Hotel Online Special Report 

Technology: One PMS does not Fit All Hotel Environments  
By Barbara A. Worcester  H&MM Senior Editor 

Dick Moore, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel  Administration, is not an advocate of the one-size-fits-all theory. He wears a  size 15EEE shoe and his glove size is equally large. When it comes to selecting  a property-management system, Moore said a one-system-fits-all philosophy is  just as ridiculous as forcing all people to wear one shoe size. 

"Before you select a PMS, you have to identify the environment," Moore said.  "For example, I have a box of various types of gloves in my classroom. As I pass  the box around the room and ask my students to select a pair of gloves, they  must first define their environment or occupation to know which type of glove to  choose. A cook wouldn't want to wear a pair of thermal insulated gloves in the  kitchen, and a bellman wouldn't want to shake hands wearing rubber surgical  gloves." 

Moore said PMS selection is just as relative. A hotel company needs to identify  what it wants the system to do within its environment before purchasing the  product. While each environment may be different, he said there are a few key  elements to consider to make a wise buying decision: 

  • Make sure the system is able to function in a "Wintel" [Windows/Intel]  environment; 
  • The system must be year 2000 compliant; and 
  • Interfaces to critical applications, such as call-accounting and point-of-  sale, should be part of the package. 
"Ideally, the PMS should be [Hospitality Industry Technology Integration  Standards] compliant," Moore said. "A hotel looking for a PMS should write into  its request-for-proposal that interfaces, wherever feasible, must be HITIS  compliant." 

HITIS is an initiative of the American Hotel & Motel Assn. and industry vendors  to create standards for integrating disparate computerized systems. These  standards eliminate the need for each PMS vendor to write upwards of 400 to 500 interfaces, costing hotels thousands of dollars. The standards are still being  written and tested with hopes of having 30 interfaced by year-end 1999. At press  time, fewer than 10 percent of the more than 60 PMS vendors were HITIS  compliant. 

Bringing uniformity 

Finding a PMS that is integrated with other system applications is the biggest  challenge hoteliers face, according to Gary Mesich, vice president of brand  strategies and market solutions for Marriott International. He said he agrees  with Moore that one system doesn't fit all. 

"One company doesn't have all the solutions," Mesich said. "Today, with HITIS,  there's a move to try to bring some uniformity to a very chaotic situation with  all the different products and interfaces available." 

Jon Inge, president of Edmonds, Wash.-based John Inge & Assoc., said that while  HITIS will play a big role in PMS selection in the future, he said he believes  it's too soon to make it a criteria in the immediate buying decision. 

"HITIS really isn't an urgent issue for hotels looking to buy a PMS today," Inge  said. "Functionality of the product and its ability to provide secondary  interfaces is far more important." 

According to New York-based Chervenak, Keane & Co., about 48 of the current 66  PMS vendors-or 73 percent-have a Windows version of their PMS, but those numbers  are inexact because several companies now fall under the Hotel Information  Systems (formerly MAI Hospitalitiy) umbrella, or are also the result of the  mergers of two or more systems. A few PMS firms are promising Windows versions  next year, CKC officials said. 

Inge said whether or not a PMS is Windows-based is also not relevant.  "Choosing between a Windows or a DOS product really depends on how ready a  property is for 2000," Inge said. "Right now, there are no clear winners in the  Windows-based PMS arena. No one has a dominant system."  He said Windows has not yet proven itself to be reliable as a full-featured  system of choice. 

Stan Julien, manager of hospitality systems for Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft,  the manufacturer of Windows and Windows NT, said he disagrees with Inge.  "The Windows operating system has proven itself over and over again to be  consistently easier to use and much more reliable than DOS-based systems," 

Julien said. "The hospitality industry is discovering that now. The application  may not be as well proven, but the operating system is." Inge suggested that if a hotel doesn't want to postpone buying a PMS, it should  buy something from a vendor, such as Springer-Miller Systems, that has a proven  product and that will guarantee an upgrade to Windows in the future. 

John Springer-Miller, president of the Stowe-Vt.-based company, said it has been  focused on system integration for more than 10 years and has been diligently  working to educate the industry on its importance. At press time, the company  was getting ready to beta-test its new Windows interface, which it hopes to  release later this year. 

"We're trying hard to make use of Windows wherever possible," Springer-Miller  said. "We're excited about Windows as a graphic environment. We want to take  advantage of graphics whenever we can, but we're also being careful to not lose  the system's functionality." 

Springer-Miller said that while the jury is still out on whether or not Windows  will make a PMS more efficient or reliable, hoteliers seem to be requesting it  as part of their future system's program. 

"The industry is using Windows for the same reason the world is using Windows,"  he said. "It's not necessarily a better system. It's just better marketed."  He said he is concerned that people are going only to Windows when there are  other operating systems on the market that offer better functionality depending  on the situation. 

Microsoft's Julien said that it's important for businesses to focus on choosing  the best product to meet their business needs today. 

"You need to make a strategically sound technology investment today in order to  succeed," Julien said. "You wouldn't buy a system today that's not 2000  compliant. You also have to consider just how much longer DOS will be a viable  platform to run a business on. It's remarkable it's lasted so long." 

Julien said there is enough experience in the hospitality industry today to  demonstrate unequivocally the savings in user training from Windows. He said  training cycles are cut to two days from two weeks on a Windows system.  "Windows was designed specifically to run mission critical business  applications, and that's why it's so successful in hospitality today," Julien  said. "Hoteliers need to look outside of the industry. All software innovations  in business systems are concentrated on the Windows family. That's where you're going to find future applications and future advances." 

According to Marriott's Mesich, "The race between Windows and UNIX is still on.  The industry will always remain  divided."

Hotel & Motel Management
Jeff Higley, Managing Editor
email: [email protected]
      Also See:
HITIS Project Successfully Conducts Alpha Tests at Hospitality Technology Conference / June 1998 

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