Going Safe May Leave You Sorry When It Comes to Your Hotel Technology Decisions
It has long been said that making the safe choice when investing in a hotel technology partner is always the right decision. This is a recognized phenomenon, epitomized by the traditional axiom of purchasing agents that “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM equipment.” While it is true that large well-established tech brands tend to be more widely adopted and influential, they may not be the best choice for every business, and in fact, could leave you regretting your decision in the long run.
We see a substantial amount of consolidation with the operations side of the hotel industry lately. Just a week ago, Wyndham Hotels purchased La Quinta, and late in 2016, Marriott added to its portfolio by purchasing Starwood Hotels. The same is true for the hotel and travel technology industry. There has been a plethora of acquisitions over the past few years. Some very large purchases have taken place within the Online Travel Agency space and the hotel technology category. One of the most significant and mystifying purchase decisions I can recall was the acquisition of Micros systems by Oracle. This purchase included the Opera platform which arguably runs the largest base of hotels in the world.
In a Skift article titled “Oracle Hospitality Stumbled in Micros Integration but Says It Has Recovered” there were undoubtedly some hiccups to be felt along the way. One of the main stumbling points was actually getting anything done in the wake of this marriage between two large companies.
Oracle is a huge company, world renowned for developing the best in ERP solutions. MICROS/OPERA, in its own right, is a huge company as well. Trying to uphold standard service practices to its base of hotel clients, whilst also indoctrinating itself into Oracle’s pre-existing culture and process, proved challenging.
There are countless users that are very vocal about their dissatisfaction with the level of support and innovation that has been delivered by Oracle Hospitality. One quote, echoed by many, summarizes the dismay: “A large number of hoteliers are unhappy since the reorganization of ORACLE upon the takeover of OPERA FIDELIO. Why? Because the solutions proposed by ORACLE do not correspond to our needs.”
Using this large-scale acquisition as a prime example, hoteliers are reminded of the challenge that exists when trying to combine two companies together, that likely have different operational trajectories and culture. Unfortunately, in this case, Oracle miscalculated the hospitality industry and its requirement to have services delivered to them in the same responsive, professional fashion as would be expected by any hotel guest. After all, hotel tech providers, hoteliers and their partners are all in the service business and most importantly, in the innovation business.
Today’s guest is ever-changing. Their requirements on-property and off-property continuously evolve in complexity and older/larger companies cannot be as nimble or flexible as smaller, innovative firms. Larger companies are also constrained by internal processes and bureaucracy that can ultimately have a detrimental impact on their clients. There is an indisputable need to be quick — very quick, in fact — as it relates to the development of platforms within the hotel industry. Not only that, but tech solutions need to be built with a full understanding of where the market is headed to ensure that the solution delivered addresses the needs of the gusts and the hotelier.
The world of property management systems development, sales, service, and support is quite competitive these days. New entrants are everywhere, and this trend will most likely continue. However, there are a few companies that have learned from the mistakes of others and have asked the hard questions regarding what today’s guest really wants. And guess what? They might not always be the most prominent players, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, these companies are the ones that you may want to partner with. The advantage of small company culture, as it pertains to hotel technology providers, is that they have not fallen victim to the constraints of scale. When a company undergoes a period of extensive (and at times, rapid) growth, they are forced to scale accordingly. While this is great for the growth of their business, something has to give in order to make that growth and movement possible. In most cases, it means their customer service model will have to adapt.
While working with these smaller-scale companies that have forged their way into the marketplace with disruptive and innovative solutions, you can rest assured that you support calls will be answered, your development requests will be handled, and you will never feel like a number or just a meal ticket.
Ultimately, it’s more important than ever to investigate every aspect of the hotel technology that you would like to implement. Open up a strong dialogue with your prospective technology partner during the due diligence phase and ask for open, honest answers, talk to their clients and remember that sometimes ‘playing it safe’ may not be so safe after all. Rather, the focus should be on playing smart — joining forces with companies who will not only progress the technological future and adaptability of your hotel, but will provide high-level care, service and support every step of the way.