CIO50 2021 #26-50 Annelle Paemaa, Mulpha Australia
When Annelle Paemaa donned the CIO hat at property and hospitality investment company Mulpha in 2018, the first thing her CEO asked was ‘how could we reduce costs and drive efficiency using information systems?'
At the time, IT spend across all of the company’s various divisions was very high, but with hospitality under the most strain due to the pandemic, Paemaa and her team resolved that this was where they would focus their efforts.
And upon closer inspection, they discovered a perfect storm of legacy systems, unintegrated silos and outdated processes.
“Check in and check out functionality hasn’t changed in perhaps decades,” Paemaa tells CIO Australia.
“Nine times out of ten when you are greeted at breakfast with a piece of paper and a pen and breakfast revenue may never make it to the property management system prior to you checking out.”
Mulpha went to market for a new ‘back-of-house’ system, eventually settling on SaaS solution Hub OS.
In September 2020, a pilot was implemented into Mulpha’s holiday resort network on Hayman Island, on the Great Barrier Reef.
The result has been vastly faster and more efficient management of rooms and guests.
For instance, housekeeping staff are now able to allocate rooms automatically, replacing long-held manual processes, Paemaa says.
The check-in function at breakfast is now digital with revenue recorded back to the property management system (PMS) in real time, while housekeeping is informed when guests are at breakfast and therefore out of their rooms for them to be cleaned.
Maintenance was another area where Paemaa and her team saw room for improvement.
She tells CIO Australia that Mulpha’s engineering team on Hayman Island now have a “preventative and reactive maintenance system” that can store any maintenance manuals for review if required on their phone or tablet.
“If they need to repair a globe in a room, the house keepers can photo which lamp and they are not spending time looking for the right lamp to fix and no paperwork trail at the end of the day.”
Mulpha has also seen improvements in energy management, better integration of ordering and payment systems with real-time billing, as well as smarter, more user friendly interfaces for things like restaurant bookings.
In the first full month of go-live on Hayman Island, a full 80 hours of housekeeping was saved, with 20 hours shaved off front of house operations, saving around $120,000 a year, equivalent to two full time staff.
The ability to log faults into a single solution has reduced resolution times from around 5 minutes to 30 seconds.
Results in Mulpha’s Sydney Hotel were even better, Paemaa tells CIO Australia, with more than 100 hours saved on housekeeping per month. And faster room turnaround times have improved the guest arrival experience.
Leading a major IT change management program in the hospitality sector surfaced a unique set of challenges for Paemaa and her team requiring a high level of consideration and sensitivity.
“IT teams need to be mindful that hospitality staff may not be technical, possibly have language barriers and may not have ever used technology previously to perform their duties,” she explains. “This is a very important part of implementing tech into hotels”.
And of course, hospitality more generally is some ways behind many other industries when it comes to digital transformation meaning IT has to work harder to bring management with them on the journey as well.
“Mulpha’s IT landscape is very different to when I began my role in 2018,” Paemaa says.
“Every division now has regular IT reviews and meetings to ensure all businesses are using technology wisely, leveraging off each other to cross sell and share opportunities.”
Paemaa adds that she and her team are also now better business negotiators. “We are commercial in negotiating great deals with vendors and try to ensure we get the best use out of systems, not just using the 10 percent that does what we need.”
Now riding a wave of success thanks to digital transformation driven by her and the team for Mulpha, Paemaa reflects on how one of the biggest lessons she’s learned in her career is the importance of identifying failure quickly.
“About 10 years ago I was working for a software company as a Project Manager, and I knew the current product was just not going to bring in revenue in its current form,” she tells CIO. “I didn’t feel confident to raise it with senior management and give the feedback to the development team. “
Months later her fears were confirmed.
“I should have found a way to push it and raise it as a risk, but on reflection these are skills I think you learn on the journey and what makes you grow as a leader.”