Championing the value of independent data
Interview with Carson Booth recently named CEO of Berlin-based SnapShot GmbH
By Woody Wade, Scenario planning expert
In April of this year, Carson Booth was named CEO of Berlin-based SnapShot GmbH. Previously the Global VP for Property Technology at Starwood, then Marriott, he brings a wealth of relevant experience to his new assignment at the helm of this six-year old company, already one of the largest hospitality data processors in the world. We talked to Carson about his vision for the company and the challenges ahead.
Carson Booth: Thanks, Woody. I'm proud and excited to take on this new role. As for the company, it started out in 2012 with a vision to address the industry need for a different kind of access to hospitality data - one that would be independent of software providers and give access and control back to the organizations that needed access to the data.
This began as a data aggregation and retrieval system to address the data silos. From there, we rapidly realized that the same types of systems had different ways to process and store equivalent data. With the support of new investors over the following years, we evolved into an extensive data platform with the capability to collect data from hotels, harmonize the data, and then make it available back to the business in much more accessible and customized formats.
And it's not just the customer's data - we also bring in external relevant data, like guest reviews, OTA or competitive set data, to support management decisions and benchmarking capabilities to our customers.
Furthermore, we run our "Marketplace" where developers can build applications against our data sets and sell innovative apps back to our customers. With this combination of a data platform, data harmonization and analytics and Marketplace, we are absolutely unique.
HYB: How big are you?
Booth: In terms of staff, we have 75 employees in seven offices around the world. As for the number of hotels we work with, at present we have over 5,000 PMS-connected hotels sending us data three times a day, as well as several industry data suppliers. Our intention is to grow this hotel number substantially, and in parallel, leverage our platform and capabilities to not only extend our data sets for hotels, but more broadly in the hospitality industry, like restaurants, to provide similar solutions.
HYB: Why is data so important?
Booth: That's a very fundamental question, but it can't be emphasized enough: Data is what allows a hotel or restaurant, first, to know its guests in order to deliver an enhanced guest experience on an individual basis, and, second, to know the operation, how it is performing internally as well as against external metrics. The challenge for the hospitality industry is its very decentralized nature of a brick-and-mortar business and our traditionally low technology investment ratios compared with other industries. Over the last few years, the industry has begun to realize the importance of data, and our technology suppliers have started responding with more mature solutions, for example cloud-based options, and so on. However, no single magic system exists to meet all the unique complexities for each hotel and operation, and therefore, data silos remain.
Hotels and management companies spend an incredible amount of time and energy - and therefore money - trying to cobble together relevant data and transform this into actionable information to understand operations and glean insights. This data emancipation, harmonization and visualization is core to what we do.
HYB: You've emphasized also the independence of the data you work with. What do you mean by that? Why is it important?
Booth: You need to think of data as an asset, possibly even the most valuable asset you own. Why? Because by understanding your data, you can gain extremely valuable insights into your customers, your competition, and of course your own performance - and those insights will form the basis for most of the decisions you make, major and minor, about running your business, staying competitive, and ultimately, thriving.
However, considering how most data is generated and stored, the problem is that it's not freely accessible. That's because so much of it is enmeshed - you could even say "trapped" - within systems that are not built to share data openly. This data must be emancipated so that you can use it as you need and wish, as its rightful beneficiary. This is what I mean by "independent data". You want all this data to be free and portable so that you can more quickly integrate it into the analytical tools of your choice and reuse it for your own purposes, no matter what your needs are.
Here are two examples of how independent data can greatly simplify the complexities of moving the data or transforming it as you need: Our industry continues to see very active mergers and acquisitions of brand management companies; the portability of independent data for access or consolidation significantly reduces the immediate need to undertake a major technology change in the field. Independent data also addresses an ownership group's need for insight into how their business is performing - without complexities of trying to consolidate multi-management company reports and processes. This independent data can be exposed on the transaction-by-hotel level and easily consolidated since the data is already harmonized.
HYB: Is this emphasis on the value of data a recent thing?
Booth: Certainly in the past few years, there has been an increasing awareness of the value of the vast and diverse store of data that a company generates through its many business activities. At the same time, though, there has been a corresponding increase in the restrictions that managing this data is subject to. You only have to think of the European GDPR rules and its global impacts to understand what I mean. So from a very practical point of view, the question a company has to ask itself is, what are we going to do with all this data we have? How are we going to use it to innovate and grow?
SnapShot is uniquely positioned to help a hotel or management group come to grips with these challenges, because of our three pillars of products and services that unlock the value of a property's data. First, we can collect the data and ensure that the data is harmonized. Second, we add relevant external data sets for a combined ability to visualize the information with analytics for understanding it. And third, we continue to build our unique Marketplace where developers build and deliver innovative hospitality apps. We see ourselves as directly addressing the needs of the hospitality industry as well as brining new value to the data itself.
HYB: You've been on the job for a few weeks now. What can you tell us about your plans for the company?
Booth: SnapShot has an amazing data platform that is capable of scaling significantly. Leveraging this platform is core to our plans and includes several paths. Firstly, extending our data set capabilities beyond PMS, POS and external data today, to include financial and procurement data for example, and then extending this data to our Marketplace community for innovative app development. Secondly, working with large and enterprise-class groups on off-the-shelf and custom data solutions. Thirdly, we will expand our industry education and awareness programs to continue to champion our belief in the value of independent data.
HYB: It all sounds very intriguing, Carson, and we hope you'll keep us posted on your progress. Thanks for the interesting conversation!
Booth: Thank you, too!
Founded in 2012 with the vision to build the hospitality's premier data platform independent of any brand or software provider, SnapShot is now one of the largest hospitality data processors in the world, managing transactional data of over 6,000 independent and branded hotels worldwide, with over 45 different connected PMS systems, and growing. With the release of the Hospitality Data Platform, SnapShot enters its third phase, which brings forward its founding vision: a secure data platform, visualization capabilities, and marketplace. To find out more, please visit snapshot.travel.
Woody Wade is a specialist in scenario planning for the hospitality industry, helping companies identify and understand the trends that have the potential to change their future business landscape and thus affect their future competitiveness. He is the author of “Scenario Planning: A Field Guide to the Future” (Wiley, 2012) and of the forthcoming “Hotel Yearbook 2036” which provocatively uses fiction as a framework for exploring the industry’s very different competitive landscape two decades from now.More from Woody Wade
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