It Boom For Hospitality Industry - Sanjay Kumar

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Information is the key for decision making in any business, therefore getting the right information at the right time, at the right place and faster makes lot of difference in any business and so especially in Hospitality Business where the decisions are taken instantly in some levels. In this context the age old phrase “Garbage In and Garbage Out” is valid even today as incorrect information may lead to problems. It is not uncommon that one may have good computer system yet may not be successfully getting right information for the business. 

It is a combination of the Right People and the Right System that makes a business successful. Although lots of developments have taken place in terms of computers and its applications, making use of it completely rests with the person using it. Computer cannot replace men! With this I would like to put few of my thoughts that may be useful to the Hotel Fraternity.

There was a time when people used to write simple expense statements and general ledger to balance sheet manually. Most difficult front office operation used to be monitored manually through a long sheet of paper. Computer pundits came out with great solutions specifically to hotel industry making life easier for front end staffs who need to attend to guests most of their time rather than looking at the paper. Information and good service is the key for success in hospitality industry. 

Today, computers do magic for the front end staff enabling them to devote more time in attending guest requirements in a pleasing way without compromising the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). From the time of reservation until the time customer checks-out of the hotel everything is recorded and the data is available. The computer system really monitors the guest requirement, their likes and dislikes, their wants and satisfaction levels in a readable way that helps the hotel enhance their future services.

In order to achieve good results through the computer system one should first understand one’s requirement in terms of fastness of information, kinds of reports, formats etc. Second, the flow of work that takes place in each activity. Third comes the procedures and last its effective implementation. All this become the system component. Once this is understood, next step is to make a program or customization accordingly through the software. Software cannot work without hardware. A good Information Technology System comprise of three components, Systems, Software and Hardware.

Selecting the right type of system is most important for any hotel operation. Most of the hotels use special software made for hotels which are generally called as Property Management System (PMS). PMS comprise of both front end and back end solutions. There are various other solutions which are not part of PMS but, get interfaced with the PMS. There are very few property management systems that have the integrated solutions built-in with both front and back end, like IDS Fortune Enterprise. Choosing the right system requires expertise and knowledge about the hotel operation. 

Normally, all systems comes with Room Division – with Front Office System and House Keeping Module, Food and Beverage Division – with Point of Sale and Back End system – with Accounting, Inventory, Human Resources. 

System requirement for each facility differs and it should preferably be a cost effective solution. It is not necessary that all hotels require most expensive computer systems. Small hotels needs a simpler systems than the big operations where complicated services, standards, data assimilation and decision making tools are required. Many big operations require various interfacing such as Telephones, Internet, Interactive Television, Door Locking system, Yield Management, Global Distribution System, Visa/Master Card etc. 

All these can be automated through Property Management System in an efficient and effective way. This reduces not only the man power, also reduces mistakes that happens when handled manually.

While choosing the system, proper evaluation of the PMS has to be made. Evaluation must be in terms of User Friendliness, Menu Driven navigation, Key defined access, Lesser number of key strokes, Easy access to required data, Visual Impacts, Meaningful reports, various levels of security access, possibility of customization at the user level etc.

Some of the systems are more strong in the front end and weak in the back end. Some of the properties may require a strong front end and back end could just be reasonable. Some of the properties such as Hotel Apartments generate more room oriented business and hence Front Office system must be stronger. Similarly a property with various food and beverage outlets must use the right Point of Sale (POS) system. 

One has to choose the system that are sufficient for the property depending on the number of keys, food and beverage outlets, other minor operating departments, facilities and services offered in the property. Many a times, one may come across choosing very powerful system for a small operation by paying huge sums of money or vice-versa. Many of the features of the system may not be even useful or under-utilized and similarly, big operation may not have the right system offering sufficient features.

Good IT personnel should have the knowledge of all the three components, i.e., System (flow of each activity), Software (that translate the activity in measurable terms both quantitatively and qualitatively) and Hardware (Media through which we can see these activities). All this should reflect in primarily guest satisfaction, staff satisfaction, management satisfaction and owner satisfaction. 

Most of the PMS software gives generic solutions. Customization is important in order to achieve what one wants from the system chosen. Some of the PMS software is customer friendly and customization becomes easier and there are also rigid software that do not allow customization. It all depends on the architecture one has used to build the software. User friendly software will allow customization without making structural changes.

Many times, I have come across hotel not using the software to its full extent. Although the system is capable of delivering various reports and usage, they are not fully utilized due to the lack of proper training and induction in using the software. This happens when properties are opened in a hurry without giving sufficient time for training. Due to the vastness of the PMS, a person has to undergo training for a minimum of two months to understand complete system. Out of two months, one month must be on the job training. Most of the users will come across various problems while on the real job. A good PMS supplier will be able to give solution for all the problems that has logical answers. Proper training is the key for effective implementation.

While choosing PMS software for a property, one has to derive the guest needs in the front end on one side and needs of the management and the owner at the back end on the other side. Staff should be able to use the system comfortably in achieving both the ends. One has to set the right parameters in the system that can be used to create meaningful reports that helps in decision making easier and faster at all levels. This, as said before, requires expertise and knowledge of all three components of IT.

Today, computers and software can give solutions to the most complicated logical problems in any operation. Computers makes life easier in getting right reports at the right time that helps in decision making process easier and faster. Computer system can prompt if any mistake is made, it can prompt opportunities and it can prompt to take corrective action in a pro-active manner. Yield Management in rooms division or Menu Engineering in food and beverage division is example of such functions. The computer system can be used to enable both planning and control function to achieve the objectives of the organization.

Yet, man made the computer and not the other way. One has to understand, man is intelligent and intellectual. Computer is made with intellect of man and hence works only with logic of mind. Logic of mind cannot go beyond mathematics! Intelligence is beyond mathematics. 

Man cannot be replaced at any level. In spite of having most advanced system, one has to rely on the supervision of man to see the level of satisfaction guests get in a hotel. Expression of satisfaction from the guests can be seen only when you see them eye to eye.

 

 

© Sanjay Kumar 2016