ESI Interviews

Ep 24: The Power of AI at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts with EVP & CIO Scott Strickland

Guest Michael Keithley
Scott Strickland
June 14, 2023
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Ep 24: The Power of AI at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts with EVP & CIO Scott Strickland
ESI Interviews
June 14, 2023

Ep 24: The Power of AI at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts with EVP & CIO Scott Strickland

On the 24th episode of Enterprise Software Innovators, Scott Strickland, EVP & CIO at Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, joins the show to discuss how AI is transforming their guest experience, the process of unifying their technology stack across their 24 brands, and how startups and enterprises can successfully collaborate.

On the 24th episode of Enterprise Software Innovators, hosts Evan Reiser (Abnormal Security) and Saam Motamedi (Greylock Partners) talk with Scott Strickland, EVP & CIO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Wyndham is the world’s largest hotel group, with nearly 10,000 properties in 95 countries across 24 global brands. In this conversation, Scott shares how Wyndham is deploying AI to transform guest experience, frameworks for building a unified technology stack across their brands, and tips for startups and enterprises to best collaborate. 

Quick hits from Scott:

On Wyndham utilizing AI for live coaching of call center agents: "The AI is sitting there in the background and performing real-time coaching and then scoring the agent at the end of the call."

On Wyndham's intelligent booking systems: "Perhaps you're making a reservation on your mobile device sitting in our parking lot. I have 90 seconds to drop that reservation down to the system so that when you check in, your room is available for you, and they greet you with a smile. I have to do that at scale for a million rooms every day. And naturally, you're going to be making that reservation at our peak period, which is between 5-9 pm. So I need to build a system that can accommodate that sort of volume intelligently."

On the importance of being customer-centric: "Define your customer, whoever your customer may be. In this case, we have three customers at Wyndham. We have a franchisee, the small business owner who owns our hotels, we have a guest who uses our hotels, and then we have our internal team members. What does each one of those folks want? You can't pull a Henry Ford because he always said, 'If you ask them what they want, they want a faster horse,' but you need to listen to them."

Recent Book Recommendation: City Of Stairs by Robin Jackson Bennett

Episode Transcript

Saam Motamedi - Hi there, and welcome to Enterprise Software Innovators, a show where top technology executives share how they innovate at scale. In each episode, Enterprise CIOs share how they've applied exciting new technologies and what they've learned along the way. I'm Saam Motamedi, a general partner at Greylock Partners.

Evan Reiser - And I'm Evan Reiser, the CEO and founder of Abnormal Security. Today on the show, we're bringing you a conversation with Scott Strickland, CIO of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. Wyndham is the world's largest hotel group, offering nearly 10,000 properties in 95 countries across 24 global brands. In this conversation, Scott shares how Wyndham is using AI to transform the guest experience, their strategy for a unified cloud technology stack, and the best practices for enterprises collaborating with startups.

Evan Reiser - Well, Scott, first of all, thank you so much for making time to chat with us. Maybe just to start off, can you share with our audience a little bit of background about your career, maybe what your role looks like today at Wyndham Hotels?

Scott Strickland - Sure. So, Scott Strickland, EVP, and CIO here at Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. What most people may not know is Wyndham Hotels is the world's largest hotel brand. We have Days Inn, Super 8, La Quinta, Ramada, 9000 hotels across 95 countries. I always explain that to my parents and grandparents. “Oh, yeah, we've stayed at a Wyndham one time”. Yeah, I bet you have. You probably stayed at a Days Inn more often, though.

Evan Reiser  - What brought you here? How did you end up at Wyndham?

Scott Strickland - It was a journey. My prior company I was with, Denon Morantz, they make high end sound equipment. Basically, it was private capital, private equity owned. We had the classic strategic exit, couldn't have hoped for a better one. So we had the exit, I knew I was going to be leaving, and I started activating my network and asking around, hey, anything available out there? What's going on? When I first interviewed at Wyndham, I candidly asked their CEO, why do you want to talk to me? I'm not from the hospitality industry. I'm a CPG guy, I'm a supply chain guy, I'm a big data guy, but I'm not in hospitality. It was the first interview I had ever been in where I had to sign an NDA during the coffee break and then we circled back around, and what I learned is Wyndham grows by acquisitions, and they wanted an M&A guy. They wanted somebody who understood, okay, this is how I incorporate brands this is how I standardize on systems. When I joined, we had 17 brands, we have 24 now. So it's been a hell of a journey over the past six years.

Evan Reiser  - That's amazing.

Saam Motamedi - All of us have likely stayed at Wyndham properties and stayed there many times. Yet I'm sure most of our listeners don't immediately associate the hospitality industry with cutting edge technology and innovation. Maybe help educate our audience and help our audience understand how Wyndham leverages technology both on the consumer side and also internally to optimize and enhance the business.

Scott Strickland - So let's look on the consumer side, on the guest side. Something as basic as making a reservation on our website, perhaps you're doing that on your mobile device, sitting in our parking lot and then walking into our hotel. I have 90 seconds to drop that reservation down to that system so that when you check in, your room's available for you and they greet you with a smile. I have to do that at scale. I have to do that for a million rooms every day. Naturally, you're going to be making that reservation at our peak period, which is between five and nine p.m. So I need to build a system that can accommodate that sort of volume and accommodate it intelligently. That's on the guest side. Over on the corporate side, if you will, something that's unique about my role is, yes, I own IT and the standard parts of IT, I also own call centers globally. So if you call in and you're actually going to call somebody to make a reservation, or you have a question about your loyalty profile or whatever else that may be, you're talking technically to somebody in IT. The reason that's cool is that I'm the business owner and the IT owner for a lot of our initiatives, and so I get to experiment and eat my own dog food that way. So if we want to do something new in one of our call centers, we can do so, and we can drive savings, drive new guest experiences, drive new franchisee experiences.

Evan Reiser - One of the things Saam and I have learned on the show is that businesses use technology in really surprising and advanced ways and sophisticated ways that are not commonly understood by, sometimes, their clients or customers. Do you mind sharing a couple other anecdotes about, maybe, ways you guys are using technology that might be surprising to your average guest? 

Scott Strickland - Absolutely. In COVID, people were showing up at our hotels and they were asking for a room that nobody had stayed in for three days because everyone thought the virus died after three days. How did we know they were asking for that? Well, because all of our voice reservation lines were translating from voice to text. We were then scanning that text and looking for new patterns and new guest requests that we weren't able to fulfill. About a week and a half into this we realized, oh, we don't have a report for that. We have no way of knowing when Evan checked out of his room, so we can give Saam the room that's now three days old. So we rapidly developed that, pushed it out. Because we're cloud based, we didn't have to go visit our 9000 hotels individually and load it onto their servers. No, we put it out into the cloud. Boom, it appeared out onto their property management system and the next time somebody wanted to check in, “Sure. We can tell you if that room's been used in the past two, three, four days””. That was something that we identified the need, rolled it out, and satisfied the guests, made the franchisee happy, all very quickly. Another fun example is, again, coming out of COVID, everybody talks about the elasticity of the cloud. What's that mean, elasticity of the cloud? Oh, I have infinite scalability. I can go up as high as I want. What it also means, though, is that when I'm not receiving the reservation volume I'm accustomed to, I'm no longer paying that ticker, right? So all my transactions across my entire organization, I'm no longer paying for. Because we are the largest enterprise owner of cloud based central reservation system, it meant that as we went into COVID, we no longer were supporting a ton of architecture and infrastructure like everybody else. Our billing rate went straight down. We're running AWS cloud? Boom. We pay for what we use. We pay for what we consume. So that was something very quickly, internally, I was able to popularize and bang the drum and get everybody excited about it.

Saam Motamedi  - Yeah, those are some great examples, Scott. I mean, I want to zoom up to, like, the meta for a moment, because one thing Evan and I think a lot about is how do you design the culture of the organization to come up with these types of examples and continued innovations, especially for the consumer? I'm curious, what's your approach there? And how do you help your teams build an understanding of the types of things you can do with technology to enhance the guest experience?

Scott Strickland  - So, three key principles there, and my team is sick of hearing them from me, which means, as a leader, you're finally doing your job, right?  When people get sick of hearing from you, then finally you have communicated enough. The number one is the voice of the customer. Define your customer, whoever your customer may be. In this case, we have three customers at Wyndham. We have a franchisee, a small business owner who owns our hotels. We have guests, who check in and out and use our hotels. And then we have our internal team members. What do each one of those folks want? Now, you can't pull a Henry Ford, because he always said if you ask them what they want, they want a faster horse, but you need to listen to them. So one of the things we did is we reached out to our franchisees, and we formed a technology advisory board. They gave us 82 different ideas. We funneled those down. We looked at things we already were working on, we looked at parts of our infrastructure, and we said, “Here's the top six. Does everybody agree these are the top six?” And they said, yes, they are, and you're listening to us. They got genuinely excited about it. Internally, we did something similar with our team members. We actually had a mini shark tank. We called it the Wyndham 500 because we sponsor Daytona Car, so we called It the Wyndham 500, and we reached out to our team members all across the organization and said, what would you like us to change? One of the things coming out of that was that we needed to invest in this small little company called Zoom, and we did so six months before the pandemic. It was hilarious. They did a whole pantomime about going into a video conferencing room and the speaker phone wasn't working, and banging your head on the table, the whole nine yards and they said or, and they were running a pilot, a prototype, you can use something called Zoom. The CIO of Zoom was actually on the other end, because we were still a small company at the time and he goes, “Hi, Scott, please buy us, we're going to work”. And it was completely silly and fun, but it worked, and we got into a licensing agreement  with them in November of 2019, which looks like we were geniuses come March of 2020, but it worked perfectly for us. So that's an example just of listening to what my customers were asking for and telling us.

Evan Reiser - I feel like I've heard a similar anecdote where it's like we went to go talk to our customers, they gave us this insight, we figured it out, and we did the thing, and then in hindsight, we look like geniuses because we were kind of ahead of the curve,  but  really it was  just being really close to the customer.

Scott Strickland - That's absolutely the key. So that’s the first principle. The second principle is platforms. I don't want to have 22 tools, if two of them will do it. Even if those two tools will only do 90% of what I want and 22 will do 100%. I'd rather have two tools do 90%, because at an enterprise level, the cost of the integrations and maintaining those integrations is simply too high, from a pure cost standpoint. And two, it takes too long to innovate, because if I want to innovate at that juncture, I have to change all of those integration points, and I have to somehow figure out how it's going to impact all these downstream systems. Whereas if I partner with two big platform vendors, whoever they may be, then I can lean in on their roadmap, especially when you're a company the size of Wyndham, get the functionality you need, and now just test across one or two integration points.  So that's my second big principle is platform, platform platform. Suites, if you will, as they used to be called when I was starting my career. And then the third big principle is, if it's not Cloud, we're not buying it. Now, this is no longer an issue but six years ago it was. Six years ago as we were making bets on new software and new tools, many of them only offered On-Prem or Hosted and there's a big difference, I think we all know, between Hosted and Cloud. And no, if it's not Cloud-Cloud, I am not buying it. And now that's served us really, really well in terms of where we're at and how we're architected. 

Saam Motamedi - As Evan alluded to, the theme of this show is using technology to drive transformation in the enterprise, and I think all three of us likely believe, I'll be presumptuous that we're at the precipice of a really important technology wave that may be larger than all prior waves and that it builds on the prior ones, which is this wave around AI. And we've all experienced some of these new generative AI capabilities. We've used ChatGPT, Bard, et cetera. One of the things Evan and I try to bring to life on this show with guests like you, is, hey, it's not just like these cool demos that we interact with, AI is actually having an impact in the world today, and I'm sure it's having an impact at Wyndham. What are some of the ways you're using AI at Wyndham? And are there a couple that might be surprising to our listeners?

Scott Strickland - We were using AI before AI was cool, and we were using Cloud before Cloud was cool. So it's kind of fun to see everybody catch up. Now, the latest release of ChatGPT-4, that's a whole new level. Absolutely. And we will be using it in the future as well. Real quick there, we have 14 interns coming in here next week and their summer project is, how will you use AI to disrupt the hospitality industry? So that's going to be really exciting to see what those young minds come up with over the next six, nine weeks.

Evan Reiser  - That's exciting. I want to see those demos at the end of the project.

Scott Strickland - Me too. That's exactly it. We built them sandboxes, they're going to have their environments and discussions and everything, my CTO is leading the effort, so it'll be a lot of fun. So how are we using AI that might surprise people? One of the ways is we have real time coaching for our call center agents. So if I'm talking real fast to Evan while he's trying to make a reservation, they get a pop up on screen that says, sounds like you're talking pretty fast here, can you slow down? If there's moments of silence, it says, it's been 30 seconds since you said anything to poor Evan, you might want to respond. Or it looks and it says, based on the words everybody is using here, it feels like you may be in a fraud call, meaning there might be concerns about credit card fraud, make sure that we perform these procedures. So the AI is sitting there in the background and performing real time coaching, and then scoring the agent at the end of the day on the call, which is a win for everybody because they're getting coaching, we don't have to employ a person to do that. They're getting it in real time, they understand how they rank, they know where they fit. And then there's some fun gamification in there, too. Where am I? Because you can anonymize it, so they're not directly competing as Saam versus Evan in the battle of the Titans. But that's one way we're using it. Another way we're using it that might surprise people is, again, we made these big bets on platform and cloud. We've loaded in our guest data. We have 100 million loyalty members. We've loaded in everything they've ever said about our hotels. And then we set the new version of A out thereI and said, tell us what we don’t  know that our guests are saying, what's most important to our guests? And what do you think the number one thing is of everything our guests are talking about? What do you think the number one was that the AI came back with? And we're talking millions and millions and millions of records, of course.

Evan Reiser  - I don't know. It's something unexpected, presumably, WiFi issues? I don't know.

Scott Strickland - WiFi. Not just issues, but WiFi. Yes. Isn't that crazy? Evan. We didn't need AI. We could have used Evan, but it's WiFi. 

Evan Reiser - I get that a lot. 

Scott Strickland - People joked for a long time that, for this generation, WiFi is more important than hot water. But what we were able to prove with data was that WiFi plays into the economy level hotel experience so highly that it's worth a massive investment on the part of our franchisees. Bed spreads are important, hot water is important, fast WiFi is critical. And you're going to get dinged or rewarded or praised based on that. More so than breakfast. And then number two is loyalty points, people want their loyalty points. And then number three is breakfast. Yes, I want a good breakfast while I'm there. What's amazing about this is being able to prove it with data. It's not an anecdote. It's not people talking in a hall. It's not a group of 20 people in a focus group. We've taken millions and millions of records which represent hundreds of millions of comments and been able to search them and come up with what is the ground truth, which is something now people are using when they talk AI, they talk ground truth and hallucinations and the like. Well, what we discovered is maybe we were hallucinating and the AI is the one here with the ground truth.

Evan Reiser - One of the challenges right, in hospitality, but this applies to airlines and some food businesses, is that you have, like, perishable inventory. Right? I imagine your industry has been using machine learning to figure out pricing and packaging for a long time. Are there other areas that affect the guest experience, that kind of AI is working behind the scenes?

Scott Strickland - Absolutely. So we're on our second massive version of room price optimization. We call it revenue management in the industry. I basically have a million units of inventory or rooms that expire every night. And that's the way I think about it as a CPG guy, which is why I loved coming in from out of industry. So I need to price those suckers to move where it makes sense. Now, that doesn't mean I need to sell the absolute last unit, because it may not be worth it if I have to bring on extra housekeeping in order to clean that room. But there's a balance there in terms of that revenue optimization and the version that we're rolling out now - we're live at 3000 hotels in North America, again, at scale, it's amazing to be able to do this - optimizes five times a day. And it optimizes that not based on, oh, okay, it's time for me to optimize, it's 10:00 a.m., it optimizes it based on what's going on in the marketplace. What are my competitors doing? What's the hotel across the street doing? Did Taylor Swift just announce a concert? And I'm suddenly seeing lots of demand pickup.

Evan Reiser - Oh, wow.

Scott Strickland  - Yeah. Is there a blizzard? Are flights getting canceled at the nearby airport?

Evan Reiser  - Oh, interesting. So you're using all these kinds of external signals too.

Scott Strickland - That's exactly it, not just internal, it's external. And then of course, it's historical. But you can join all of those together and then run the optimization and then administer it on your mobile phone. It's pushed out to your mobile phone. Our franchisees can look out there and they can say, do I accept or reject that? Or do I want to adjust that number? And what the franchisees learn over time is to let the system run, let the system do its thing. It generally is going to get it right and where you need to train it, train it a little bit and then let it go. And again, that requires, as you can imagine, the amount of data that must flow through that in order to get it right. Almost a million rooms, 365 days a year, multiple rate types, you have a triple A code, you have a business code, you have this code, you have a leisure code. You are pushing at any given time, 40, 50, 60 million records in a good hour, just to get that through and processed. 

Evan Reiser - So Scott, you talked about using AI for some kind of internal optimization for the guest experience. Saam mentioned there's this new wave of AI technologies which will probably over promise at some level, but also there's real applicability there. How do you know when to build, when to partner, when do you work with startups? Maybe talk about your framework or how you approach partnering to deploy technology.

Scott Strickland - Sure. So at the end of the day. We’re  a hospitality company, not a technology company. And some of our competitors build almost everything, and that's okay. That's their approach. The way we looked at it is, what do we want to differentiate on? And where I want to differentiate, I want to build or I want to be the largest person in that ecosystem with that supplier so that I can almost control that roadmap. So one of two things, I'm either going to build or I'm going to be the largest one in those areas I want to differentiate. Where it's a commodity, I'm going to buy that off the shelf and, this is a note to all other CIOs out there and we know how hard this is, I'm in turn going to go back to the business and say, you don't need to customize it, don't customize, configure, don't customize, change your business process so that it adheres to the software. Because we're purchasing a widget, at the end of the day, our way is not that special. Quit it, so that we don't build in some of that overhead. When we think about it, we need to identify those areas where we want to differentiate. And those two areas for us are on the digital guest experience side and on the data side, we believe that anything related to data we should “own”. Because we need to understand it, pet it, grow it, nurture it, if you will, and have it in our environment. Because, really, by being close to the data, can you look for the trends? You can understand the schemas and you can understand when something's changing. And then on the digital guest side, we don't want a website to be a website to be a website. We want the website to represent our brand. And because we're building that technology, our engineers are thinking about that every day. For example, our engineers, listening to our customers again, came up with an example, and came up with a need for something called Road Trip Planner. They said a lot of our folks are driving to see Grandma and they need to know where they're going to stay that night. So find me a hotel that's about 6 hours into my journey, that's right off the freeway and ideally has a Denny's attached or something so I can spend the night and then get back on the road. And we came up with an entire idea of building out an application on our mobile device, Road Trip Planner. And people could plan their road trips, and of course we're going to recommend our hotels, but we're also going to recommend fuel stops, the world's largest ball of string, other things they may want to see as they're traversing the country. So that's one of the benefits of building it yourself and being really close. Now, knowing where to make that change that's going to be hard, and you're going to have to talk to your business community to really understand when I should be doing one versus the other? I'm still a firm believer though, that  off the shelf software is ultimately a cheaper and more maintainable approach for most companies.

Saam Motamedi - I wanted to ask a follow up about that because I think both that framework and also your earlier framework around platforms versus tools are pertinent ones to the startup founders listening to this show. And if a startup founder is out there listening and wants to work and serve a customer like Wyndham, what advice would you have to them? And how have you seen startups successfully partner with organizations of Wyndham’s size and scale?

Scott Strickland - So we've had two or three startups that we've had the ability to basically put on the map, because once we make an investment in them, they have that enterprise customer. Why would we make that investment? I'll give you three reasons here. One is are they satisfying a need nobody else is? Because if one of my platforms or one of my suites can satisfy that, sorry, you're dead in the water. Two, are you architected properly? Because as soon as we sign on you have to scale. Based on our volume, based on our number of sites, based on our number of team members, you're going to have to scale. So if you're not architected properly and this is all smoke and mirrors, we're not going anywhere. And then thirdly, can you integrate with the rest of my ecosystem? Because now I'm buying a niche solution, and you heard me say earlier, it might pain me to buy that niche solution, but you better integrate into my major platforms. And one of those startups we put on the map was that voice coaching one I gave you an example of, and they had to integrate in with Salesforce, and if they couldn't have integrated in with Salesforce, it would have been all over for them. But they could and they said, here's where we're going in the future, we're going to integrate in with your central reservation system and we can get that done in six weeks. So that's the key. If you can do those three, and I'll give you a bonus fourth, I guess, as well. The bonus four is the founder's vision. You're investing in a person here. I'm investing in Saam and I'm looking Saam in the eye and I said, Saam, I believe in you, I believe in your vision and let's do this together. So you can't oversell that startup feel and partnership and being there in the room and excitement. There's something to that that I'm just not going to get with another platform.

Evan Reiser - Maybe Samm, we can kind of move to the  Lightning Round, just get some of Scott's one tweet answers here. Do you want to kick it off, Saam?

Saam Motamedi - Yeah, absolutely. Maybe to start, Scott, how do you think companies should measure the success of a CIO?

Scott Strickland - Two big ways. One, do they perform the table stakes activities appropriately? Are your systems up and functioning? Are they working? Are people upset? So that's number one. And then number two is, what's the vision? Where are we going from here? And if you can't ask people across the organization, what's next in any particular area. What's next in marketing? What are we doing next for sales? What are we doing next to help our franchisees? Then we aren't doing our job. Another way to measure it, by the way, is if you have a CIO, a CDO, a CTO, CISO, 16 different C level things in there, then, in my opinion the CIO is not doing his job either or her job because when they were creating CDOs, I said, that job description sounds a lot like mine. If there's a CDO that comes in my organization, shame on me, at the time. Now, I've seen in certain organizations where that's appropriate.

Evan Reiser - Scott, what's one piece of advice you wish you were told when you first became a CIO?

Scott Strickland - It's a 24/7 job. Be careful what you ask for would be the corollary to that. Iit is, it's a big role and it's a busy job, and as a CIO, you actually get farther and farther away from the technology, and you need to recognize that. You're more and more of a people leader. You're running your department. At Wyndham, we spend a lot of time talking and speaking externally as well. So the amount that I'm able to work with the technology is 5% of any week or any day. So recognize that as well, if you're interested in being a CIO, it doesn't mean you're chief technologist, it means you are the leader of that organization and everything being that leader entails.

Saam Motamedi - Scott, how should CIOs position themselves to best collaborate with the rest of the C suite?

Scott Strickland - So the first thing you need to do is build a relationship. Collaboration is based on relationships. Second thing you need to do is get some quick wins. Sit down with your CMO, for example, and ask him or her, what's your number one pain point? Or give me your top five pain points, and then go off and solve one or two of them and come back and explain, here's what I've done. Three, travel together whenever you can. If you really want to build a relationship and collaborate, when you're traveling, there's so much downtime. Just being in a car, being in a plane, being in an airport, grabbing a drink gives you a lot of time to get to know them. A fourth, have somebody from your staff that is on their staff. So my VP of Digital sits in my CMO's staff meetings. That's great. That's real collaboration and integration, and that's what you should always be striving for. And then fifth, I mentioned this a little bit, is to have that roadmap. If you have the roadmap on, here's what we're delivering and when and does this meet your needs as the voice of the customer, as our customer, then they're going to keep coming to you. When they start going around you is when you have problems, but they're going to always keep coming to you if you're delivering to meet their needs.

Evan Reiser  - What's a recent book you've read that's had a big impact on you? And why?

Scott Strickland - City of Stairs by Robin Jackson Bennett. It's fantasy/Sci-fi. It's kind of a meld of the two. And what's really interesting about it is how a small group of people can completely impact a civilization and determine the way that that civilization is going to change, grow, and expire in this case. It's a whole trilogy that I certainly encourage people to read if they're into it. It's also super well written. It's kind of a mystery thriller on top of being a Sci-Fi fantasy book. And it's a lesson in change management. Which, if you're a CIO, listening, I think we all know, is one of the biggest lessons we need. You can build the technology, people don't necessarily come. So there's a lot of lessons in change management throughout, but it's a hoot.

Evan Reiser - I think that's the first non-business book we've recommended, which I love because I read more science fiction books than I do business books, probably four times more of what influences, probably, our product is what I read in science fiction, right? Not Harvard Business Review.

Scott Strickland - I agree with you, Evan. Not to say I don't read HBR, absolutely, big subscriber, all of that, but where are we going? And they predict it quite a bit in Sci-Fi, and so if we can design accordingly, we'll be set.

Evan Reiser - Okay, so final question, a little bit related, right? So technology is changing very quickly. We talked about AI, the impact it's going to have. Help us dream a little about what that future looks like, right? What is some way that you think technology is going to have an impact on the world that you feel high conviction about, that other people might write off as science fiction today?

Scott Strickland - I know it's going to remove a lot of the non value added activities in our lives completely. Just personally and professionally, everything from paying our bills, that should completely go away. What am I doing today? What's my calendar look like? Scheduling time with Evan for that beer. You're going to have this digital personal assistant that's going to have access to everything in your life already, understand your patterns, your wants, your needs, and then be able to just do it, just make it so. Make those doctors appointments. And our digital assistants are going to interact with each other. I have up on my whiteboard over here, I have AI, and then I have a big swoopy arrow, my best ideas are big swoopy arrows, over up into RPA. Because if you can join those two and get the insights out of the AI. and then automate the interaction or automate the reaction within your enterprise systems, you're set, and you're able to do it so much faster than you were before.

Evan Reiser - Yeah, I'm with you on that one. It's almost like there's this new infrastructure to be built and we're going to start working on one level abstraction higher up.

Scott Strickland - That's it. And people say, oh, no, my job is going to go away. No, I believe your job will get better. We implemented RPA, we started implementing it five years ago. My headcount did not go down. Now we remove people from boring ass tasks and allow them to actually think and understand and decide what they want to do.

Evan Reiser - Yeah. You already gave an example 40 minutes ago about how AI is being used not to replace jobs, but augment and help people do their job better. Right. Or maybe you mentioned this kind of AI coaching, right, for some of your customer representatives, what's exciting about AI is that it will help current people do the same job today even better. But also, I think what's a really exciting thing for us as a civilization is we'll also allow other people that maybe don't have the technical skills to do the job today, to go do that. Now a lot more people can be qualified to do a lot more jobs. That's just good for us as a species here.

Scott Strickland - As a species, exactly. It's just good for the world if people can all level up there.

Evan Reiser - Scott, really enjoyed taking time to chat with you. Looking forward to chatting again soon, and hopefully we'll trade some Sci-Fi book recommendations.

Scott Strickland - Looking forward to it, Evan.

Saam Motamedi  -Thanks a lot, Scott. Awesome episode.

Scott Strickland - Thanks for your time, Saam.

Evan Reiser  - That was Scott Strickland, CIO of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts.

Saam Motamedi - Thanks for listening to the Enterprise Software Innovators podcast. I'm Saam Motamedi, a general partner at Greylock Partners.

Evan Reiser - And I'm Evan Reiser, the CEO and Founder of Abnormal Security. Please be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode. You can find more great lessons from technology leaders and other enterprise software experts at

Saam Motamedi - This show is produced by Luke Reiser and Josh Meer. See you next time.