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Hoteliers do not need to be told that they are facing a perfect storm: the macro-economic challenges of the past few years, a proliferation of new distribution channels, and next generation technologies – everything from mobile smartphones to the concept of ‘big data’ – adds up to a period of rapid change in the global marketplace.
For hoteliers, the challenge is not recognizing that these issues are here to stay; it’s understanding how to adapt and evolve their IT systems to cope with this new environment. This is easier said than done: hotels sometimes operate on 30- or 40-year-old systems. Transitioning from a system built before mobile phones even existed is not a simple task.
The first question is where to begin.
Many people see it as just two options: one, build onto the existing system, like an ambitious home-owner extending a bungalow; or two, buy a series of new, off-the-shelf solutions, hoping they fit into the existing architecture with minimal effort.
With both options, hoteliers risk a Frankenstein’s monster side-effect: either an in-house system that has been modified so many times it struggles to function normally; or a stitched-together combination of vendor products, none of which are designed to communicate with each other. The IT system can lurch uncomfortably along and needs to be micro-managed, leaving hoteliers with little time to consider bigger business issues such as pricing strategies.
There is, however, a third way emerging from this migration dilemma. Partnering with a provider that can give hoteliers the best of both worlds: a degree of customization, extra sophistication that cannot be replicated in-house, and greater connectivity to multiple distribution channels.
There is a market move towards this model which I believe is driven by commercial objectives. The hospitality sector is, as we all know, a highly competitive one, and this has naturally bred an awareness of competitive advantage and disadvantage.
If I had to summarize my top tips for keeping an IT migration project on track, I would say think about three things: discipline, people, and priorities. Discipline because the onion must be peeled one layer at a time, no matter how tempting it may be to rush the job. The system ultimately functions via its users, and so the migration process will need to involve a training plan to make sure that people understand how to interact with a new layout and new functionalities. And finally, priorities. Don’t try to boil the ocean – break things down into a logical sequence, based on the key commercial drivers.
The ugly face of IT migration is hopefully receding into the past as hoteliers embrace more sophisticated methods of transition. Even some of the big hotel brands best loved systems of old are now being outsourced rather than managed in-house; a sign of things to come.
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Happy Halloween from the Amadeus Hotels team!