SHIFT + DEL! Do we need a massive reset?
— 22 experts shared their view
From the days of holidex, Fidelio v6 and Micros 2700 we have for the last 30 years been adding technology upon technology in hospitality. In my last classes with my students (online), one reoccurring question was always, "why is there not one solution that can do everything". Once we discussed this more (language requirements, local fiscal reporting, support, etc…), the students got the complexity of using software and systems to run businesses. But moving forward, future managers are going to want their hospitality software to behave more like WhatsApp, Instagram or Snapchat. Download, install and work. No training or massive configuration to be done. So, where does this leave the hospitality industry? Do we keep on going with our "Lego" approach or do we need to say hold on, that's enough? Let's restart from scratch and what would that look like and how could we conceivably even do that.
Hospitality Technology Consultant
Do we need to restart from scratch? My answer is “Yes, we don't have a choice!”. The world has changed massively. By contrast hotel technology has evolved surprisingly little. For example, the world has moved to apps; in the hotel business we still use “systems”.
When I began attending university late in the last century and wanted to listen to music, I went shopping for a stereo system. I looked at amplifiers, tuners, turntables and speakers. I purchased the various, somewhat-integrated components, installed the assorted cables, and then enjoyed my records. And of course, I had to get up and go to the turntable every 20 minutes to flip the record over or to put on a new one.
Fast forward to 2021, and boy, have things changed! Now I use my smartphone to access unlimited music choices. I build my own playlists. I listen through Bluetooth earbuds or my Sonify Wifi speakers. And that same smartphone is also my camera, my wallet, my social media access tool, my map, my bank access, my home locks and lights controller, and so very much more.
Sure, we have technically-sophisticated vehicles and smart homes, but in truth, nothing remotely approaches the transformation of cell phones from …. mobile telephones ….. into super controllers. Always on, always within arm's reach, our smartphones help us communicate, recall, research, record, praise, complain, brag, organize, shop, and dream. They are our ultra-convenient access point into an unlimited universe.
While this universe is limitless, it is increasingly the home of “supersites” (or maybe more accurately, SuperMerchants). Here I am referring to functionally-massive social websites/apps like Facebook, to shopping sites like Amazon, and travel sites like Expedia, each of whom offer access to so much with a single log-in. And, truth-be-told, these sites are limited, possibly even primitive, in comparison with the scope of choice, integration and performance of WeChat and Alipay – a remarkable, limitless new Internet-based world is at our fingertips (or at our voice command).
Constantly using this always-present tool and always on-line resources has, I would suggest, subtly, unconsciously and irreversibly, changed us as human beings. We now expect to instantly access, communicate, question, and manage much of our life using our smartphones. That means, our personal life, and increasingly, our business life as well. More and more, propelled by the pandemic, we expect 24/7 access, responses, and control in our work environment via our smartphone.
So, what does this move to handheld, unified devices mean to hotel technology? It means that we have a serious (and still-growing) gap between today's electronics and our reliance (and commitment) in the global hotel industry to conventional-style independent systems – CRS, PMS, RMS, POS, and so many others.
Have our hotel systems evolved? Yes, some. Today they are increasingly cloud-based, which is a major advance. They remain however, primarily accessed by large desktop monitors, difficult to learn and use, little-sharing of their data, and little-connected with the Internet-based world in which we spend more and more of our time. In a world where personal and business activity increasingly revolves around a hand-held device – sometimes only a handheld device – our legacy systems are increasingly isolated, impenetrable, unproductive, and absent from the online world we increasingly inhabit.
Is this “most technology vs. hotel technology” gap irreversible? Or is there an alternative, viable path forward for hotel sales, operations, and management technology? Can we reconfigure hotel on-property and hotel brand management technology from their conventional “systems” format to, effectively, “apps”?
The answer is “Not easily, but yes, it can be done”. And the proof-of-concept is already present in our industry. Specifically, it is present (and functioning successfully) in the technology platform developed by OYO Hotels and Homes. OYO used in-house IT design and development resources to create OYO OS – a suite of over 20 smartphone or tablet-accessed apps, all resident in a single cloud-based OYO technology platform.
Designed with a common look-and-feel, while also multilingual and functionally localized to perform comfortably in specific regions, the OYO OS Platform gives us a glimpse of what may be the norm in hotel technology design in 5, 10 or 20 years.
Can we in the hotel IT industry transform our current hotel operations-enabling expertise into a new format, into a new delivery package? Yes, but there will be challenges. They include reengineering (and sometimes splitting), current workflows to create intuitive pathways. We will need to rework task packaging and presentation to function quickly and successfully on a small screen. The challenges also include developing both look-and-feel commonality and deep functional integration with numerous other “sibling" apps.
In OYO Hotels' OYO OS proprietary suite of hotel apps – supporting guest shopping and booking, on-property operations, back-of house, manager, owner and franchisor activities, and much more – we have an option, and quite possibly the dominant model, for the structure of the next generation of hotel technology.
So, another question looms, Who will address and overcome these challenges? Will it be one (or several) of today's hotel system vendors, or will it be a hotel IT vendor who has yet to emerge? This is going to be interesting to watch.