Blog: Making Sense of Data
The Complexity of The Modern Hotel
The modern hotel is a complicated place. In fact, the entire hospitality industry is one of intricate complexities. What seems on the outside to be the simplest of operations can actually be bound by decisions made months or even years earlier. While technology in itself may appear complicated it is clear that technology should not become the cause of the complexity. So, in this age of data, are we really at risk of letting history repeat itself?
Systems and Silo’s
Even the smallest of hotels need technology in some form. The basis of all of these is the Property Management System, commonly referred to as the PMS. Without going into too much detail, think of this as the beating heart of any hotel. Holding inventory, guest data, managing check-in and out, room status, reservation data, the PMS has it covered.
On top of the PMS there could be a multitude of further systems, all designed to improve and enhance the guest stay, or to improve staff efficiency. The aim, that oh so elusive 10 out of 10 feedback.
Systems such as the Central Reservations System (CRS), Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) and Housekeeping software are all focused on guest efficiency. Remember when checking into a hotel resulted in the team member leafing through files of paper to find your booking card? Certainly not the smoothest way of handling check-in!
In another world completely we now have online registration & check-in, Mobile Key, superfast WiFi, interactive TV systems and VoIP telephones. All in place with the purpose of enhancing the guest stay. Perhaps offering them access to something they cannot find elsewhere.
Traditionally the approach to deploying one of these systems was simple. Identify the need for a system or solution, then begin a project to deploy it. Design the use cases and processes for it, train the staff to use it and commission. You know what? For many years, it worked. Sort of.
The result of this traditional approach, of course, was that we ended up with silos. Each system existing in its own little ecosystem, closed off to everything else. It wasn’t the fault of the systems we chose, but often the way we chose them, and how we deployed them. We would analyse products to ensure that they were digital solutions, had interfaces available, and could provide outputs in various formats. However, this is where the complexity originated.
All the systems I’ve mentioned so far are full of very valuable data. Not just from a security standpoint, which coincidentally is something hotels need to take incredibly seriously these days, also from the view of guest experience and satisfaction. However, with 15 to 20 disparate systems generating reports, all through separate interfaces, and in varying formats you end up with data spaghetti.
Reviewing these reports to glean the data they contain is a time consuming, manual process. Add to this the fact that humans are prone to error, and suddenly this data has significantly less value than you first thought. Or at least the cost of extracting that value is much higher.
The biggest drawback, however, is when you actually get time to review the data, it’s too late. The main benefit of this data is obtained by reviewing it in near real-time, so it can be acted upon right away. Delivering fresh towels or extra pillows is no use to a guest who has already checked out! Understanding these outputs can be so time-consuming that it often doesn’t happen at all.
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
Dashboards are not a new idea, but they do offer a solution to this problem. A well-designed dashboard can present relevant information, built upon sets of reports. A dashboard, however, is not the complete answer. For a dashboard to show information that can be acted upon, you need data, and that data needs to be aggregated from all your systems. We actually discussed the challenge of data aggregation here.
In moving away from silos and disparate systems to implementing systems with 3rd party interfaces, we need to avoid historic point-to-point integrations. The answer lies in using Application Programming Interfaces, commonly shortened to API’s. API’s are a set of tools that allow multiple systems to communicate and exchange data. Once you have this integrated approach, where data flows from the point of generation, to the dashboard where it is viewed, you create a holistic overview. This overview brings data from all hotel systems to a place where it can be acted upon.
The biggest advantage though, is this data can be displayed in near real-time. Allowing it to be acted upon swiftly when it actually matters. The fact that the analysis is done by machine also removes the chance of human error. Through this you enable constant analysis of the hotel and its performance metrics, allowing the hotel staff to be much more flexible and responsive to identified trends and opportunities as soon as they arise.
Finally, as a result of using technology to present this data, management are freed up to focus on what gives hospitality its name, time to focus on delighting your guests!
Simon I’Anson is Chief Strategy Officer with Hoist Group, whose main focus is finding Hoist Group’s myriad of advanced technology solutions their rightful home in some of the world’s greatest hotels. With over 15 years of experience in the hospitality technology space, he is sharing his valuable insights through these posts. Outside of work he is a big fan of many sports, including Rugby and Tennis, enjoys spending time with his family, and likes the type of music that should be turned up to ‘11’. You can find more about him here – LinkedIn