We’re bullish on the prospects of technology to help solve hoteliers’ woes. With the pandemic continuing to play out with depressed occupancies for some and labor shortages for others, automation becomes essential to smooth out service delivery on a lean team.
But there’s an issue with a blooming tech stack that’s potentially more troubling than the big SaaS fees, even though these platform expenses can result in far bigger savings down the road. The problem is the strain on the qualified personnel who have to manage this ever-expanding interconnected mesh of software. The more systems you add, the greater the chances of an API or integration conflict and, worse, the development of a weak point that a malicious actor could use for a data breach.
To give this some context, the challenge we need to solve here requires an organizational shift and not just subbing one platform for another based on its ease of integration (although this is a significant consideration). Typically, the IT team exists in maintenance mode, repairing the WiFi or electronic door locks without much time for visionary leadership. Throwing more software onto the maintenance fire simply means there’s even less time to complete long-term tasks like evaluating new solutions or checking for security weaknesses.
The role of a modern IT department should encompass far more than just maintenance work, and indeed each team will be compelled to grow by the inevitable additions of more and more technology with each new guest demand or drive for cost savings. After all, most IT managers have a particular set of skills that are currently in very high demand across multiple sectors, nor can they be easily substituted by utility players from other departments. In short, we need IT right at a time when the human capital costs may not be in the cards.
Our solution is to split IT’s responsibilities down the middle. You need the upkeep work for all the hardware—WiFi nodes, door locks, onsite servers, cameras and everything IoT. But then you need the software support to build the bridges amongst all the various disparate platforms—most of which are or will be cloud-based—to add value throughout the entire guest journey. By splitting the roles, you can also achieve higher labor efficiency through subject of specialization.
This new role—call it a ‘systems director’ or something vague like that—would be tasked with looking to the vision for future tech installs as well as keeping an ear to the street on what vendors are doing to innovate. Areas like sales, marketing, revenue management, restaurant optimization and guest satisfaction would all be under review based on the systems deployed. In any case, this is but one idea, and we’d have to look at your individual property to see what can work, but hopefully this is inspiring as to a mounting problem for running our tech-dependent properties.