Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Make Tech Investments Wisely - Alan O' Neill, Sunday Independent Columnist

Make Tech Investments Wisely
Every single day, we see example of changes in our world. Whether it’s driven by technological advancements, people and society, by the economy or by political and legislative changes, we have to cope with it. For some industries, this change is hugely disruptive and stressful yet for others it’s a tremendous opportunity. A lot of that has to do with your mindset. Embrace it or resist it, it’s going to happen anyway.
While all of these change drivers are interwoven and impact each other, we have to give special attention to the change driven by technology. Gordon Moore was one of the founders of Intel Corp. In 1965, he predicted that the processing power for computers would double every two years (known as Moore’s Law). Think about the exponential growth we’ve seen such as the comparison between the power of a giant Supercomputer back then and the smartphone of today.
That has facilitated and necessitated the need for specialization of professional services companies who focus perhaps on a technology or an industry to provide specialized support and expertise.
Guestline:
Guestline is one such tech company specialising in Hospitality Software Solutions. They are experts in cloud based property management, distribution and digital marketing technologies for the hospitality industry.
Siloed technology and the absence of coherent and meaningful data are real issues in the hospitality software sector. Hotels tend to have lots of standalone systems that don’t talk to one another and therefore they cannot rely on the accuracy or completeness of data when making business critical decisions. Whereas an efficient Property Management System brings them all together in a way that eases a lot of pain for the hotelier, improves efficiency, saves cost and greatly enhances the customer experience, all done in compliance with data protection regulations.
Clio O’Gara is Country Manager, Ireland for Guestline. “Because we know the industry so well, we don’t just focus on our customers, i.e. the hotels. We also put huge emphasis on knowing the behaviours and expectations of our customer’s customers and integrate them in all we do”. Clio knows the industry inside out having spent many years in marketing roles. She knows the importance of a fully integrated approach.
A classic ‘kitchen table’ start-up company founded 25 years ago, Guestline is now leading the field in Cloud PMS technology available across most of Europe and South East Asia
Challenges with Tech in the Hospitality Industry
Hoteliers have had no resistance to investing in technology to improve their business. That includes accounts packages, programming of TVs in bedrooms and reservations systems. The challenge is more about what technology to invest in. The industry like many others is in a state of flux and confusion given the various technological advances over the years.
Additionally, there is a mine of information at their fingertips. However, in my experience, it is not being exploited in a way that will drive sales and add value. I believe there are three reasons for that. One is that ‘serving guests’ is their core business and therefore their comfort zone; tech is not a natural comfort area. Two, they tend to have many tech suppliers who do not share their data, so they have baskets of what seems like unrelated information. And three, hoteliers don’t always know what actual data is most relevant or indeed what to do with that data.   
Change Tips
Because of the speed of technological change and the dramatic growth in professional services companies, we are all being regularly bombarded with new concepts every day. We might read about them in trade press, see them at exhibitions or be exposed to them through various media. But just like a child in a sweet shop, we can’t have them all. Even my large corporate clients have budgets to work to, so neither can they jump on every band-wagon when it rolls into town.
1.      As a first step, we have to be open to change and listen out for new trends. For example we know for sure that omni-channel is penetrating B2C industries like retail and hospitality. Customers want a seamless experience at all touch-points and we have to explore how we can do that.
2.      When those small tech companies knock on your door wanting to tell you about their expertise, maybe you should find time for them. I know that’s a time management nightmare, but it might just give you a competitive edge.
3.      Acknowledge to yourself that tech is not your core expertise so don’t be embarrassed about not keeping up. But do partner with a key tech supplier that can help you make sense of trends in the industry and your changing needs. For hoteliers, the Property Management System sits at the heart of the business. Guestline are solutions-focused and have the expertise to ensure independent hotels and groups of any size exploit their tech investments to the maximum. That of course requires trust and a long-term partnership.
Summary
Just this week I was in London working with a start-up tech company who are doing truly amazing things in the digital payments and loyalty space. On their behalf, I interviewed several retailers and coffee chains to get their views on how they see the industry changing and what their changing needs are. In summary, I discovered  that their customers ‘don’t know what they don’t know’.
What I meant was that retailers, hoteliers, coffee shops have a core business doing what they do which is usually buying, selling and serving customers. They are neither data analysts or tech experts and therefore can and need to be led by responsible professional services partners. Furthermore, data is just a set of numbers that is of no value without insights being drawn out. Cosying up with the right partner will ensure your tech investment reaps the rewards that you deserve.
Alan O’Neill is the Change Agent. Go to www.alan-oneill.com if you’d like help with your business
For more information on Guestline, visit www.guestline.com 

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