The amount of software that hotels use is increasing every year. Not all of it is necessary, but some of these tools are of course extremely useful. And as the industry continues to utilize more digital tools and the internet, those who don't adopt the major tools or channels will get left in the dust. To stay competitive hotels need more tools to better understand their guests and improve service. Today it's a competitive advantage, tomorrow, not having them is a disadvantage.
Tools like our analytics dashboard are part of a new category of hotel tech, evolved from revenue-management oriented analytics into a broad reporting solution that many departments or managers can use. But these hospitality-centric analytics tools didn't exist a few years ago so a some hotels have understandably asked us, "Why do I need it now?" Well, the short answer is, the more you know now, the faster you'll be able to adjust pricing, services, and react to the market. And anyone who has daily access to high quality information (through analytics apps or elsewhere) will remain competitive. Eventually, those who don't will be left behind as the industry evolves.
This isn't a sales pitch. Look at how OTAs arrived on the market. Hotel's didn't believe there was much money to be made online, so they left it to someone else and today one of the biggest discussions is how to take back revenue from OTAs. The same is happening today with hotel data.
But as one of the oldest and most prestigious industries in the world, the hospitality industry is also one that believes in traditions. After all, the ultimate goal of a hotel is to take care of guests. It isn't chasing the latest shiny object in technology. The challenge lies in finding the right tools to improve the guests' experience while maintaining or increasing revenue. Adapting to the new tools has been historically slow and painful for hotels.
Why? Two words: Closed stacks. Let's back up and I'll explain.
What is a technology stack?
What is a technology stack? A technology stack is a group of software or apps designed to work together and solve a set of problems for a certain industry. They're often called "suites." A great example that we're all familiar with is Microsoft Office. The combination of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Exchange improves personal productivity for billions of people.
Hotel technology companies have stacks too. PMS companies and CRS companies frequently build stacks or suites of applications as packages. They are practical for hotels because they offer an all-in-one solution for all your technology needs... until they don't.
Because of the diversity of all these apps many companies don't have the resources to keep each one cutting edge. So a hotel might end up with a good PMS that has a mediocre analytics solution and an in-development guest relationship solution.
A hotelier mentioned to me the other day how they are very intimidated by installing a PMS software. What if they find a better solution just a week or even a month later? They're doomed to 4-8 years of using the same old PMS because they can't integrate with newer (or complimentary) software.
Here's where having an open stack can make all the difference.
What is an "open stack"?
A stack could be a "full stack," meaning it offers a comprehensive solution for an industry. But it may also be a "closed" or and "open stack." Closed stacks have traditionally been the default for software design. But with the proliferation of cloud computing and tools offering different or complimentary solutions, more users need to share data or files among different programs. Solutions that offer this are "open stack" because the are designed to communicate openly with other software.
A good example of an open stack provider is none other than Google. With almost every app they make (Google Analytics, Google Maps, Google Docs, Gmail, et cetera) they provide an open API where developers can build their own sub-tools which are tailored to their needs. Many of these then turn out to become full products that can be sold.
Open Stacks are valuable specifically to the hospitality industry because we use so many different softwares and digital tools in our everyday work. And all of these tools are often from different providers and take excessive levels of manual work to use side-by-side. With open stacks, all of it just works. Saving time now, and saving painful integration or upgrade fees (and headaches later).
There aren't huge cost barriers for developers, either. The costs of using these open APIs are just based on the volume of data you transfer, which is a very fair model.
What to keep in mind when choosing new hotel software
So when you're buying a new technology solution, the biggest question you should ask yourself is: Is this an open solution? Can I integrate this with the latest Guest Relationship manager? Can I switch between tools easily?
We as hoteliers should expect more from the tools we use everyday. Let's forget about dated design (we don't need our PMS to still look like Windows '98), let's focus on functionality and longevity. When we demand an open stack solution from our current providers or from the market in general, we set the stage for products we can use professionally that will not only be more immediately useful, these products will last us longer and grow with us as our business and industry grows.
There is nothing wrong with great companies building a multitude of tools such as a booking engine, plus a website manager, plus a channel manager, plus a guest relationship manager. In other words, creating a full stack of hotel software or an all-in-one solution. But if these solutions are closed, have high integration prices and don't provide flexibility for you as the hotel, then it might be time to reconsider the software you are using.
Embrace full stack solutions or software suites. But make sure to verify and demand that they are open and easily accessible so you can use the latest tools and keep managing your hotel and guests rather than struggling with old software that just can't or soon won't be able to cope with current hospitality industry needs.