16 Sep Next Generation Property Management Systems
What is a property management system? Most of us know it. Should we choose an on-premise or a cloud based? Boring too. Even though more than 50% of hotel PMS, or property management systems are still using on-premise or legacy systems to manage their hotel operations day in and out, many of them are either progressing with the transition or planning to move their system to cloud. In a few years time, I bet the words ‘on-premise PMS’ is going to look like asking someone for their fax number.
Which Property Management System to choose?
Chances are, if your hotel is part of a chain, probably you would rather be seeking way to master what’s in front of you – be it good or bad. On the other hand, if you are a standalone upscale full service hotel, you’re already on one of the leading PMS or the local supplier of the leading PMS is chasing you non-stop.
What if you’re a small standalone hotel? Would you settle down for scale down versions of leading PMS providers? Or going to google “top 10 PMS systems for small hotels” to find there are hundreds of “top ten” lists with biased or empty-headed comparisons? Or a local vendor or more running behind you and your procurement manager perhaps, with a lousy product in hand? This definitely leaves you in messy, confused and worried situation when your small hotel’s growth potential is stifled by the absence of this core piece of technology that should be viewed as command-and-control center of your hotel where you should be able centrally manage, track, measure, analyze and optimize the constant flow of information across all parts of the organization, and in a real-timely manner. This is the heart of your hotel’s operation as well as other inter-connected systems that should ensure running efficiently and effectively as possible. To put it in a nutshell, a PMS system should make your life easier, not miserable. Reduce your expenses, and not increase. Over all, help increase your users’ as well as your guests experience (period).
When the choice is yours, it is not easy, you as a hotelier have been spoiled with choices like never before. If PMS is the heart of every technology and day-to-day operation of a hotel, it is irrefutable, hotels want a max ROI out of investments. If the PMS doesn’t deliver its best ROI, there is very little guarantee that other 3rd party integrated pieces could deliver their best, despite the reputation of respective vendor.
For instance, see a hotel having one of the best telephone system (Call Accounting System), and then the guests’ call charges are not posted on the bills. Or having a modern door locking system that enables guests to use smart phones to get in, but unable to deny entry after the guest is checked out. Or what about misleading reports? Or, you want to integrate those magic Millennial appealing bells and whistles, but your PMS does not get along?
Apart from other regular expectations such as user friendliness, speed, reports accuracy, options to integrate with larger number of third party vendors, regular and expandable functionalities (for example, if creating daily housekeeping tasks for dirty rooms are usually expected or ‘regular function’ in a PMS; then dividing those tasks and distributing among available attendants equally and helping housekeeper make sure nobody works more or less could be an expandable functions that a hotel can use if willing. Who knows if your hotel will need that functionality in future?), data security, options for contingency plan, fastest recovery in case of any unforeseen crash et cetera, et cetera.
Selecting the right solution:
Selecting a PMS for your current operation might not be the right solution. I guess you must think of a solution that would grow along with your hotel for years to come. When selecting a right solution, think of your property as a full service upper scale hotel. Then you would immediately realize that you want to go for Next Generation PMS, which is more affordable than legacy PMS software.
Why Next Generation Property Management Systems?
Hospitality Technology has evolved tremendously during last few years that significantly reduced the cost of ownership and increased the affordability and ROI regardless of size, classification or business volume of a hotel. Not too long ago, Hotels used to maintain different vendors for function-specific software for maintaining, supporting and interfacing has become, and more and more becoming an integrated solution by a single vendor.
Today, Next-Gen PMS usually offers integrated channel management, web booking engine, global distribution systems to automate transactions with booking agents, simple POS system for managing retail and restaurants, keycard, self-check in kiosk, Internet and telephone system or call accounting, entertainment system, CRM for marketing and sales capabilities for running targeted promotions and campaigns, data analysis tools for business intelligence, social media and popular review site data integration and the list goes on.
A few years back, either the technology was not there, or whatever were available could only be afforded by big names.
Above list of Next-Generation PMS features, along with below cloud considerations could be great filter tool to get rid of something obviously isn’t worth a look.
Cloud Based PMS?
While Cloud based PMS and Next-Gen PMS go hand-in-hand or say, that most of the Next-Gen PMS are cloud based, not necessarily every cloud based PMS systems cover every component of a Next-Gen PMS or wise versa. However cloud technology is a great push for the affordability as most cloud-based systems use a subscription “pay as you go” model, which generally means no long-term contracts and no upfront capital investment for the software or hardware, so you would pay for your system just like how you pay your utility bill on a monthly basis.
Yes, everybody likes to get rid of bulky hardware, reserved server rooms with maintained temperature control, high annual maintenance costs, and of course to transform their capital expenditure to operational expenditure with cloud based licensing options. But some might have so many ‘what ifs’, that makes sense too . But once you’re sure of focusing on important considerations, the fear of adoption goes away.
Below might be some of the important factors to be considered during cloud PMS selection:
- Cloud computing makes your small business dependent on the reliability of your Internet connection. If your Internet service suffers from frequent outages or slow speeds, cloud computing may not be suitable for your hotel and full benefit of the cloud computing will not be apparent to your investment.
- You might as well ask, “I got good Internet connection usually, what if connection is lost unexpectedly?”. A true cloud based system should work with any devices, not just on stationary Internet connected PCs. So chances are that even if your total Internet connection is down, you can still run the operation on a mobile device that has internet access. And then, there are 3G/4G WiFi routers widely available could be a good stand-by backup plans.
- Evaluate the solution provider in terms of customer satisfaction, reputation, financial stability, reliability, interconnectivity with third- party software that your hotel uses or planning to use. Another important aspect is to look into the vendor’s SLA (Service Level Agreement, or SLT, Service level Target) that describes the performance and characteristics of their level of service which also tells you that how long your system can be up and running (or disaster recovery) in case of an unforeseen cloud outage from the vendor (RTO – Recovery Time objective), and how recent the recovered data would be (RPO – Recovery Point Objective). For example, Oracle Hospitality’s cloud Service’s SLA promises RTO of 4 hours, and RPO of 1 hour.
Many vendors advertise as “Getting started is easy”, but remember that you’re looking for a highest priority, mission critical system that is going to help you manage your hotel’s operational efficiency on a daily basis for many more years to come. So this area should be give importance as well.
- Be clear with vendor that all associated installation, licensing (Some vendors’ licensing is based on per room, while others base on per user access), maintenance, software updates and ongoing service and support fees are included in the pricing. Certain cloud PMS providers, like Oracle Hospitality also provide limited number of free property level third party integrations of your choice as a packaged offer.
- Keep in mind that your cloud data is accessible from anywhere on the internet and your data security is under the sole responsibility of your chosen cloud vendor, so if a data breach occurs at vendor level, your hotel’s data can be compromised too. A larger, reputed cloud company has more resources, and they are often able to offer levels of security an average small cloud company may not be able to afford. Knowing these levels of security provided to your data by the vendor is more important.
- If your business involves transferring large amounts of data; imagine that your country’s legal requirement is to send certain guest related data and images to any specific body or authority on a periodic basis. Be aware that while transferring data to the cloud (inbound) is free, outbound data transfers over the basic monthly allowance are charged on a per GB basis (Though these charges are getting cheaper), having a thought on this while choosing the system can be beneficial on the long run.
- There might also be situations where your hotel can become part of a chain or different management or even owner where transitioning to a different PMS system also becomes part of that change over. Having an existing system that ensures data portability and not locked into vendor’s proprietary format will make sure your valuable business data collected over years would not be lost or avoid days of collective re-entering into the new system. So, ‘data portability’ is another concerned area you might check with your future cloud system vendor.
I know that’s a lot to consider. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a single system that has all the features and characteristics discussed, built in. – But, at least for now. However, I am sure that you as a hotelier, is in a better position to prioritize what features and characteristics that are crucial for your long term goal.By Alan for Opera PMS Experts