Mr. Ellis

Mobile Technology

Hospitality in the Cloud

The Future of SaaS Trends in the Industry

By Bernard Ellis, Vice President of Industry Strategy, Infor Hospitality

According to Gartner's Top 10 Strategic Technology Predictions for 2015 and Beyond, "By the end of 2017, 70 percent of successful digital business models will rely on deliberately unstable processes designed to shift as customer needs shift." This ability to adapt with the consumer is directly applicable to the hospitality industry, as meeting the ever-changing expectations of guests is essential to profitability. When considering which technology options can have the greatest impact on dexterity and flexibility, cloud computing should certainly be top-of-mind.

As more hotel and casino operators have familiarized themselves with the potential benefits of Software as a Service (SaaS), momentum behind the cloud is here to stay. Hospitality organizations have moved past previously associated concerns with the cloud, and it has now become a fixture and regularly selected path for IT in the industry. This progression has brought about several new cloud-related trends, all centered around achieving business goals such as increased revenue, enhanced guest services and improved operational efficiency.

Impact on Limited Service Hotels

Limited service hotel brands are a vital part of the hospitality market, typically offering room rates that appeal to budget-savvy travelers. However, because they do not have as many ancillary revenue streams as full service hotels, decision-makers are often unable to allocate sizeable funds for IT to match their larger counterparts. In the past, this has created difficulty for these properties in remaining up-to-date on business systems and potentially hindered them from capitalizing on the latest innovations.

Fortunately, the cloud provides an opportunity to change this. Many national or global organizations are choosing to invest in SaaS to provide their limited service brands with access to technology that may otherwise be beyond their reach. When the parent company evaluates potential applications, selects the vendor and equips its brands with the necessary tools to execute the project, these hoteliers are positioned to reap a multitude of benefits, both immediately and in the long-term.

Advantages from moving back-end systems to the cloud center primarily on day-to-day operations

With new technology in place that includes automated workflows and the ability to capture information in a unified database, whether it is financials or guest data, franchisees can eliminate paper-based processes and provide more efficient services. Projects of this nature also alleviate burdens on existing IT resources, as employees that previously dedicated time to IT support or manually updating systems can shift focus to more value-add tasks. If the limited service property has any existing or outdated hardware in use, this can also be eliminated to help modernize the technology environment as a whole.

Benefits from undertaking a SaaS project of this nature are often realized at the parent company level as well. The success of its limited service brands and franchisees has a significant impact on the organization's overall revenue, so providing these properties with technology tools to optimize performance can help to increase profits enterprise-wide. Additionally, hosting critical business systems in the cloud allows the organization to create a holistic view of operations across all properties and locations, as critical data is unified in a central location. This gives users at the corporate level the necessary visibility to pinpoint areas for improvement and allows them to apply advanced drill down and analysis tools to facilitated enhanced, strategic decision-making for the business.

Consider this illustration

A global hotel company with numerous franchised hotels is considering technology options to help its limited service properties improve revenue management. By implementing an automated revenue management solution in the cloud and rolling it out to these locations, the organization can help smaller hotels with lower numbers of staff to better manage profits, despite a lack of time or resources to dedicate solely to a revenue management function. These properties will now benefit from an advanced technology application to help optimize revenue, allowing owners to focus more on guest services. Simultaneously, the global organization gains the advantage of a holistic perspective across these properties to enable better-informed decision-making.

Change Management as the New Challenge

As previously noted, cloud is now becoming "business as usual" in the hospitality industry. Benefits including lower total cost of ownership and faster implementations are being experienced by organizations of all sizes, which is changing the conversation around cloud. Rather than potential security breaches or outages existing as primary sources of concern for hoteliers, the challenge has now shifted to change management. Cloud deployments mean that past timelines for change, which often circulated around annual updates at best, are no longer applicable as vendors take responsibility for maintaining the organization's currency on upgrades and functionality enhancements. The pace of change has increased significantly, which has led to questions around how to keep staff trained as new releases are rolled out faster than ever before.

The answer to this question can, once again, be found in technology. Learning management platforms present a viable option to keep employees up-to-speed on how to utilize the latest features of critical business applications in the cloud, no matter how often they are updated. Capitalizing on innovative learning technology can help hoteliers to increase staff productivity, promote compliance with any government regulations and simply accelerate the rate at which new information can be disseminated to the workforce. Learning management applications contribute directly to the overall success of an organization because they provide a standardized means to help capture, convey and expand knowledge. This is crucial when applications are hosted in the cloud and may be updated or changed as often as every few months.

When considering a learning management platform, hospitality organizations should look for a solution that can manage the end-to-end training and learning environment. To provide the greatest advantage, the system should allow staff to create, deliver and report on results, while also offering multiple training formats to accommodate the needs of different types of learners. These formats could include virtual, mobile or classroom learning initiatives. If the application allows decision-makers to pinpoint specific subject matter experts as content authors, this will also ensure that the burden of updating the system does not fall to one individual, but rather many who are responsible for creating new programs. In addition to these features, a flexible architecture that allows the application to integrate with other existing human capital management (HCM) technology will further expand the level of benefit from a learning management platform. Connectivity between applications will allow users to track their progress on completed courses or training updates without logging into a separate system, which will promote its use across the employee base. The platform should also deliver rich reporting features that allow decision-makers to drill down into results, past the standard course completion records, to demonstrate how well the intended audience is capitalizing on available content. This will allow the organization to make any necessary changes to ensure that staff are remaining up-to-date on how to best use the technologies they interact with on a day-to-day basis.

Outside of keeping pace with upgrades and enhancements enabled by cloud deployment, learning management technology is particularly beneficial for the hospitality industry in general due to traditionally higher turnover rates. With a standardized, technology-based approach to learning in place, organizations can reduce training time and costs, and facilitate increased retention by demonstrating investment in employee development. Learning initiatives also help to improve speed-to-productivity for new hires and strengthen the brand by promoting a more consistent guest experience.

Our Future in the Cloud

The value derived from cloud deployment varies greatly between different types of organizations within the hospitality industry. Global and regional hotel brands can utilize SaaS technology to speed opening dates of new locations through faster implementations, and often experience less pushback from owners and franchisees when mandating applications in the cloud. In contrast, independent hotels and smaller groups may find that SaaS levels the playing field with competitors while also requiring a lower up-front investment and little to no on-site IT expertise.

However, what these organizations all have in common, despite size and ownership, is the fact that the cloud delivers access to a new realm of opportunities that are not available with traditional on-premise systems. As SaaS technology acts as the catalyst for new trends in the hospitality industry, ensuring that employees become accustomed to the more dynamic delivery method enabled by this type of technology is the most important aspect in terms of positioning the organization for success. By moving critical business systems to the cloud, hotel and casino operators can ensure they are prepared for the next wave of IT trends by creating a flexible technology environment that is streamlined, adaptable and more cost effective.

Bernard Ellis, Vice President of Industry Strategy for Infor Hospitality is responsible for defining the global go-to-market strategy for the entire Infor solution suite for the hospitality, travel, and leisure industry vertical. In addition to general product positioning, brand messaging, and industry relations, Mr. Ellis directly oversees product management of Infor’s hospitality-specific PMS, RMS, and POS industry applications, and pursues their tight integration with Infor’s world-class solutions.. Mr. Ellis also guides these other solution groups on the “last mile” functionality required to achieve specialized hospitality editions that outperform best-of-breed industry solutions, yet are still cost-effective to implement. With his launch of Infor CloudSuite™ Hospitality in 2014, Mr. Ellis marked over 15 years of evangelizing SaaS solutions. Mr. Ellis can be contacted at 202-232-3839 or bernard.ellis@infor.com Extended Bio...

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