What appears as tactical to IT may be strategic to the business

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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Urwiler, the SVP and CIO at Vail Resorts Inc.  Yes, this is the Vail ski resport in Colorado. They also own and manage 5 other mountains, resort hotels and more. It is rougly a $1 billion business. As a side note, I would highly recommend visiting a few of their websites for the experience alone -- I wouldn't be surprised if they win a few design awards. In particular, drop by the Keystone Resort site and check out the immersive video of Prospector run.

I wanted to share a project that was driven by IT initially which resulted in a BSM initiative that has become a significant differentiator for their highly competitive business. The approach landed Vail Reports on the list of CIO's 22nd annual CIO Awards and resulted with Robert on the cover of CIO Magazine.

Tactically Vail Inc. needed to replace an old fleet of bar code scanners that are used to validate guests at lift gates on the mountain. RFID was the natural replacement technology for bar codes and had been used successfully in Europe. It would have been easy to just use what others had already done. But the leadership at Vail wanted to differentiate the guest experience and learn more about guest patterns on the mountain.

The CIO made the case for investing in UHF RFID, which was higher risk and more costly, but met the requirements of the business. What looked like a tactical move to replace older technology resulted in a strategic decision for the business. This is a great example of how BSM principles lead to strategic business advantage. 

Utilizing UHF RFID and Wi-Fi infrastructure, Vail has been able to deliver a unique guest experience at the lift gate and can track guest patterns across the mountain which was not possible before. Knowing where the guests are skiing allows them to execute highly targeted marketing programs to promote offers on and off the mountain. 

For the details on the story see the article in the RFID Journal. 

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1 Comment

Rick, as discussed, this is a great example of business driving technology ...with the IT organization capable of hearing and responding with the details it takes to execute. Business doesn't care about the mechanics, process, tools, metrics to carry off the accomplishment ...they just want the accomplishment. It reminds me of the way senior management treats the sales organization. Don't bother me with details of relationships, customer support, compensation, etc ...just deliver the accomplishment (...which is revenue generation.) Revenue and profit are much easier to measure than IT's contribution ...but it's illustrative of the business perspective required of IT: "...just give me the results!" Robert and his IT organization seems to have achieved this at Vail Resorts.

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This page contains a single entry by Rick Berzle published on February 4, 2010 8:00 AM.

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