Saturday, October 21, 2017

Evaluating technology so you can fail fast & succeed

The only way humans learn to walk is by falling. Over and over and over again. We are creatures programmed to learn through failure. Over time, though, we condition ourselves to run from risk. To play it safe, become book smart for the grade, avoid crashing and burning at all cost. This is not a recipe for success. Failure is a necessary ingredient for innovation.

In the hospitality industry, we have this situation with data that is getting in the way of necessary failing, learning, and innovating. We’ve buried data in databases, making it hidden and unusable. When you actually put data to good use, however, you get Spotify, Netflix, and Amazon, for instance. Each of these companies combines user data with past purchasing behaviour to make the buying experience better and more lucrative. When you combine data and robotics, you get maidbot and Relay.

Combine data and voice recognition, and you get Alexa and Siri. Combine data and hotel energy conservation, and you get Interel. This company gives guests control over water flow and temperature, while simultaneously monitoring water usage and consumption to help hotels manage settings that will save energy and money. These are innovative and creative uses for data that are completely reshaping the consumer experience.

The hotel industry languishes with unseen, unused data. We have been looking at data all wrong. It has become synonymous with dashboards. But dashboards don’t do anything. Analytics and historical reports are just consumable. What hotels could be doing is using data to improve operations, cut costs, and predict the future. Making data actionable.

So why aren’t we? Because there’s too much friction between hotel software. In fact, 87 percent of hotels say that integration is their biggest pain point when choosing technology. Making it worse, the sales cycle eats up time and resources. It takes forever. So hotels become risk-averse when it comes to trying a new technology.

What if, instead of being afraid, hotels embrace new technology? What if hotels could test new applications, evaluate them, and, if they work, run with it, if not, fail fast and move on. This is where the seeds of innovation sprout. To be able to do this, hotels must shift course; they must change their mindset. When evaluating your hotel software (both current and future), ask yourself the following:

  1. Am I connecting my data across all sources, or does this technology operate in a silo? If the latter, try to find a different solution. Think of data as the fertile soil that will grow innovation. Collecting and connecting as many data sets as possible will allow you to combine data in new ways and find new insights. Not to mention it makes it much easier to plug in (and unplug) applications with ease and without the risk of losing data.
  2. Can this solution scale, both geographically and across devices? We are far past responsiveness as a standard. To chart new territory, there should be no question about what device is used or how an app is accessed. Total access is the new standard.
  3. Am I tracking how this technology contributes to my bottom line? Testing new technology makes sense only if you can track how it contributes to your P&L. To have an impact, your technology should either cut costs by increasing operational efficiencies or it should allow you to increase revenue, or both. If it doesn’t, cut the application from your budget.
  4. Speaking of efficiencies, does this technology allow me to automate tasks? Leo M Cherne famously said, “Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination.” A hotel’s business is built around delivering exceptional service, so not everything can be automated. However, technology can be great for automating repetitive tasks as well as for using data to predict with more accuracy than your staff. Software that integrates housekeeping demand and status with automated availability that allows guests to check-in early via mobile device has impacts across departments. Housekeeping becomes more efficient, there are fewer and shorter lines at the front desk (hello, guest satisfaction!), it reduces problems with traditionally manual room allocations, and if monetised, early check-in brings additional revenue.
  5. Can I quickly remove or change this software if it doesn’t work? For hotels to embrace the idea of testing new software and failing quickly, it must be simple and seamless to swap out or even A/B test new technology if one solution isn’t doing the trick.

Once you ask yourself these questions, you will naturally start gravitating towards new technology that will allow you to move faster, test often, and fail quickly. You will break down the walls that keep data in silos, which will allow you to use data in new, previously unheard of ways. And best of all, you will continue to optimise your software so that it better serves your customers, your staff, and your budget. This willingness to try new technologies – even to develop the technology yourself – and an understanding that failure is inevitable and good is what will reshape the hotel industry.

 

About Margaret Ady

Margaret Ady
Margaret is the head of marketing at Snapshot, a hotel data and analytics company.

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