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HTF Hot Topic: Challenges in Systems Integration

At the 2012 Hotel Tech Forum, a grouping of industry executives including representatives from ownership groups, management companies, brands, independent properties and vacation ownership groups, gathered at a luncheon roundtable to address the challenges that hoteliers face with systems integration. The top overall complaint from participating hoteliers was that too many systems needed to be integrated, and few vendors were stepping up to the task of managing any of the integration, leaving hoteliers to manage it themselves. 
Areas of concern
Companies looking at replacing central reservations or property management systems, which need to integrate with the greatest number of other hotel systems, were particularly concerned with the possibility of greater management on the part of vendors. Hoteliers want providers to step up to “owning” the integration process, rather than leaving it to the hoteliers to deal with multiple companies, with inevitable finger-pointing when things go wrong. 
Another big issue is authentication and the lack of integration of many systems with the hotelier’s choice of directory services. In the payments arena, companies trying to implement tokenization approaches said they were finding it challenging to identify partners who can deal with the exchange of tokens across different organizations, which is often necessary for the booking process. 
Customer comforts lead to hotelier discomfort
Guest technologies were another pain point. As guest room technology becomes more pervasive and complex, there is a growing need for integration around the guest needs – as well as the need to support simplicity in control devices that support multiple guest-room functions such as lighting, temperature, entertainment systems, wake-up, and other features. A case in point was the touch-pad controls, for which participants saw both benefits and drawbacks. While there was agreement that the “all lights out” button was very useful, a couple participants complained that as guests, they had no simple way to test the alarm function, even to know (for example) the volume of the radio or buzzer.
Cellular phone coverage was another area of integration challenge. Participants felt that mobile carriers were not always willing to participate in multi-operator solutions that would meet the needs of guests and staff cost effectively, instead preferring more expensive single-operator solutions that often need to be deployed at the hotel’s expense.
Looking forward: a need for standards & consistency
The session concluded with the operators being asked what would make their lives easier. The answer was real standards, with vendor implementation. The operators stressed the need for consistency across properties on basic functionality, so that they could build competitive advantage on the unique functionality needed to convey their brand propositions, and on their choice of systems that provide more advanced features. Without interoperability on the basics across properties, it was often difficult or impossible to use the advanced features provided by the vendor systems while maintaining brand consistency across multiple properties with different installed technologies.

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