Tech push continues to affect hotel operations
 
Tech push continues to affect hotel operations
04 OCTOBER 2017 12:03 PM

The advantages afforded by technology can give smaller hotels the same operational advantages and efficiencies typically seen in large, full-service properties.

There’s no denying the dizzying impact technology has on all of modern life, including our hospitality industry.

As just one example, we are already familiar and impressed with the technological underpinnings of modern day revenue management. If implemented well, a small group of properties under integrated ownership can achieve the same efficiencies, cost advantages and maximal average daily rate, revenue per available room and total room spend as a hospitality group responsible for dozens of properties or even more.

Increasingly, the same principle is being applied across a broad range of hospitality operations. Smaller entities can purchase a la carte the “back room” operations that at one time only large-scale entities could afford to create, staff and manage. Similarly, select-service properties can now compete in many ways with full-service properties and their historically greater financial and labor resources.

Spending less and maximizing staff resources, while achieving greater powers (efficiency, accuracy, new functions) seems like a great formula for success and profitability. It all relies on knowing how to dial-up the technology in the right ways. Moreover, technology doesn’t just flatten the competitive landscape, i.e. all entities can access the best in systems, but, rather, elevates “all boats,” as it were. Our industry achieves greater asset valuations and overall economic prowess.

Let’s briefly examine some of these new approaches and what they imply strategically.

Building blocks
One valuable approach is to outsource operations management modules from select vendors that specialize in technology solutions for the hospitality industry. These customized modules can be purchased on an ad-hoc basis, but their real power comes with how we choose to integrate them.

For example, a hiring module can integrate the offering-canvas for applicants to the job application process, interviewing process, hiring process and right on to payroll and benefits enrollment and initial training.

Among the many available, customized features, these systems can feature property-specific “portals”; initially rank candidates; schedule interview appointments; issue appropriate “yes or no” communications; and auto-generate drug testing and background checks.

Next, this module can be fully integrated into the organization’s payroll system and master accounting platform, which can include HR benefits enrollment, completion of tax forms and similar functions.

A scheduler can also be integrated with and rely on nearly real-time labor reports generated by the payroll system. An example would be the scheduling of housekeeping assignments.
Obviously, scheduling and required staffing levels are interrelated. Thus, such systems can help regulate this relationship for us in real-time, which includes sending out alerts when individual employees approach pre-set parameters like mandated hours of work per day or week.

Even more intriguing, as new hires are made, these systems can be linked to training with secure, online login by employees. Provided functions can include study and sign-off on items like the employee handbook; mandatory sexual harassment, anti-discrimination training; even brand training.

In addition to the operational efficiencies and economic savings, the advantages of systems like these include standardization that fosters employment practices compliance (“Everyone is treated equally.”).

Why stop there?
Similarly, “business intelligence” modules are available to issue scheduled preventive maintenance reminders and document their completion, another function that can be integrated with property audits and regular reports to investors and brand partners.

We can also employ customized technology solutions to what we might consider “softer” or less rigid aspects of operations.

While beyond the scope of our article, we can mention some examples. These include management of guest service scores or reviews of properties on social media and travel-related web sites; or technology support for the sales staff, to include being able to pull up floor plans, meeting room diagrams, equipment lists and contracts on one’s smart device. All the comforts, and appeals, of a property, accessible anywhere!

Technology is also affecting investment and asset management, allowing us, for example, to quickly benchmark a property against our own discrete portfolio or a comparable industrywide asset pool.

Strategic implications
In embracing technology solutions of the kind just discussed, we find that:

  • The off-the-shelf, yet customized solutions available from third-party vendors will continue to put competitive pressure on those offered by the brands or developed in-house by larger entities.
  • We can achieve substantial savings for senior staff. With so many employee management functions “pumped in” through an online system, there is less need for a human resource director at the property level. Similarly, sales teams don’t need be wedded as much to specific properties as they traditionally have been, but can handle broader networks of properties.
  • There is a huge impact on the audit function. When visiting a property, management teams can spend much less time “rounding up the paperwork,” and, instead, focus on higher-level strategic consulting and teaching with key personnel and interact in a more relaxed manner with the greater staff.

GMs will perhaps be affected most of all. They must be adept with technology, but are in no way technicians. Instead, the power and scope of these new technologies reward individuals who understand them only as tools, not ends in themselves; who can think and act quickly; and who have an entrepreneurial bent.

When they aren’t forced to be bookkeepers keeping track of accounts receivable or service requests, or schoolmasters taking attendance, we expect our general managers to be leaders who can motivate and invigorate those under their direction. Done well, we can enhance both profits and people.

Kerry Ranson, a 21-year veteran of the hospitality industry, is chief development officer at HP Hotels.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that might be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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