Note: This is an op-ed article written by David Turnbull, SnapShot's co-founder and CCO
Until recently, the investment and management of technology in hotels was viewed in the same category as plumbing or air-conditioning - a fixed purchase and set-up that requires only basic maintenance and yearly follow-ups at best. This “buy it and forget it” mentality has to change.
Technology is not static, it’s flexible, and just like processes and services in hotels, it needs to adapt to quickly changing guests expectations and market demands and, if possible, anticipate them. Hotels need to be able to add, tune, upgrade or even completely change their technology stack quickly. Scalability and adaptation to market changes must be a hotel’s mantra when choosing a technology provider.
This is a challenging and overall pretty new concept, because the legacy systems that have been in place in hotels need to urgently integrate with an entire new generation of SaaS solutions. That said, hotels that manage to embrace this new concept will have a competitive edge.
So why is this concept so difficult for hotels to embrace? For one, there is too much friction between softwares. Integrations are the weak link of our industry. Even for some of the best tech companies, integrations can involve months of development and testing to create stable connections.
But despite frequent outages, data validation struggles and lengthy waits to be “scheduled”, the necessity to integrate prevails. Hoteliers keep accepting that “that’s the way it is.” That mentality coupled with long sales cycles leave hotels in a technology paralysis. Hotels buy and install key customer-facing technology then sit for seven years complaining about it before making a change. That idea is a scary one, particularly if we look at how quickly technology is changing.
Hotels must fundamentally change the way they look at technology planning, purchase and usage. They should consider their technology systems as platforms (rather than servers in the basement) that can be constantly optimized, tweaked and adjusted.
Technology needs to have multiple options or versions that fit various segments of hotels. Not every hotel needs an enterprise in mind designed operating software that can handle every task imaginable. So why should they pay for that? Hotels need a modular technology choices, that allows them to pick out the features that they want and need.
This modular approach is scalable and doesn’t require large upfront fees that swallow-up valuable CAPEX with non-questionable recurring maintenance costs, no matter if the hotels are using the system or not. Flexible pricing models allow hotels to be nimble, adding or removing parts they don’t need, in order to keep their technology lean and cost efficient for any property size.
Hoteliers can then download apps in seconds and A/B test before paying for the one they want. This flexibility translates itself into changing purchase and usage expectations of the same hotelier when buying hotel technology.
With this freedom, as the business grows, the hotel can add features. If business needs change and a feature is no longer needed, the hotel can easily remove it.
Hoteliers need to be able to do what hoteliers to best - meet and exceed their customer's expectations. To do this however they need to work with vendors and an entire technology community that promote greater interoperability, flexibility and open access to the data needed to power their guest experience.
On paper, all-in-one or full technology stacks are practical for a hotel, but they too need to be able to integrate with new apps and integrate with multiple providers - the grass is always greener. And taking into consideration that an “insignificant” app today could be the next big thing of tomorrow, continuous R&D is a must.
The large tech industries have long understood the concept of building platforms that work unilaterally. Our industry needs to adapt to that thinking.
The good news is that many incumbent technology providers realize this, reflecting the changing mindset and fickleness of the hotel client base they serve. As we build those systems with open and flexible integrations and pricing, hotels can improve service quality and focus on taking care of guests in ways that no other industry can. Because, at the end of the day, that’s what hospitality is really all about.