An interview with Moez Hassan, VP, Chief Data Officer at Royal Caribbean
Digital transformation is leaving its mark on diverse industries, including unconventional ones such as "floating cities" located in the middle of the ocean. Royal Caribbean, a prominent cruise industry leader, is navigating its own strategic course in data management.
With a workforce of nearly 100,000 employees and a fleet of 64 ships, the company relies on vital information across numerous business verticals.
From optimizing revenue and marketing strategies to ensuring a positive guest experience, seamless supply chain operations, marine logistics, medical services, people analytics, and enhancing food and beverage offerings, Royal Caribbean leverages the power of information to drive unprecedented achievements.
At the helm of this colossal operation is Moez Hassan, VP, Chief Data Officer at Royal Caribbean. Since 2019, he has been instrumental in overseeing the company's data strategy, data governance, data management, and data analytics.
Hassan recently spoke with Ben Blanquera, Vice President with Rackspace Technology and CDO Magazine Global Editorial Board Member about the challenges in overseeing one of the industry's most expansive infrastructures and its crucial role in ensuring a smooth and enjoyable guest experience, devoid of any disruptions or inconveniences while navigating the seas.
- Efficient data management is a marathon, not a race. Having a systematic framework and an organized plan is critical to deliver value.
- Ensuring alignment with your business objectives is crucial. It is essential to establish proper governance and leverage the most suitable platforms that can effectively deliver on your business goals.
- The enterprise architecture framework should be deeply ingrained within the organization's structure. It should align seamlessly with the overall ecosystem, ensuring that all actions and decisions are driven by reason and purpose.
- Data management goes beyond merely possessing state-of-the-art technology tools. It emphasizes the significance of people and the process they follow to achieve desired outcomes.
At Royal Caribbean’s core, the company strives to create exceptional vacations and unforgettable memories. Measuring this success involves managing an immense volume of information, and the company depends on it for a wide range of operations.
According to Hassan, “The data space within the cruising industry offers a wealth of diverse and valuable information and countless use cases to explore and tackle on a daily basis.” From a CDO’s perspective, the challenge of maximizing the value derived from investments in data platforms, encompassing technology, processes, and talent, is an ongoing concern.
Hassan says it is crucial to strike a balanced approach that enables offensive measures to drive new revenue streams, enhance guest experiences, and reduce costs, while concurrently improving the overall data quality within the organization.
As an integral part of Royal Caribbean’s digital and growth operations, Hassan says the company’s objectives align with the broader business goals, which include increasing earnings, improving EBITDA, and maximizing return on invested capital.
Additionally, the company prioritizes responsible operations and actively contributes to sustainability objectives. Informed by a thorough maturity assessment, Royal Caribbean’s strategy revolves around data quality, master data management (MDM), governance compliance, private security rules, data visibility, and the creation of user-friendly data catalogs that facilitate widespread access.
The company is also modernizing its data analytics and AI platforms, transitioning to cloud-based modern data platforms with open-source frameworks such as Parquet, Delta tables, and Spark. “The aim is to generate value both in the short term and for sustainable growth in the future by emphasizing data governance and ensuring high-quality, shareable data assets," says Hassan.
Connecting the dots: implementing a data architecture on the high seas
Hassan's ascent to the CDO role can be attributed to his extensive technical architecture background, providing him with a distinct advantage in addressing digital transformation challenges and optimizing all aspects of a business.
According to him, his approach to establishing a cohesive and influential enterprise architecture landscape revolves around two key principles — ensuring alignment within the broader ecosystem (crucial to avoid chaos) and every action must be purposeful and driven by a clear objective.
Working closely with the enterprise architecture team, the company’s data organization includes a team of solution architects who look at how the different elements of business, information, and technology can be applied to solve a specific problem.
"We expand our architectural footprint with intention.”
Moez Hassan | VP, Chief Data Officer at Royal Caribbean
This approach is grounded in pragmatism and practicality, ensuring that every endeavor serves a clear purpose. According to Hassan, “Whether it's empowering business analytics groups across the organization, including our own enterprise business analytics group, or enabling new capabilities such as streaming and capturing IoT data from engines, we expand our architectural footprint with intention.”
Hassan emphasizes that his focus goes beyond the superficial allure of technology. Every decision he makes is guided by a clear purpose, as exemplified by the company’s robust cloud-based data analytics platform. Acting as a unifying framework, this platform accommodates the integration of components tailored to identified requirements.
For example, Royal Caribbean implemented a data-as-a-service layer, enabling seamless sharing of data internally and externally. This layer supports diverse operations, including batch, micro-batch, and real-time processes through APIs and streaming capabilities.
Charting a course through cloud data environments
Cloud data environments are not just a glimpse into the future, says Hassan. “They have firmly established themselves as a permanent fixture in the technological landscape.” However, it's crucial to optimize these environments considering the associated costs.
He emphasizes the transformative potential of AI-augmented data management tools has already become a reality. He notes that AI's impact goes beyond surface-level improvements, extending to behind-the-scenes operations. For instance, modern MDM tools seamlessly perform both deterministic and probabilistic matching by leveraging AI capabilities.
Prominent solutions such as Azure Fabric are revolutionizing the speed and efficiency of data pipeline creation. Gone are the days of spending excessive time on the technical mechanics of building ETL pipelines or data models. Instead, Hassan says, “The focus now shifts to business logic and generating value. This exciting shift empowers us to think strategically from a business perspective, fostering innovation and maximizing our potential.”
As CDOs and data analytics professionals, we have a unique opportunity to reshape traditionally conservative industries into data-driven and analytical domains. We find ourselves amidst an exciting time where cloud data environments and AI-augmented tools are converging.
By embracing this convergence, we can unlock remarkable productivity enhancements and shift our focus toward generating value and achieving business objectives.
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About the Authors
VP - Evangelist and Senior Architect
Ben is VP-Evangelist and Senior Architect with Rackspace Technology. He works with enterprises, architecting solutions to enable them to drive business outcomes through thriving in a multicloud world. He is a 35-year veteran in multiple industries including health care, manufacturing, and technology consulting. Prior to Rackspace, Ben was with Covail, a leading-edge provider of AI/ML and cybersecurity services to Fortune 1000 clients. At Covail, Ben was VP of Delivery and transitioned to VP of Revenue and Client Success. A recognized technology leader, Ben was named a Premier 100 leader by Computerworld. Outside of work, he loves to travel, ride his bike, and spend time with his wife and four daughters. He is an active organizer in the tech community and curates the Central Ohio CIO forum (150+ CIOs) and founded Techlife Columbus. Ben also serves on the Pitch Advisory Board for South by Southwest and the Editorial Board for CDO Magazine.Read more about Ben Blanquera