Software hotel solutions
IDS outlines exactly what hotels should look for when upgrading their systems
No hotel can possibly survive without the right technology and IDS outlines exactly what they should look for when upgrading their systems.
The sky-line is busy again. The city’s giant cranes are swivelling about their noisy wards. Airports are swarming with commuters, and the Sensex is glittering in green for a long time.
Hoteliers are a busy bunch again! Announcements of new projects are the order of the day. And many existing flag-ships are getting upgraded.
Savvy hoteliers, especially the second generation scions to the pioneers in the industry, are assigning the pride-of-place to technology while considering up-gradation. They are quick to realise the business benefits of these investments, some of them being
1. Using automation to optimise on Human Resource, what with all the talk on India affording one of the highest Room to Staff ratio world-wide
2. Optimising maintenance spends, nothing is more expensive than maintaining out-dated technologies
3. WOW the guests, putting the spawning interactive technologies to good use
Of course increasing the over-all coolness quotient of the property is an under-stated but considerable benefit but here lies the first challenge – the ad-hoc expansions and adoptions the industry witnessed last decade and the technology investments made in response to specific tactical demands have left our IT maps amoebic and disjointed.
It is thereby important that we align the bits and pieces to serve the strategic goals of the business.
Existence of technology silos, and the consequent friction among its components leads to increased maintenance costs and sub-optimal returns.
For any typical IT up-gradation exercise to be successful, the following three simple phases need to be kept in mind:
This phase starts with taking a comprehensive asset inventory. One major advantage this leads to, and that your CFO can’t miss, is the optimisation of IT support cost.
In our Audit exercises we make clients realise their maintenance costs at times are higher than replacements costs.
A typical candidate here happens to be telephony, a technology that has seen a sea change in the last decade. Each asset should go through the below grill
a. Is the original requirement that this asset served still valid?
b. If yes, is this asset/ service the best way still to serve that purpose?
c. If no, how can we re-deploy the asset to serve a more current requirement? Some assets render themselves to be re-deployed with some minor alterations and upgrades.
Audit is not all about assets and applications. It has a lot to do with users and managers too. One of the basic functions of auditor is to understand key IT related issues faced by users to ensure the same is not faced after upgrade.
It is essential hence to choose auditors who are familiar with hospitality as a domain and can relate to users at all levels in the latter’s lingo. A good audit report should include a department-wise Gap Analysis.
Align IT with Business Goals
This is a toughie and the one that needs top management bandwidth. One can start with high-level objectives like bringing the room to staff ratio below a targeted threshold.
To be effective, more granular and department level objectives need to be addressed like increasing waiter to bill ratio to a given threshold, reducing time to serve etc., this is where the department-wise gap-analysis of the previous exercise comes in handy.
Objectives can also be abstract like providing personalised service and enabling mobility to staff. A set of fine tuned, mutually agreed objective statements will anchor the next phase and all future IT investments.
This phase starts with comprehensive solution architecture. Once the solutions architecture and investment outlay is finalized, the rest of this phase is handled at the operational level.
Standards like ITSM, have well laid out structures for RFP floating, vendor selection and SLA Right vendors. It is also important to re-evaluate contracts, especially the in-house/outsource decisions.
The decisions taken a few years back may not hold good anymore, so before a contract is renewed, it is important to ensure that the arrangement brings the best benefit.
Take Wi-Fi for instance – Hotels outsourced Wi-Fi infrastructure, bandwidth and support to third-party providers with a revenue sharing arrangement. With declining bandwidth and the rising expectations of complementary internet connection, is this still the best arrangement?
Pacing the upgrade is also a very key component. Over-night upgrade is a risk an operational hotel can ill-afford. A 12-month plan to upgrade is minimal, an 18 to 24 month plan is ideal.
Apart from providing an easy pace to provision budgets, a well phased plan can use off-seasons and lean patches to squeeze in cut-over schedules with minimal service disruptions.
Professional help in program managing an upgrade can help in marshalling through the process. They bring with them a pair of fresh eyes and are usually experienced in models like TOGAF or FEA that will help stake-holders move from abstract to physical without much compromise on the original objectives.
Existing hoteliers are keen to prove that their products are an equal match to their newer counterparts in contemporary look and feel.
Investments in technology, not only, create ample opportunities for existing hoteliers to optimise costs, it also helps us focus our attentions on the most important element of our eco system, the guest.