Choice Hotels International, Inc. | 1 Choice Hotels Circle, Suite 400 Rockville, MD 20850
Neena Graham - Sr. Director, Business & Analytic Services
Tell us about yourself; what brought you here, and why you chose Choice?
I went to the Johnson School of Business at Cornell, which was ironically very closely aligned (and collocated) with the hospitality school. I worked in management consulting previously. I should have been in corporate strategy or internal consulting based off of that background, but I was hired by Sarah Searls [VP, eCommerce], as Director of Marketing Strategy Analytics, and in October 2015, I became Senior Director, Business and Analytic Services.
Why Choice? I learned about hospitality in business school and found it interesting. It was an opportunity to get a foot in the door. Choice is like a small company with large company benefits, and a bigger company with small company benefits. You get both. You don't feel like you're at a startup where you're literally not going to get paid the next week. But, you do get the feeling that you're actually contributing to key initiatives in the company, and even in an analytics role, which is technically not a business function, I still feel that way. So that's why I came and that's why I stayed, and that's what I tell people. Additionally, I think we're lean and mean and have really changed in terms of becoming innovative and pressing forward on things in the market place in the last four years. It's cool to see so much change.
How would you summarize what you do, and what you're doing to drive Choice?
We provide data driven answers to address key business questions across the organization. How should we select hotels for a particular program? How should we select core target markets to go into? We figure out the best way to get them the answer they need. It's not just one tool, either. There's an analytic tool kit we have that's growing all the time.
Typically, we hold a lot of meetings with the business partners we work with. We work across the enterprise, and then we work with the team where we focus on analysis. That's the fun part- working with them and looking at the analyses they're working on and trying to come up with different angles, different ways to look at things. We have varied perspectives because we have different relationships with different business partners and knowledge of various business areas. We're able to bring that together and provide holistic solutions for our clients. If we're giving something to the Revenue Management team, we then are able to take in context from Comfort, or the Development team, or Franchise Services, and bring the analysis to life. They're not just siloed. That cooperation and collaboration is a big part of the value we bring that helps drive Choice.
What advice would you give someone who would be coming to work at Choice, and what are the key ingredients for success?
Analytics is a lot of art and science. People think business intelligence is all about data, but i'âs a combination of art and science. One thing I tell my team a lot is, focus on business context. They need to know the business, and they need to learn a lot about all the different pieces of the business, so that they can provide that richer context. Everyone needs to have that, so, we're really well versed in our corporate objectives, we know exactly what Choice is trying to do all the time, and that's what spells success for us.
Describe what you'd like to see from folks in business and analytic services.
First off, they have to have intellectual curiosity. They need to be willing to ask questions, pressure-test results, and turn things on their sides. One thing my team is doing is building up our analytic chops. We need people who have SQL experience, predictive modeling expertise, those are key skills we need to grow for the group we're trying to build.
What is the most rewarding part of the work you are doing? Any big projects you can share?
We do a really robust job of measuring our media (TV, Display, and Paid Search), and I work very closely on that. We measure the effectiveness of our media activities on how well they drive bookings for Choice. You see a TV ad, let's say on primetime. And I can tell you that that primetime ad drove x amount of dollars in bookings. That's a predictive analytics capability. However, we want to do even more things in that vein. We want to know what types of ads drove which types (Website? Call Center? Expedia? Loyalty Member? Non Loyalty Member?) of bookings for us.