According to a recent study, the typical hotel uses at least ten different hospitality software systems to operate. Therefore, in this scenario, it is crucial that they interact seamlessly with each other. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and our industry (like any other industry, for that matter), often suffers from the adverse effects of what we call "technology silos." As PMSs are the "pulsating hearts" of any property, we can confidently state that the effectiveness of a property management system today is proportional to the number of third-party software it connects to. But is the hospitality industry finally ready to become "tech-agnostic," or are we doomed to operate in insular bubbles, creating barriers between departments?
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Short answer to the question: The only possible present. Hotel Technology -along with any other kind of technology applicable to any industries- must be integration ready. These integrations must be easy to developed, evolve, implement and maintain, call it Plug-and-play if you want, but in one way or the other: the time to have your platform/tech stack ready to integration is now, you cannot expect plan them in the future. Integration between the different Hotel Technologies, as per my point of view, cover 2 main objectives: from the Data angle, gather all the information you need to have for and from your business, every source is needed and on the other hand you have the operation angle, integration are key to ensure a more efficient transaction and operations to your business.
To solve these needs you have different approaches the Hotel Companies are applying: one is basically offering a one-stop-platform that delivers under a unique application all the functionalities a hotel business unit needs, this eliminates from the root all the problems you may have in terms of integration, but on the contrary, is nearly impossible to deliver an application that covers consistently all the functionalities a set of 10 specialized application deliver. An additionally, I would say this approach penalizes innovation, as you are not nimble enough to change quickly in terms on product as you are depending on one supplier.
The other approach is possible the most realistic or at least the one that you can find the vast majority of the properties worldwide. In environments where the PMS is the heart and you have up to 10 application that work independently you will need to manage integration easily and be ready to continue evolve them and connect. And at this stage, fortunately we have a bunch of new technologies and integration paradigms that are giving us what we need to achieve a plug-and-play hotel tech stack.
While the issue of data silos isn't new for the hospitality industry, the past few years have seen an influx of new applications and systems that seek to address both the industry's evolving technology needs and guests' increasing expectations for more personalized experiences. At Cendyn, we believe the only true way forward is for seamless communication and integration of the data within the hotel's entire tech stack. With a solution that truly unifies and organizes the entirety of your data, hotels can stay tech-agnostic and continue working with the various vendors and solutions that suit individual departments within the organization without sacrificing big picture alignment and revenue optimization. Achieving this level of data transparency provides hotels with the most actionable insights while ensuring individual departments are not accidentally working against each other and leaving valuable revenue on the table.
In order to act on the sheer volume of data points being captured across the tech stack, hotels need a solution that wrangles fragmented data and unites it into a single source of truth. While each hotel will always have unique needs based on their size, amenities, location, and other attributes, the best way for any property to leverage their data and connect with guests on a deeper level is to centralize that data and make uniformly accessible across various hotel departments – and the best solution to achieve that level of data unification is a customer data platform (CDP).
A CDP unites, transforms, cleanses, and enriches millions of data points from across your tech stack into a central source of truth. With that true 360-degree view, every department from management and marketing to revenue and operations can take full advantage of the first-part guest data you already own, and utilize those insights to create personalized pricing, offers and content for each guest – which drives additional revenue and more satisfying guest experiences.
Using a CDP allows hotels to be both “app-agnostic” and “tech-agnostic” as the platform can take data from any CRM/PMS/survey platform/etc., regardless of the vendor. The CDP's ability to map data from different technologies offers the greatest amount of flexibility as your hotel can continue to use and build on the various applications you've found success with, and leverage the totality of that data towards its greatest potential. Cendyn's customer data platform, Starling, was designed to be application agnostic - putting you in control of your data, regardless of what other technology solutions you use. Starling not only unites, cleanses and organizes your data, it also shows a clear audit trail and the full history of changes to your data while updating any changes in real-time.
In our tech-infused world, maintaining guest centricity alongside adaptable technology is easier said than done. We've often had to make trade-offs between functionality/cost and responsiveness/guest experience. A customer data platform reduces those tradeoffs by harnessing data into a shared layer across all systems. It's this future-proof foundation that can help your hotel meet growing expectations for personalized guest experiences by allowing you to make informed decisions based on the actual spend, preferences, demographic information, loyalty status, rate price and other specific signifiers for each guest.
The exciting part of hotel tech is finding ways to integrate new solutions and applications that can help your hotel run smoothly and create an enhanced guest experience that's more personalized and more profitable. As we move into a future where more systems and applications mean more guest data to deal with, a CDP can help your hotel remain competitive, tech-agnostic and able to adapt to ever-increasing data complexity now and in the future.
Most hotel property management 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. Unfortunately, this has caused the PMS market to default to caution, slowing innovation.
The easiest way to revert the trend 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. The PMS would then act as a central command, pulling in data as needed.
Making this change requires a shift in thinking about what we expect from our PMSs and imagining what will be required of the future of hotel property management systems. 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. We'll need to move towards this hub-like system to achieve more flexibility. The responsibility is on the hotel to make a bold change, but it's also on the provider to do the same.
The problem with silos is hardly unique to the hospitality industry. Actually, it's a natural consequence of the speed of evolution and innovation in the technology itself. Hotel tech companies are much faster at building new capabilities than the industry is at learning to work with them. A best-in-class approach is always better than the one-stop-shop alternative; therefore, hospitality brands will want to select the best providers for each area, which by definition means that those solutions will not integrate seamlessly with each other.
That is not to say that integrations are not important; they are key to product a greater impact. But "tech agnostic" is not the right goal; the goal is to maximize business impact, not to minimize complexity of usage.
If PMSs are the “pulsating hearts” for brands, hoteliers should be urgently looking for a thinking brain to compliment. No two hotel brands are the same - including the way systems are used. A PMS is great at many things, but it's just not designed to do everything. The intention of plug and play is promising, but only if we could get everyone to use all ten systems in a consistent way. Consistency means standardization, and standardization inherently means limitations.
The vital consideration here is the growing need for custom workflows, automation, and business logic – a thinking brain. These unique enablers are critical to each brand's value proposition and technology strategy. We built our CORE Middleware to respond to this need, offering hoteliers a new way to reimagine systems connectivity. While we can plug and play a standard interface in days, we've seen time and again that the real value of connectivity comes from the customization and innovation that a hotel is able to drive from tailoring connections to meet its specific needs. PMS-centric certainly isn't the only option – brands should consider thinking with the head, and the heart.
In the near to mid-term, any full-service 3-4-5-star hotel will need several dozen APIs (application programming interface) with third-party tech applications and solutions to be able to function and meet the basic needs and wants of today's tech-savvy travelers. These include mobile and contactless guest experience, mobile locks, issue resolution apps, guest messaging, virtual concierge, IoT devices and utility management, smart room technology, entertainment hubs, CRM programs, etc.
Until recently, this type of connectivity has been close to impossible or super expensive to achieve for properties with legacy technology instalments of PMS,RMS, CRS, CRM and other components of the tech stack, which are hostile to any third-party interfaces by default.
Luckily for our industry, the future is already here in the form of two types of third-party technology integration platforms:
- Cloud PMS with Open API like Opera Cloud PMS, Stayntouch, protel, CloudBeds, Mews, etc. and their integration platforms, and
- Independent integration hubs, like SiteMinder, APS, NoniusHub, etc., which are focusing on serving properties with existing legacy tech stack.
There are over 5,000 established hotel tech vendors plus thousands of startups around the world, working around the clock to develop new and innovative solutions to common problems or applications to elevate service delivery in hotel operations, guest communications, revenue management, marketing, etc.
I believe the PMS-centric tech stack will continue to dominate hotel technology in the future. But this will not be your legacy, on-premises PMS, but the cloud PMS with Open API integration hub/marketplace/store.
A cloud PMS with its Open API and integration hub instantly solves this problem. Good examples: The new Oracle Hospitality Integration Platform (OHIP) with 3,000 API capabilities, Stayntouch Integration Hub with 1,100 APIs; protel Air PMS Marketplace - 1,000 APIs, Cloudbeds PMS - 300 APIs, apaleo PMS Store, etc.
In my view, the only viable solution to achieve true plug-and-play in the property's tech stack is implementing a cloud PMS with Open API and integration hub.
The property management system (PMS) cannot cover all the data that hoteliers need to make informed decisions. If a PMS tries to cover every single piece of data that a hotelier needs, it will become too rigid and difficult to update. I think that the optimal technology strategy is to use the property management system as the hub that connects various third-party software applications that connect all hotel departments in one digital ecosystem. In that way, the developers of the third-party software applications will focus on their applications' quality. The developers of the PMS need to work together with the third-party software developers to make the app's integration with the PMS as smooth as possible. Furthermore, the PMS developers need to listen to the voices of app developers and hoteliers and improve the PMS for the benefit of all stakeholders. Hence, the PMS developers hold the key to the removal of the technology silos.
If there's one upside of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's been an accelerated adoption of technology in the hospitality industry. What was supposed to happen over the next several years organically was compressed into less than two. Now, hotels are layering in more technology than ever — and when systems are disconnected, the business consequences of course, can be painful. Thus, tech stack connectivity is essential to hotel operations, especially in key areas around contiguous flows, like those of guests or staff members in their daily activities and back of house operations.
To answer the question however, the hospitality tech industry, across areas like hotels, cruises, restaurants, and so forth, has long suffered under many discrete solutions to technology implementations. This follows suit with how the industry and its many sectors are structured across owners, operators, franchisors, franchisees, and more. There are many actors, and with many actors you end up with many different perspectives and solutions.
Outside of brand-controlled tech stacks, to solve this issue most tech developers and IT providers have relied on directly integrating with one another to build connectivity between discrete systems. At INTELITY we have well over 150 certified integrations for this very purpose. Depending on the mix of features at a property-level a direct integration-leaning approach can work well. However, as the number of integrations increases the more complex the implementation, maintenance, and support become for all parties involved, including the vendor providers and the property itself. We have many hotels with over 100 discrete software and hardware systems installed.
Additionally, integrations are not all the same. They can in fact, be very different. A popular PMS might support access to room data and upsells through a software API, whereas a similarly popular, but competing PMS might not. This makes providing universal, turnkey solutions through a single software layer nearly impossible. Endpoint access and data structuring between systems are another set of wrinkles developers and IT professionals must deal with. The description and attributes of a room type in one PMS will not be the same in another.
Solving these problems in a comprehensive way is not easy. Many other tech sectors have long leaned in on fundamental technical standards, data formats, common methods of security, and so forth. Many of those standards are so fundamental to program portability, that they have become ubiquitous across nearly all industries, including hospitality tech. Think about SQL, HTTPS, Bluetooth, and SMS to name a few, common in tech parlance, and in wide use. The hospitality tech industry of course leverages many of the technologies developed outside of the industry, but common frameworks between systems are few and usually only found in the ecosystems around single prominent vendors like Oracle or Sabre.
It's difficult to predict the future of course but based on the present continued fragmentation of platforms and solutions, and the lack of standards-setting bodies that have the technical prowess and authority to lead change, it's hard to see a future where we don't continue as we are. That said, sometimes even small steps are all that is needed to build a new way of thinking. We at INTELITY embrace any such thinking and would love to hear from anyone digging into this key topic.
Hotels should become PMS-agnostic not tech-agnostic. The future is to have a Central Profile as the key element of the IT strategy and to connect all systems to a platform (keyword: Central Data Management - CDM) who builds and manages the golden record. This is fundamentally important when it comes to transform data into real value.
CRS, PMS and CDM has to build the core tech-triangle in the future for distribution, transaction and profile management and the quality of the interaction between the systems is key.
Plug & Play can work for many, non-complex solutions and it is a nice vision. But plug & play always means a central operating system. The PMS can not be the one and only operating system , it is a part of the puzzle, an important one but not everything. So we will end up with several operating systems which connect to each other, but all must be linked to the Central Profile (in the CDM). A CRS has its logical enhancements, the PMS as well as the CDM (like Loyalty, CRM, surveys ...).
Hotels a faced with a (r)evolution, exchanging the Property Management System with a Guest Management System as the central element of their IT-strategy to finally get back on track in our digitalized world.
The use of modern technology in Hospitality is finally starting to catch up with the pace of change and innovation that has been invested in Hospitality Technology Solutions in the past few years. Besides an acceleration of cloud adoption, hoteliers and technology providers understand the power and freedom of open systems and are currently actively working on transitioning integrations and extensions to modern technology, where core and add-on solutions work together in a harmonious way, better than ever before. It's only natural that our Oracle Hospitality Integration Platform (OHIP) is at the heart of this transformation, giving access to data in real-time of all modules and solutions of the OPERA Cloud Hospitality Platform.
Integrations are now simple to build, fast and cost effective to deploy, something that in the past we only wished we could do. Our OPERA Cloud customers such as Wyndham and Accor, and about 400 vendors such as Revinate, P3 and Zaplox have already taken advantage of OHIP and our 3500+ Rest APIs. The result is new and differentiating solutions, extending the power of our hospitality platform with real-time, event-driven integrations, as the industry accelerates its technology transformation.
Next step is distribution. Why not extend the power of seamless connectivity for distribution, straight to the source of truth, removing the limitations and bottlenecks of intermediaries and drastically reducing complexity, cost and time to market for all stakeholders, and putting the control back into hoteliers hands. This is what the combination of OPERA Cloud Distribution and OHIP will bring to our industry, breaking down multiple silos that currently exist.
One more step is to remove silos with the back office systems. We purposely built a Hospitality Adapter in Oracle Integration Cloud (OIC), an advanced enterprise integration tool, connecting OPERA Cloud with other popular applications such as Oracle SaaS Applications or Salesforce and solving for countless advanced integration use cases. A great example of this, is the ERP integration accelerator that we built, which seamlessly integrates OPERA Cloud with Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP and NetSuite, delivering many customer benefits and reducing the complexities and costs of the past.
Maybe the challenges of the future will look different, when all these technologies will be in place and allowing organizations to move at an agile pace. With rapid changes in core solutions, there is also a risk to get out of sync quicker on functionalities and data structures, and someone will need to keep track, and establish some governance between the technology pillars to ensure they stay aligned and harmoniously working together, not an easy task for hoteliers. Which elevates the need of complete hospitality platforms with core property and enterprise functions, especially one that's completely open and fosters an ecosystem of innovation with all technology players in the industry.
The hospitality industry is ready to become “tech-agnostic” and the most successful operators, thanks to API-first architecture, are now finally able to cherry-pick the best-in-class software for their needs. At Alliants, we are working with Mollie's, a budget-luxe motel concept with plans to expand rapidly across the UK. We created Mollie's guest app which delivers an effortless digital guest journey and has resulted in a 120% increase in booking conversation rates, lower reliance on OTAs, and a 33% rise in average spend per head.
With more than five hours saved per week on customer service with improved service quality via the chat system, the overall saving to operating costs has been 40%.
Mollie's is a perfect example of the integration of services through plug and play and because it has taken an API-first approach, our technology is fully integrated with other systems such as Apaleo PMS and HotelAppz CRM that all complement each other well.
Technology adoption is now infinitely quicker and simpler than it was in the bad old days when changing a PMS was like performing open-heart-surgery.
However, every hospitality business is unique and we have found that a “one size fits all” approach is not what most of our clients are looking for. Almost always, some level of customisation is required.
Listening, understanding, and building long-term relationships are at the heart of what we do. It is not for the business to bend to fit the software, but for the software or tech stack to be designed and implemented so that it enhances the brand and delivers clear and measurable financial returns.
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