It’s been years since my last HITEC, but the overall feeling of being here has remained unchanged. Here, I am warmly reminded of my college days: the excitement of building upon ideas, reconnecting with familiar faces after a long summer break, and somehow juggling assignments with intense nightlife. The semester is moving quickly and soon the test of the real world will again be upon many of us, hopefully armed with the latest tools to tackle tomorrow’s problems. In these few days, the swift waters of information are powering the mills of my mind in learning and distilling the latest trends.
Admittedly pacing was a challenge for my first day, with nourishment taking a back seat to food-for-thought. The morning session began at 8:30 a.m. with Technology System Selection Boot Camp — a topic I was eager to sink my teeth into. The panel demonstrated specific modeling techniques and best practices for a successful and objective systems selection process. I especially appreciated the notion of fairness in the process, which frequently and unwisely slips by the wayside. Much like an organ transplant, while the best match increases odds of survival (and business continuity) it will never hurt to stay in good favor with your doctors.
As the day progressed, I found my head in the clouds — but this was no daydreaming. The debate on cloud-based computing for hospitality is a fascinating one to me. Aside from the perceived risks to security (PCI), business continuity (dependence on outside linkage) and data accessibility (big brother), an interesting argument on the politics of adoption surfaced: does a shift towards an operating cost structure interfere with current management incentives on OPEX cost control? On the flipside, imagine being in a position to align your IT spend with your cost of goods sold – transforming fixed costs to variable? How about focusing more resources on the core business and moving IT capabilities up the value curve? It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Next on the agenda was Blding Wi-Fi, where trends indicate further strain on bandwidth consumption. Since the days of bearing enormous cost (or revenue sharing models) to cable rooms in support of guest broadband, a newer medium has all but replaced these loose wires, offering convergence of guest and internal systems. While wireless infrastructure is cheaper and rapidly scalable in many configurations, how can we safeguard against the high potential costs of floating our business secrets and sensitive guest data into the thin air that surrounds us? How can we ensure the quality of coverage and bandwidth availability? After all, this medium is a critical guest service — no longer a luxury.
Capping off the day with CHTP of the Year and an enchanting keynote by Theresa Payton, former White House CIO, an audience worn down from a long day (and in many cases struggling with jetlag) were finding second wind. For soon class would be out for the day — now onto the social priorities on Nicollet Island!
Neil Foster has held regional leadership roles with Fairmont, Starwood and Silverbirch (operating Marriott, Hilton and Carlson flagged 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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