News for the Hospitality Executive
Guest Management Systems Are in a Long Period of Transition
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|By Jon Inge
March 8, 2013
It's an old saying with alot of truth behind it that hotels only replace their core systems every 10 to 15 years, and even then only when smoke starts coming out of them. Maybe it’s the perceived pain of the selection and implementation process or perhaps a feeling of being overwhelmed by the technology options, but many owners and managers prefer to buy systems once and then forget about them. That’s no longer a realistic option.
Guest management systems are still the essential core of a hotel’s system set, serving as the consolidator of all interactions with a guest on property. As management decisions require an ever-more detailed knowledge of guests’ actions and preferences, the systems’ reach constantly needs to be extended in every area of hotel operations. Vendors achieve this by adding specialized modules for functions such as point of sale, revenue management, spa bookings, condo owner management and so on, and through increasingly comprehensive interfaces to other vendors’ systems used in those areas.
Operational needs change all the time. Despite signs of recovery the marketplace is still intensely competitive. Hotels are constantly looking for an edge, and their systems must help them identify opportunities and support each that shows promise.
Marketers continue to explore new ways of gathering guest information, and so social media tracking and interactions are added to the mix. The shift to mobile technology is unstoppable, and mobile-compatible software is needed to reach guests on their devices of choice and to make those as simple as possible to use. More travelers use mobile devices to book on the spur of the moment, and hotel systems must get better at predicting booking trends with ever-shortening lead times, and driving revenue management decisions accordingly.
Operational efficiency must improve, and housekeepers need mobile devices updated dynamically as room cleaning priorities shift during the day. Engineers need to be notified of work orders wherever they are and need mobile devices that can alert them of new tasks (ideally with photographs) to help them arrive fully prepared and return the guestroom to full service as quickly as possible. Guests’ past problems need to be tracked in their profiles so work orders can be created automatically to re-check the issue before their next arrival. Mobile devices also support more personal guest services, such as check-in from anywhere in the lobby or even in the guestroom.
The list of changes never ends, and incorporating these steady enhancements and upgrades into the guest management systems controlling the workflow is essential to any property wanting to stay operationally competitive.
Then there are the changes to systems architecture itself. Software development doesn’t stand still either, and new systems developed with current services-oriented approaches have an inherent advantage over long-established applications in speed of development and enhancement. Their reliability should also be higher, given the clean-slate opportunity to design in all current functionality in one coherent process instead of constantly adding and patching it over 20 years. Vendors such as Agilysys, Infor, Multi-Systems, Inc., and PAR Springer-Miller Systems have all bitten the bullet and come up with new products developed alongside their existing ranges. MICROS is taking a more modular approach, converting its OPERA suite to Oracle’s latest platform one section at a time. Regardless, it always takes time to build out a new system to match an older one’s feature set, and if you’re convinced of the long-term benefits of the newer products (and there are many arguments in their favor) you may need to plan to install the older ones first and migrate later. The costs of doing that, even if just for staff training, must be budgeted.
(Editor's note: Jon continues this article at www.hospitalityupgrade.com and discusses ERP and hosted solutions for the hospitality industry.
Please click here to find the full version:
Jon Inge is an independent consultant specializing in technology at the property level.
More articles by Jon Inge:
Hospitality Upgrade Magazine
and the Hospitality Upgrade.com website
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