Thursday, November 11, 2010


Today we mourn the untimely death of the Hilton Worldwide Information Technology organization. Less than five short years ago, Hilton IT was in its prime – widely recognized in the press as an innovative, value-enhancing asset to its parent company. Strong leadership, and experienced, talented, and dedicated team members consistently delivered game-changing enterprise technology called OnQ, raising the bar on guest expectations and challenging the competition. Our people were respected within and outside of Hilton Worldwide for working hand-in-hand with business people to achieve strategic goals.

The first inkling of danger came not long after The Blackstone Group purchased Hilton Hotels Corporation in 2007. The company was taken private, and CEO Steve Bollenbach (a friend and champion of the IT group and its achievements) was replaced by Chris Nassetta - new blood chosen by Blackstone to implement their plans to boost profitability in preparation for taking the company public again in the future. Tim Harvey, IT’s visionary leader, sensed impending doom and resigned in 2009.

A “Corporate Transformation” resulted in the reorganization of most departments, and the closure of the iconic corporate headquarters in Beverly Hills, CA. Elite team members (Directors and above) were offered a move across the country to McLean, VA. Most were not. Plans to dismantle and outsource IT functions previously seen as competitive differentiators began to be systematically executed, eliminating numerous job functions.

Death approached over time in many guises. The OnQ brand was carelessly diminished by unimaginative executives woefully ignorant of the value to the brands and to the IT team. Layoffs terminated the careers of scores of IT professionals and delivered mortal wounds. Talent saw the writing on the wall and avoided tragedy by obtaining new jobs outside Hilton. Some chose to retire early to salvage their pride. Those who still had their jobs feel the threat of change yet to be, and the loss of friends and colleagues. A heavy malaise has fallen over the constantly threatened department.

The final murderous blow was struck last week, as a hundred and one additional Hilton employees received their termination letters, with dates effective the first week of January 2011. The news was not unexpected, but the impact of reality took the collective breath away. Shell-shocked professionals walk the halls, depressed, angry and scared – but the organization is dead, and it’s time to bury it. We can almost hear the cruel cheers of our competitors, who have lived to see the empire collapse in oddly silent flames. This was not a death from natural causes.

Memories of the good times of success and accomplishment cannot be taken from us. We gained valuable experience and knowledge. We hope that those abandoned at sea with dime store life preservers will soon be rescued and able to restart foundering careers. There are better years ahead.

History will show that we accomplished great things. May Hilton IT Rest In Peace.

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