Industry Update
Opinion Article12 November 2020

The Future of Hotel Technology: Property Management Systems

What’s the last thing you’d want to do as a hotelier when it comes to big operational projects?

By Simone Puorto, Founder | CEO | Futurist

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If you answered switching Property Management Systems, you're not alone. They're cumbersome, complex, expensive, and not always able to address current or future needs. A current wave of PMSs have cropped up to address this issue but use a wholly different approach to solving this problem to the point where it's questionable if we can even call them PMSs.

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How did we get here and where are we headed?

Most PMS systems were built in the 80s or 90s before the concepts of cloud structure or integrations existed. And since then, we've retrofitted these now ancient solutions to try to work with current ones. But let's back up a bit. The main problem with, or, to look at it another way, the core feature of PMSs is that they are at the very center of operations, making them difficult to change because it would impact many parts of the business, requiring retraining staff, and risking loss of data and the pain of reconfiguring hardware. Most hoteliers avoid changing PMSs for that exact reason. And most hoteliers are often stuck with old or obsolete systems for the same reason. (This is something that cloud-based PMSs have sought to solve, and have largely succeeded, though they have their own shortcomings. We'll cover this later on.)

Another difficulty is that it's quite hard to compare PMSs, especially when there are new offerings that work differently than the older ones. It's certainly not an apples to apples comparison. The comparison tools available can often leave something to be desired. It's just too challenging to compare all the features of PMSs because they have so many functionalities and so many integrations. It can easily be overwhelming.

Even if your goal is to just find the cheapest solution, there are no clear-cut paths forward. Often the costs of using a PMSs are not clear upfront. All this makes switching PMSs perhaps the number one thing a hotelier avoids.

This has caused the PMS market to default to caution, slowing innovation. Yet it's obvious that we should be able to try out a PMS, and swap it out easily as needed.

The easiest way to do that is to make PMSs more like hubs rather than an all-in-one system, using open APIs to allow users to plug in other software and tools as needed. The PMS would then act as a central command, pulling in data as needed. This is what the new generation of PMSs sought out to do.

The New Wave

Making this change requires a shift in thinking in what we expect from our PMSs. The days are numbered for the era of PMSs being all-in-one tools that can do everything from process payments to manage self-check-in. In order to achieve more flexibility, we'll need to move towards this hub-like system. The responsibility is on the hotel to make a bold change, but it's also on the provider to do the same.

When it comes to the new wave of PMSs they're positioning themselves to be a central hub for all other tech. This new generation of PMSs are mostly cloud-based or even cloud-native, meaning they have been built in the cloud to begin with. This structure allows them more flexibility, especially in terms of integrations.

These new PMSs are not a silver bullet, however. While they are super agile, they often do not have the same amount of functionality as the legacy PMSs. A common real-world example is that many of these new PMSs don't have MICE management functionality, so a hotel will buy external software to plug into their cloud-based PMS. And many providers in this new wave are startups so they lack the experience and customer trust of a 20-30-year-old company.

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