Radisson reveals unified technology solution named 'Emma'

The closing town hall Q&A at the Radisson Hotel Group's Americas conference. From left: Charles McKee, SVP & chief commercial officer, Americas; Kevin Carl, EVP and chief information officer; Ken Greene, president of the Americas; and Aly El-Bassuni, SVP of franchise operations, Americas.

ORLANDO — Radisson Hotel Group has shed its Carlson name, it's in the process of shedding a legion of underperforming hotels and it's also shedding its previous technology platforms. In place of these platforms, Radisson will be launching "Emma," a unified system designed to encompass revenue management, property management, business analytics and more, and it will be debuting in Radisson hotels in 2019.

The concept of Emma was broached by John Kidd, CEO and COO of Radisson Hotel Group, as he mentioned increasing systems contributions to Radisson hotel owners at the onset of this week's conference. The word to hang on to is "systems" contributions, not brand contributions, and Kidd said investing in these systems is part of a holistic approach that will see consistent behind-the-scenes upgrades for Radisson properties, from Country Inns to Park Plazas.

These systems contributions primarily are technology investments to improve the back-end operations at Radisson properties. Kevin Carl, EVP and chief information officer at Radisson, said that in order for systems contributions to have value, they must be acted on swiftly. For this reason, Radisson partnered with SAP SE, a Germany-based software corporation, as well as property-management-system developer Indra, among others, to create Emma. Carl said the system will act as a unified network for back-end tools utilized by hotel operators, and will be curated in-house.

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"It's a great day to be the IT guy," Carl said during Emma's reveal. "Emma will help provide insight into past stays, which will allow you to create more personalized experiences for guests. It will come with an integrated [customer-relationship-management] tool as well as centralized billing for corporate clients, allowing us to quickly deploy new features."

With Emma, Radisson's ambition is to create a one-stop-shop platform for hotel managers. As part of the rollout, Radisson is replacing its Medallia customer-feedback-management software with ReviewPro, and the company is also partnering with SalesForce going forward. All of these capabilities will be consolidated under Emma as part of what Carl said is a strategy based upon reducing waste and eliminating the confusion associated with running a hotel.

"Emma is a new tool that encompasses on-property technology," Carl said. "It is not our intention to complicate our environment... it is our intention to migrate existing tools over to Emma. Our intention is to simplify, reduce costs and create new capabilities."

Ken Greene, president of the Americas at Radisson Hotel Group, urged the audience to make use of the company's revenue-management tools.

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The timing of the Emma announcement was also chosen very carefully. Radisson Hotel Group's decision to let go of its previous moniker, the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, is generating a high degree of internal reorganization within the company. At the same time, Carl said Radisson is creating new interfaces that will integrate at the roots as the process continues. It may be a daunting task for some, but Ken Greene, president of the Americas for Radisson Hotel Group, said his company may have an easier time pulling it off than most of his competition.

"We're pretty simplistic; we haven't grown our company through acquisitions and we haven't had to patch systems together that maybe don't want to cooperate," Greene said. "Sometimes when you do that, you just can't make it happen. The complexity, the language issues, the regionality, we don't have those problems. We are a closed tech ecosystem, which is pretty cool, and it allows us with Emma to leapfrog our competition in terms of functionality. That's our opportunity with this."

Carl it is advantageous for the company to make the switch to a new digital platform now, setting the foundation for the next wave of growth that Radisson is pushing for.

"Now is the time," he said. "Then we can scale and roll out new features more efficiently. So now is they key time to move."

During a town-hall Q&A session at the end of Radisson's conference, Greene was asked for clear metrics regarding the brand's goal to become "one of the top three hotel companies in the world" by 2022. While he was reluctant to actually provide how Radisson plans to measure a goal such as this, he pointed to the investments that the company is making in technology and improving its portfolio, underscoring how important innovations such as Emma are to Radisson's success over the next five years.

"These hotel companies that came before us succeeded because they had great brands in every segment, and owners that invested great capital into their properties," Greene said. "Somewhere along the way we swung from being an industry that is 100-percent owner focused to 100-percent consumer focused, and I'm here to tell you we have to focus on both. To me, being top three in the world means you guys want to be here with us. And I don't know how to measure that."

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