I left HITEC sensing mobile and the resulting real-time communication was a dominant theme this year and the future of our business, but barely scratching the surface of overall impact. With the lightening pace of change, the role of the IT manager has never been more difficult; opening the mind to embrace new high-impact technology, while continuing to protect against constantly emerging threats (PCI, malware, phishing, and other malevolent activity). It’s not an easy balance to achieve, but some organizations have been aligning a few technology resources with marketing to ensure new market realities are quickly leveraged by current technologies.
Universal Understanding and Collective Control
Widespread availability of supremely sophisticated, low-cost mobile technology has made unprecedented levels of convenience and information synchronicity our new norm. To the hotel business, TripAdvisor is an especially significant information channel today. A central and easily accessible aggregate of guest experiences, TripAdvisor wields enormous power over business levels and reputation – effectively keeping the entire industry in check. In real time, guests can both appraise and assign value for money through objective scales; data which, when reviewed, can prompt a last-minute defection to higher-rated competition. Marshall McLuhan, a prominent Canadian cultural theorist, viewed technology as an extension of the body. With most of us equipped with SIM-card-enabled augmentations, we are effortlessly drawn into the collective where we can control and benefit from the all-powerful “voice”. For the unprepared hotel operation, these are scary times. For the prepared, this is the fast-track to success, and learning to use this data to one’s advantage is crucial.
Keeping the Data Flowing
Behind the surge of mobile and insatiable hunger for information, expectations for connectivity have never been higher with robust and fast infrastructures required, often connecting up to 3 devices per guest. Hotel organizations are beginning to use the same infrastructure for internal purposes in support of new process designs, and this is only bound to increase. Provisioning the framework therefore takes meticulous planning for fault tolerance, adequate bandwidth, and well-positioned transmission points, and also requires anticipation of new developments in user habits and devices. Not long ago, I heard about a major HSIA infrastructure failure with lasting affect to hotel guests for hours at a time over several days. The upset was a painful realization that HSIA as a nice-to-have offering is history; it’s a core service guests (and increasingly associates) can no longer live without, and with rise of the customer voice, outages like these won’t soon be forgotten.
In just under a year we transition from mighty Mississippi to powerful Pacific. Southern California will next be receiving the waves of hospitality technology enthusiasts at the Los Angeles Convention Center to educate, develop relationships, and celebrate the latest solutions. While mobile and real-time data still hold great potential, for those of you familiar with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, HITEC #42 may very well hold all the answers.
Neil Foster has held regional leadership roles with Fairmont, Starwood and Silverbirch (operating Marriott, Hilton and Carlsonflagged properties) hotel groups in North America, rounded his knowledge of industry-standard technologies in Asia-Pacific as a regional consultant with MICROS Fidelio, and currently serves as an IT consultant with Tech-Tonic Hospitality Solutions.
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