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Touting Technology’s Role In Hospitality

Executives Discuss Importance Of Adding New Systems, Partners During BITAC® Panel

Tuesday, May 07, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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Change management with regards to integrating new technology, the importance of securing data and the value of vendor partnerships were among the topics discussed by hotel executives during a panel discussion at last week’s BITAC® Operations.

The session--which was moderated by Paul Bennie, director of business development, ProfitSword, LLC, which provides business intelligence software solutions--was entitled “Technology’s Role In Successfully Managing The Business Of Hospitality.” The group detailed some of their current technology initiatives and underscored their importance to their overall operations.

Joe DeMontigny, SVP, finance, corporate accounting, Atrium Hospitality, noted that the young management company has seen its approach to technology evolve as it has expanded its portfolio to more than 50 hotels..

“We initially relied on brands to provide us with revenue management, but it was an issue that we wanted to take in-house and have more control over our own rates and what we did in our hotels. So we have spent extensively developing a pace reporting system and a revenue management forecasting system that uses data warehousing to help us better manage revenue,” he said.

Nick Lamparelli, vp, finance, Buffalo Lodging Associates, LLC--a real estate company which develops, owns and manages hotels--stressed the importance of hotel personnel having information at their fingertips.

“We’re in the process of integrating our PMS system so we get that full integration without anyone touching the data. When you come in the morning you have a daily report, you have a payroll report, you have all those necessary things that you need to run a hotel. We’re relying on that in a major way to get our ownership what they need quickly,” he noted.

Jim O’Hara, CFO, PM Hotel Group--a hotel management company with some 40 properties--underscored the point. “I think people at the hotel level want things efficient. We want them to be out servicing guests and interacting and not in the back office looking at reports,” he said.

O’Hara further talked about the importance of seamless integration.
“Everything we’ve added on from our corporate office and pushed down has to integrate; it has to add on to an existing system...As we’ve grown and as we look for new things they have to integrate or fit into the piece of the puzzle so that the overall puzzle is easily digestable in a dashboard format,” he stated.
Barry Wabler, EVP, CFO, Davidson Hotels & Resorts--a 40-year-old management company with a large portfolio of full-service and select-service hotels—pointed out that the company’s legacy information management system is critical to it’s DNA. He noted that while updating to best-in-class solutions is eventually necessary it should be done with caution.

“I think as intrigued as we can get by the products and the platforms we need to understand that people are engaging with those platforms and processes are going to change around those new platforms. Before we dive into that next application and software tool understanding the impacts on people and processes and engaging them in the process is absolutely critical,” Wabler commented.

Bennie asked the panelists to comment on the importance of securely protecting data when it comes to choosing new technology systems.

“It certainly is an important component of the decision in terms of who you’re going to partner with. There arre so many applications that we’re all using now everyday that are cloud based. To the extent that you’re not controlling the environment, where for you it may be an on-site application, you want to make sure your partner has taken the appropriate steps,” according to O’Hara.

He further noted, “where your hosting the application yourself you certainly need to make sure that you’ve created the appropriate environment and have the safeguards in place to make sure that it’s not going to get hacked or give access to your data.”

Lamparelli reinforced the point.
“Data security is something that we need to be safeguarded in all respects. We need to partner with all our vendors and make sure we’re doing our internal testing at the corporate level, but we’re also expecting that of the vendor as well,” he commented.

The panelists also acknowledged the importance of behavioral security with regards to staff. “We think that’s the weakest point; the easiest access of data is human interaction. We’re constantly training. We have different programs we’re using from a couple different partners to train our employees on email hygiene, password hygiene, use of websites and fake sites. We also do internal email testing and internal pfishing tests within the company,” said O’Hara.

Wabler noted his company also has conducted similar phishing email campaigns and detailed some recent findings. “We thought it would be interesting to put the results out there across our portfolio of hotels. We did a bar chart on just how everybody ranked out in terms of who opened those emails and the next time we did it it was amazing to see those bars come way down,” he observed.

Executives also spoke to the importance of change management and forging true partnerships with suppliers.
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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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