Leading hotel and leisure company manages global risk using Agile Analytics

Since 2007, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has become a truly international hotelier, opening new properties in Dubai, Qatar, India and China. International growth, however, brings both risks and opportunities. ThoughtWorks partnered with Starwood to lay the groundwork for a new approach to risk management using lean learning and the adaptive practices of Agile Analytics to quickly deliver valuable insight, allowing Starwood to properly assess how much risk to accept in pursuit of new opportunities.

The Challenge

  • Opening hotels in emerging markets exposes Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide to economic struggles, political turmoil and natural disasters.
  • These challenges require a new approach to risk management based on understanding the particular economic levers within the business, and assessing the impact each lever has on shareholder value.
  • Getting to a new understanding means digging through an almost unfathomable breadth of data and a depth of analysis.

How did ThoughtWorks help?

  • ThoughtWorks’ Agile Analytics team partnered with Starwood’s Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Group with the goal of creating a new model to identify and avoid risks, while at the same time, understanding opportunities.
  • In short iterations, the team performed correlation analysis to assess the impact of internal and external factors, and quickly ranked each line of inquiry by quantitative impact on shareholder value.
  • Using machine learning, the team tied it all together by combining the important lines of inquiry into a single predicator for shareholder value, allowing Starwood to use disparate data from isolated departments.

The Results

  • In just three months, ThoughtWorks had worked through the value stream map, enabling new insight on fundamental questions that directly impact the business.
    • What are the business functions that have the greatest effect on the performance of the hotels?
    • What impact do incidents such as security breaches and civil unrest have on the business?
    • What are the potential risks and opportunities involved in exploring new markets?
  • The team uncovered a number of important truths, some of which challenge standard corporate beliefs in the hotel industry.
  • Armed with these business insights, Starwood is reshaping how the organization manages risks as it expands its global footprint.

“I can’t believe the progress we have made already. I would have thought it would have taken many months to get this far.”

Mark Reiss, Director of ERM for Starwood (three weeks into the engagement).

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