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 A Panel on Property Management Systems at the Strategic Conference
on Hospitality Operations and Technology Focuses on Need For Better
Training Options, OTA/HTNG Interfaces and Better Support
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Dallas, Texas - March 10, 2006 - A panel on Property Management Systems was held at the Strategic Conference on Hospitality Operations and Technology (HOT) on March 9, 2006. Moderated by Jon Inge, President of Jon Inge & Associates, the panelists were 
  • Ric Patrick, Director of Property Management Systems of Cendant Corporation Hotel Group, 
  • David Barbieri, Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Red Lion Hotels, 
  • Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu, Assistant Professor of Hospitality Technology at the University of Delaware and Consultant, 
  • Roger Bloss, President and CEO of Americas Best Value Inn by Vantage Hospitality Group, Inc., 
  • Andrew Furrer, Corporate Director IT of Kimpton Group, and 
  • David Perkins of IQWare. 
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Surprisingly, when asked to name the key functions of a modern PMS the panelists all emphasized “one that’s easy to learn”.  This may imply that all modern PMSs cover the basic functions well, but it also reflects the long-standing training challenge caused by the perennially high turnover in front office staff and the lack of regular refresher training at the hotel level.  Computer-based training was agreed to provide the most cost-effective solution, but is not widely available; a recent study by Dr. Cobanoglu reported that about 70% of the hoteliers use traditional training for PM systems, while 13% front office employees train themselves on the job and only 5% use computer-based training. 

In discussing new operational priorities and/or technology advances that are changing the PMS, panelists agreed that the OTA and HTNG standards will have a major impact on the future PM systems.  The current lack of effective and flexible interfaces among the different components of hotel systems was acknowledged as the handicap of our industry. The operators emphasized that they should demand OTA and HTNG compliance from vendors so that this initiative does not loose its speed and momentum. The advice was given especially to small operators to ask vendors to comply with OTA and/or HTNG standards. 

Indicating a strong confidence in modern communications reliability and a ready acknowledgement of the difficulties of supporting property-based systems, the panelists were solidly in favor of centrally-hosted systems wherever they can be used.  Mr. Furrer stated that Kimpton uses a centralized PM system out of Oregon for all its properties, which gives them better control over the inventory and consequently more effective yield management, both factors strongly endorsed by Mr. Barbieri for Red Lion Hotels.  The availability of multi-property real-time information for management decisions was also cited as a key factor. Those operators on the panel using distributed PM systems put this down to the mix of the flags they hold under their companies and to connectivity issues, but stated a preference to move to centralized hosting. 

Perhaps again emphasizing the basically functional nature of most current PMSs, the panelists agreed that the most important part of the systems selection process was to identify a vendor with whom they could form an effective partnership, both for ongoing development needs and for prompt and effective support.

This led into the closing discussion on the importance of support in managing PM systems, agreed to be one of the most important agenda items in day-to-day operations. Dr. Cobanoglu’s survey of support and maintenance reported that 75% of the respondents do have yearly maintenance contracts, but 9% call the vendors as needed, 4% use third party support, and 12% use other models “including the 16 year old son of the Front Office Manager.”  Those panelists hosting central systems emphasized the greater supportability of these systems from a single location.  However, given the need to rely on three separate vendors for server, software and network support they are still only able provide their franchisees with service level agreements (SLAs) for support call response time, not for system up time.  There’s clearly an opportunity here for a single vendor to assume full responsibility for this increasingly popular configuration.

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Contact:

Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu
cihan@udel.edu

Jon Inge
jon@joninge.com

Also See: Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) Making Significant Progress Towards its Objectives of Improving Systems Interoperability in the Hospitality Industry / June 2005
Hotel Technology Next Generation 2nd Annual Conference Draws 250 Hotel Technology Leaders; Six Individuals Win Leadership Awards / March 2006

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