Choice Hotels, the Maryland-based multinational hotel chain, is a $10 billion, 80-year-old hospitality company with about 7,500 hotels in 46 countries. And with such a presence of history and reputation in the market, it had the foresight and resources to make early investment and commitment to dovetailing its digital transformation with sustainability. A lot of this was, in recent years, borne out of a strong partnership with Amazon Web Services, so Choice became able to benefit from cost savings and energy efficiencies, while utilizing many related services AWS offers—such as analytics and AI—to advance its digital offerings.
“Sustainability is one of our main drivers,” says Kirkland. “Usually when a company looks to go to the cloud, it wants to take advantage of the tech, get the ability to scale on demand, and manage cost differently. But a big benefit you get is a step up on sustainability, to be more efficient with workloads, and to use technology that uses less compute power, which, in turn, drives down carbon emissions. You use the tech and the capabilities of the cloud in real time on demand for what you need to do. And if you’re smart about it, you can really drive down costs, as well as have a good impact on the environment.”
As one of the cofounders of sustainableIT.org, a collection of about 25 senior executive CIOs across many verticals who believe in a collective responsibility and ability to help drive positive environmental impact through technology and IT, Kirkland is committed to the big picture and what business will look like for generations to come.
“This group of leaders came together to say it matters what we do as an industry,” he says. “And as technology leaders, we can have a big impact on the world and the environment around us. It’s time for us to step forward and do something about it, as opposed to expect somebody else to do the work. So we formed it last year and we’ve been working on getting it off the ground with partnerships and memberships, and we just launched the first ever standards specifically around IT on how to drive sustainability.”
CIO senior writer Paula Rooney recently spoke with Kirkland about how Choice Hotels International’s big bet on the cloud has allowed it to glean the many benefits of its digital transformation, while following through on a strategic commitment to sustainability. Here are some edited excerpts of that conversation. Watch the full video below for more insights.
On the cloud journey: Choice Hotels has a big footprint as a technology firm. We see ourselves as a mix of technology, hospitality and franchising. For the technology piece, it’s something that’s been part of our DNA for a long time. We started our cloud journey back in 2003 with the first-ever cloud-based property management system. Heavy investment for us in cloud, though, really started in 2017 when we launched our redesigned, cloud-based, cloud-native central reservation system called ChoiceEdge. We then made a commitment to AWS in 2019 and started this five-year journey to move entirely into the cloud. So far, we’re on track and will be completed with that migration next year, and we’ll be all in with the cloud. But as everybody that’s working in cloud knows, that’s step one of a million. There’s a lot of things you can do, a lot to take advantage of in the cloud that we’re working on at the same time.