Friday 17 August 2018

The wisest ways to tap into ever-changing tech to drive business

'Because of the speed of technological change and the dramatic growth in professional services companies, we are all regularly bombarded with new concepts' (stock picture)
'Because of the speed of technological change and the dramatic growth in professional services companies, we are all regularly bombarded with new concepts' (stock picture)

Alan O'Neill

Every single day, we see example of change 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.

While all of these change-drivers are interwoven and impact on each other, we have to give special attention to the change driven by technology. Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, predicted in 1965 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 created the need for specialisation of professional services companies which 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. It's an expert 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. 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 Ireland country manager for Guestline. "Because we know the industry so well, we don't just focus on our customers, ie 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.

A classic 'kitchen table' startup company founded 25 years ago, Guestline is now leading the field in cloud property management system technology available across most of Europe and South East Asia.

Challenges with tech in the hospitality industry

In general, 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 which 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 regularly bombarded with new concepts. 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.

1. As a first step, we have to be open to change and listen out for new trends. For example, we know 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 to 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 is a time-management nightmare, but it might just give you a competitive edge.

3. Acknowledge that tech is not your core expertise, so don't be embarrassed about not keeping up. But do partner with a key tech supplier to help 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 is 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 startup tech company doing 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'.

That means retailers, hoteliers, coffee shops and so on have a core business doing what they do which is usually buying, selling and serving customers. They are neither data analysts nor 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. Finding the right partner will ensure your tech investment reaps the rewards that you deserve.

  • Alan O'Neill is a change consultant and non-executive director. For 25-plus years he has been supporting global and iconic brands through change. Alan-oneill.com. Business advice questions for Alan can be sent to sundaybusiness@independent.ie

Sunday Indo Business

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business