What should you consider when changing your tech stack?
Most of us are constantly upgrading our personal technology. I upgrade my mobile phone and computer every 2-4 years, my DJ equipment every 5 years and my car once every 10 years. Why? Well, in some cases because I have dropped, broken or just used it to the end of its useful life. More often, it is because technology has moved on so much, that the newer devices have functionality, speed or desirability that the older ones did not. They are becoming faster, more reliable, smaller and (thankfully) occasionally cheaper.
So, if our customers are reviewing and evolving their personal tech, why is that we don’t review our hospitality technology on a regular basis too?
For many of the clients I work with they cite three main reasons:
Firstly, as the saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. They are comfortable with what they are currently using, it works, and no-one has complained enough about the slowness, lack of functionality etc. so why change it.
Secondly, because of the fear of change itself. The biggest being the loss of data and the potential impact/interruption to business in changing a system. Some of my clients also worry about what happens if you change only a part of your technology stack. Will the rest all still work as intended?
And lastly, because changing your technology is often seen as a costly capital expenditure. In recent times, with closures and restrictions, many of my clients have seen significant drops in their revenue and have had to both work harder and develop new creative ways to make ends meet.
Whilst all three are valid concerns, they are not barriers to a business upgrading their technology. For me, hospitality has and always will be about the needs of our guests. Predominantly therefore the first question I ask is, what is the quality of your guests’ ‘techsperiences’ and how well do they measure up to or enhance their overall experience throughout their length of stay? Guests experiencing frustration with tech may completely overlook all your investment in fine furnishings, menu design or excellent hospitality service.
In my opinion, there are three key cornerstones to consider when changing your technology stack. Function, Integrations and Cost.
Until recently most of the tech our guests came into contact with during their stay was either hardware (door locks, light switches etc.) or tech that facilitated their stay rather than enhanced it. For example, Property Management Systems (PMS) or electronic Point of Sale (ePOS) systems. This tech was maintained and operated by staff members and required little training or thought.
Now in today’s society the guest is expected to interact more with the technology, in many cases the hospitality tech is being pushed on to the guests own personal devices. For example, food ordering apps and mobile keys. The first question to answer, therefore, is what Function is your tech solving? None of us (except the especially techy in us) looks to spend more time with tech than necessary. Technology is an enabler and as such should be an extension to increase guests’ ability to interact with your staff, services and building. So, when considering function, review your business requirements and translate these into system requirements. It is then possible to map the system requirements against the functionality provided by the tech vendor.
In not-so-distant history, many of the hospitality systems worked in isolation of all other systems. Whilst this made replacement of a single system a lot easier, it meant that there was an ecosystem of siloed devices and software. There was no trail of how a guest used the technology throughout their guest journey, there was no flow of data between systems and (most annoyingly for the guest) they would have to log in to and often re-enter their data into multiple systems. Today it is vital that there is a unified architecture that delivers a seamless guest ‘techsperience’.
Many suppliers will tell you that their software has integrations to another provider. However, the types of integrations can vary greatly from one way to fully two way and the number of endpoints mapped in each software can differ greatly. For example, having your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System connected to your Property Management System (PMS) is critical for ensuring that you are able to conduct effective marketing segmentation. If only nationality and total number of nights stayed are recorded, you are limited on how you can create targeted marketing messages for those guests that have enjoyed a meal in your restaurant or more specifically enjoyed red wine for example. A hotel that was closed during lockdown had an innovative use for this data. They contacted all guests who had stayed before, lived in a 10-mile radius and had drank in the restaurant to see if they would be interested in buying their alcohol stock so it wouldn’t go to waste.
When considering your technology stack it is therefore imperative you not only ensure the technology is integrated but that you fully understand the breadth and depth of those integrations.
Finally, we come to that all important cost. The older on site server-based software solutions were often costly to purchase and had to be maintained monthly with updates and hardware upgrades. Now, the newer cloud solutions are far more affordable. Instead of a large upfront fee, many suppliers offer a monthly subscription fee which is easier to absorb into the operating budget and is usually contracted based upon the number rooms/beds/covers and so therefore is affordable to all.
Whilst there will nearly always be an upfront expense for new technology, (usually to cover such costs as implementation and training), the initial outlay is usually manageable for even the smaller businesses. I would argue that as hospitality evolves along with our guests’ needs and expectations that the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action.
We have established the importance of upgrading and identified the three main factors to consider – Function, Integrations and Cost. Now… it is just a matter of overcoming the fear of change.
If you understand that you should be reviewing your technology but don’t know how to get started, call in the Hospitality Tech Expert to help. As a hospitality professional of more than 25 years, I have installed and configured many systems including in large scale projects like the Shangri-La at the Shard. In my most recent roles as Managing Director and Head of Implementations at Mews, I oversaw the deployment of the Mews PMS into hundreds of properties. Now, I regularly work with owners and operators to scope, source and deliver partial or complete technology stacks.
Use the following link to book a free chat with me and let’s get you and your guests on the right path to an improved ‘techsperience’.