The Grill: Bill Murphy, Hilton's new CIO/CTO

Attaining the rank of CIO didn't mean his CTO duties disappeared.

Bill Murphy had served as Hilton Worldwide's chief technology officer since early 2012, when in August he was given the title of CIO. But the title change didn't mean he'd be relinquishing his CTO responsibilities. As Murphy describes it, the transition has been a bit of a fire-hose experience so far, with a lot of strategic projects heaped on top of existing duties. Projects include standardization of the hotel chain's property management platform across 3,900 hotels, rollout of a wireless platform and implementation of a PeopleSoft ERP system, which will replace a variety of older tools.

Bill Murphy

Spend time understanding the business you support, not just the technology. Strive to innovate and deliver value for your business. Don't expect an eight-hour-a-day job.What's your favorite technology? Smartphones/tablet computers with high-speed Internet. We have only just begun to exploit the possibilities. A monumental change in enterprise computing is under way.Is there something that most people don't know about you? My first job was as a restaurant cook. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving -- when I do all the cooking.

Why did Hilton decide to give you the added title of CIO? I think culture was an important part of it. And, from a technology standpoint, the hospitality industry is market leading in a lot of ways. You've got sophisticated customers with the latest and greatest mobile technologies who are demanding more and more. Hilton was looking for people who can deliver the technology today and innovate for tomorrow. So they were looking for very proactive, creative people in those roles.

What is Hilton's mobile strategy, and how is it evolving? It's absolutely evolving. We have recently come out with our latest global Web release and we have mobility apps connected to that, but they're two years old; they're out of date. So we're focusing on that next generation of mobility apps going forward.

We're also focusing on being able to deliver technology to a mobile device as a guest walks into a hotel. And hotel services that used to only be delivered through a concierge, now you will be able to get that through your iPhone. That's what we're working toward. That's one of the targeted initiatives for 2013.

What are some of the other IT initiatives? We just implemented our latest release of our global Web platform. We're continuing to roll that out across the world, with the addition of 13 other languages. [Other projects include] the standardization of our property management platform across our 3,900 hotels, the continued international rollout of our StayConnected wireless platform for all our hotels, and the implementation of our enterprisewide ERP platform. We're migrating to the PeopleSoft platform from a variety of systems, including earlier generations of PeopleSoft Financials/Sun, internationally.

I do know your choices these days are fewer and fewer, and alignment of Oracle platforms vs. SAP platforms typically [follows] industry lines. Some of the SaaS options just aren't there for your larger enterprises.

What's lacking in software-as-a-service options for the enterprise? Sophistication and the ability to cater to the business and to plug in, in some cases, hundreds of interfaces.

Does Hilton have a bring-your-own-device policy? People have their own devices. You can't stop that from happening. We do have the ability for people to access our network via secure sign-on through effectively any device. We don't have a comprehensive BYOD policy in place. That's one of the things we're going to have to button down in the short term. You're not allowed to have your corporate email on your personal device. Any device that has corporate information on it has to have the ability [to be wiped by the company].

What's the most difficult thing about creating a BYOD strategy? Whatever you decide today, it's going to change tomorrow.

How has the job of an IT manager changed over the past decade, and how has that added to your responsibilities? It's changed significantly in the last 10 or 15 years. Clearly, in the mid '90s, IT was in the back office. It was the engine room of any company. With the advent of the Web, it's been thrust into the forefront of corporate strategies and not just corporate processing.

I think it's more fun. You're more instrumental in delivering business value and making critical business decisions involved in business strategy as opposed to just maybe execution.

What are your main concerns about technology?What keeps you up at night? Certainly, security and risk related to cyberattacks. With the sophistication and pluralization of technologies across the board, you're providing opportunities for security threats and risks.

How are you addressing the security threats? By investing in our security infrastructure and taking it very seriously and not closing our eyes to known vulnerabilities in the infrastructure. We've got to address them. If there's an opportunity out there, there will be a breach.

What current or upcoming technology do you see as a game-changer in the data center, and why? Certainly, the question of "In the data center or not?" -- the whole idea of how to best utilize cloud computing. More and more of your processing does make sense to have third-party partners provide it via the cloud.

Moving your own data centers to a private cloud also makes sense. We've not done it yet, but that's going to be part of our infrastructure strategy.

Read more about management in Computerworld's Management Topic Center.

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