Moving forward with ‘IT’

Features, Back of House

IBM and Hotelier India together recently hosted a special evening that brought together IT heads of a number of hotels for an indepth presentation on integrated solutions for hotels.

Hotelier India and IBM recently collaborated to bring together IT heads from leading hotels in India for an event on Integrated Solutions for Hotels. Held at the Royal Orchid hotel in Mumbai, the evening saw in depth presentations by Oberoi Hotels and Resorts Systems Manager Noel Alvares and IBM India Business Manager – Converged Communications Services Kiran Kumar.

Outlining the main hospitality-related IT issues faced by hotels, Alvares spoke at length about making hotel IT infrastructure smarter with solutions such as convergence of voice, data, video and television content.

“One of the benefits of a converged network is that it helps to build brand loyalty and enhance the guest experience. Bandwidth is going to be key, and making it scalable is the key to guest satisfaction being high,” he stated.

His tips included increasing bandwidth immediately upon average use exceeds 50% of current bandwidth, tiered pricing for bandwidth, identifying a single provider for a chain of properties and data traffic management.

“Data traffic management helps in ensuring that other guests aren’t affected by one guest hogging bandwidth by streaming videos on YouTube. If a guest is utilising too big a share of bandwidth, control his usage or alternately implement tiered pricing related to bandwidth usage,” he said.

He went on to identify the benefits of a converged network, which were that all services, from broadband to energy management, IPTV or butler services, would come under a single umbrella and increase guest satisfaction and build brand loyalty.

“The guest wants everything at his fingertips. Walking across the room is not something he wants to do so he should for instance have a set of controls at his bedside as well,” commented Alvares.

He elaborated on the fact that infrastructure is of paramount importance and should be in place before going further with any implementation of technology.

“Balance is key in this industry, build your technology in a way that balances aesthetics and does not overburden guests,” he added. “Brief your guests on services available in the room rather than expecting them to find out for themselves.” For those who don’t have personal or escorted check-in services he suggested making an ‘IT directions’ part of the counter-staff operating process during check-in.

Interestingly, he also touched upon RevPAS (revenue per available service). “You can create a bouquet of (chargeable) services related to television like video-on-demand and broadband,” he suggested.

Kumar drew attention to hospitality’s efforts to contain costs and launch green initiatives saying these could be achieved with the right technological support.

“Guest delight and customer satisfaction is of prime importance he said also touching upon Alvares’ point that technology should be easy to support and easy to put into place.

IBM’s offering in the hospitality space includes components such as network services, data services and managed services. Kumar informed that IBM’s network services include the option to tier bandwidth and redundant access points.

“This refers to overlapping wireless or regular access points so even if one is broken or not functioning, the overlapping point will provide a signal and your guest will not complain,” Kumar explained.

He also touched upon IBM’s IP phone, “IP phones save money on structured cabling, can go into deep sleep mode when the room is vacant, display keys for room service, etc. and do away with language barriers, a complaint tab can allow the guest to complain about service he is displeased with; it also allows you to check service response time and it stores guest preferences,” Kumar elaborated.

IBM is pushing products such as IP phones, IPTVs, ‘smart CCTVs’ which “analyse movement and can identify movement that is unusual to a specific zone such as a low traffic zone suddenly witnessing a lot of movement or suspicious behaviour by one person such as walking into and out of a room an unusual amount of time” and scalable modular data centres. “Our data centres can be created in a phased manner so as to be gradually expanded as and when you need more racks,” Kumar explained.

IBM also has an integrated building management solution. “This features occupancy censors which can help conserve energy. An extended of this is that it does away with the problem of very cold banquet halls at the start of a conference,” he commented. Add-on services offered include IBM’s service desk, support services and vendor management.

“This is aimed at helping hospitality clients with IT staffing and expertise issues,” said Kumar adding that one of the services offered to those opting for the integrated building management solution is the tracking of utilisation and life of IT assets.

He summarised his presentation by listing what IBM essentially offers, “An integrated approach, the possibility of creating revenue models, and the ability to help build an infrastructure that will last for more than a decade – costs escalate with every new installation so a long lasting solution is cost-effective.”

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