt and tailor marketing initiatives to increase the occupancy of function space. As important, the company has integrated the system with Marriott.com to offer the industry’s first self-service, event-booking portal for small groups—gaining a powerful competitive advantage.
Marriott did not have a single, consolidated view of its 30,411 active-function spaces across all properties and brands in the United States. Each property managed its event space separately, as there was little integration between sales systems. As a result, it was difficult for sales representatives to respond quickly to inquiries, especially if a potential customer wanted information on more than one location.
“Approximately 30 years ago, we centralized our sleeping-room inventory into one reservation system. Our function-space inventory, however, remained in siloed databases, making it nearly impossible for us to manage in the way we manage sleeping rooms, from a pricing and availability perspective,” said Marc Levy, vice president Information Resources, Enterprise Development, Marriott.
In addition, there was no way for Marriott sales professionals to understand the value of a customer across multiple hotels or brands as information was stored in separate, hotel-centric databases, preventing use of this important intelligence to close a deal.
As Marriott’s network grew, so did its IT management burden, as it had to maintain a growing number of on-site systems. In addition, there was limited integration between aging group sales systems, the event execution system, and revenue management systems—leading to complex and manual handoffs and information rekeying. As a result, Marriott could not effectively manage events through the lifecycle, from initial sales call, through to billing.
The company required a single, global platform designed specifically for the hospitality industry that could scale and perform to support its global business needs. Besides being able to support hundreds of properties and more than 20,000 users worldwide, the system needed to be robust enough to handle a range of hotels from smaller, single meeting room hotels to large convention hotels, which may have more than 800 function spaces and execute hundreds of events a day. It also required a solution that could support and integrate with the company’s existing ecosystem, including revenue, property management, and central reservation systems, as well as outdoor readerboards. Further, the solution had to provide appropriate access to customer and inventory data at any level for a specific property, global sales office, or regional office and had to be web-based to reduce the onsite IT management burden.
Marriott, which had been using Oracle’s Siebel customer relationship management (CRM) applications, looked to Siebel, later acquired by Oracle, for a new solution that would lead the industry. Marriott entered into a strategic partnership, which combined Oracle’s engineering and development capabilities with Marriott’s input on business requirements. Oracle’s Siebel Group Sales and Event Management is the result of that initiative with the two companies partnering to develop the industry’s first integrated sales and catering application that incorporates the leading best practices.
Today, Marriott is using the solution’s sales capabilities across its global network in approximately 60 countries. It is now rolling out the event and inventory management component in the United States.
Marriott is gaining integrated visibility into event space and sleeping rooms across its full-service hotel portfolio. While its rollout continues across the United States, Marriott is seeing some dramatic improvements in its ability to respond more quickly than competitors to customer requests. “We’ve been able to leverage information about customers and develop products and services that are specifically tailored to their needs. And, we’re getting better insight into how, where, and what customers are buying across hotels and brands and seeing higher utilization of function space,” said Tony Reid, senior vice president information resources, sales, inventory, and event management solutions, Marriott.
The company also has greater agility to adapt to changing market conditions. Since group sales and event space information is consolidated, Marriott can now quickly respond to new business conditions, such as federal sequestration, and gain a head start on the competition. In addition, the company has moved its sales professionals out of hotel properties and closer to the customers they serve—which is unique in the industry.
“In many cases, a group-sales customer will book, based on the easiest and fastest interaction, so a company that can respond immediately with accurate pricing and availability is much more likely to close the sale. In a competitive landscape, this is absolutely critical. Siebel Group Sales and Event Management gives us this capability,” Reid said.
“Siebel Group Sales and Event Management enables us to apply—to our function space—the pricing and inventory science that we have used for decades to manage our sleeping rooms. That is the secret sauce that we’ve created with this innovative application,” he continued.
The solution also enables Marriott to offer self-service capabilities for small groups—which account for 80% of the company’s transactions—and is integrating the system with third-party bookers and e-commerce groups to expand opportunities in this sector. For example, the company has integrated Siebel Group Sales and Event Management with Mariott.com so that small-group planners can book events directly through the website without having to call a sales office. This capability was not possible before Marriott centralized inventory via the Siebel system.
“With Siebel Group Sales and Event Management users can now book food and beverage, sleeping rooms, and event rooms all in one self-service transaction via our website. This accelerates speed, reduces channel costs, and enables sales professionals to focus on more complex events. We are the first organization in the industry to offer this capability,” Levy said.
In addition, the company is using the solution to expand opportunities with third-party event management groups and sites. “We are seeing great growth potential through electronic channels, such as e-proposal sites, and are integrating the solution with those new offerings. Sales representatives can now quickly populate the information required for e-proposals, further accelerating our responses and improving productivity,” Reid said.
The system is also helping Marriott to reduce its IT management burden. Hardware is centralized with the web-based solution, eliminating the cost and complexity of refreshing systems across more than 500 properties and allowing the company to apply IT human resources previously assigned to those projects to more strategic initiatives.
Siebel Group Sales and Event Management is integrated with Marriott’s proprietary Consolidated Inventory/Total Yield system, providing greater visibility into inventory and pricing, and is linked to its property revenue management system, which records check-in and check-out activity and prepares the final folio for many customers. Integration with the company’s reservation system provides automatic updates to Siebel Group Sales and Event Management, allowing salespeople to track and better manage the sleeping rooms being booked for a specific event.
In addition, Marriott has integrated Siebel Group Sales and Event Management with its third-party digital signage system, which provides a marquee of events for the day. It also integrates with Bloomberg services for automated currency conversion and to a data cleansing and standardization solution to remove duplicate names and addresses from the system.
Marriott will have more than 20,000 users in North America on Siebel Group Sales and Event Management when the solution is fully rolled out. Users will range from senior account executives to local sales professionals, as well as call-center representatives and members of the business development group. On the revenue management side, users include professionals that create inventory and pricing strategies and manage the planning and execution of group events, as well as finance team members involved in group billing.
The company also recently upgraded to Siebel Group Sales and Event Management Version 188.8.131.52. With the newest release, it is benefitting from Oracle Business Intelligence Publisher, which is now integrated into the system. Marriott has converted more than 50 reports from its legacy platform and has seen significant performance improvement in the more than 14,400 reports it runs daily. It also has moved to the Linux infrastructure, which is part of Marriott’s overall data center strategy to drive down hardware costs and deliver high availability at a lower price point.
Marriott had deployed Oracle’s Siebel CRM applications and used them extensively throughout the organization. “It was an ideal choice to partner with and build on Oracle’s industry-leading Siebel solutions, using as the foundation for a group sales and event management a solution that is specific to the hospitality industry,” Levy said. “We’ve been very pleased with our choice. I would say that imitation is the best form of flattery, and several of our large competitors are starting down a similar road. We have the strategic advantage of being much further along with our initiative.”
Marriott is approximately 65% through its rollout of the event inventory management component of the solution in the United States. It has already implemented the sales component globally. Oracle Consulting and Oracle Advanced Customer Support Services have played an integral role in the implementation.
Marriott worked closely with Oracle Consulting Services as its primary application integration partner. Oracle Consulting Services developed several best-practice business processes, providing Marriott with a customizable solution that is scalable to accommodate future changes. The Oracle Expert Services team within Oracle Consulting also conducted architectural and configuration reviews for enhanced usability and performance.
Marriott worked with Oracle Advanced Customer Support Services, Oracle Technical Account Management, and the Oracle Solution Support Center using the Oracle implementation best practices methodology during all phases of the project. This support included strategic guidance during project planning, review, and implementation, personalized technical support, and expertise, such as application configuration, performance benchmark testing, and high availability system design.
“Being the charter customer on this product, it was important that we have direct access to the developers and product team. Oracle Advanced Customer Support Services has the highest level of expertise in the application we’re running. There are several members of the Oracle team that know our environment as well as we do and have been critical to our success,” Levy said.