Many people skip workgroups due to misconceptions about what’s involved. So we talked to two workgroup participants from different ends of the spectrum: Armand Rabinowitz, senior manager, process improvement at Hyatt (www.hyatt.com), a veteran hotelier with years of experience in workgroups as both a participant and a leader, currently of the Door Lock Security Workgroup; and Chris Headings, executive VP of Sunray (www.sunray.net), a long-term vendor member who only recently became active in a workgroup for the first time.
Here are some of the common myths about engaging with a workgroup – and some surprising benefits:
Myth 1: Vendors are just there to pitch hoteliers. Vendors looking to pitch soon find out that’s just not how it works. “As hoteliers our insights are highly sought after,” says Hyatt’s Rabinowitz. The beauty of the workgroup is the consensus it establishes on the needs hoteliers have for a solution, so vendors can make suitable products. “Most of the time vendors participating in workgroups go and execute on those insights,” he says. Vendors can’t go in pitching because they don’t yet have the right product to pitch, and because the workgroup process is about collaborating, not selling.
Myth 2: It takes too much time. As a workgroup participant, Headings devotes eight to ten hours a month, and that participation benefits both him and his company, he says. As a co-chair, Rabinowitz spends about five hours a week, on workgroup calls and calls with individual members. Both emphasize that the support of company leadership is key.
Myth 3: Competitors will steal our ideas. This was the very fear that stopped Headings and his company from taking part. But he found, “You do not see people recording what you say and trying to figure out others’ secret sauce. You see people working collectively to solve problems.” You can discuss what you’ve done without revealing how, he adds.
Myth 4: Vendors will try to control the outcome in their favor. “We may have a vendor say ‘we do it this way for this reason’ and I may disagree, but along the way the voice of reason emerges,” says Headings. “HTNG levels the playing field so it’s not one competitor trying to manipulate the process.”
Benefit 1: Early insights. When you’re developing the framework for a solution, you’re also getting an early look at what the best minds in the industry are thinking, as well as exposure to different perspectives on the problem.
Benefit 2: A networking opportunity. The hospitality IT industry is close-knit. Nothing deepens relationships and establishes credibility more than working side by side with others to solve a vexing problem. “It’s probably one of the greatest benefits,” says Rabinowitz. In addition, “It’s an opportunity to establish a reputation for who I am in the industry, so if I ask a vendor for something, they know what I’m asking for is a well-researched request that will have significant value to them and the industry.”
Benefit 3: A gut check. Hearing about what others are doing allows you to build on best practices and ensure your own approach is not out in left field, Rabinowitz notes – unless you want it to be.
Benefit 4: Better products. Product development can be an inefficient process, with lots of time-consuming individual meetings that can skew toward the needs of one or a few brands. A workgroup builds hotelier consensus around 80% to 90% of the needs for a product, which vendors can use to create solutions with wide appeal at a lower cost, says Hyatt’s Rabinowitz. Workgroups are a great way to influence product design.
Headings says transitioning from a passive to active member has really paid off. “Business relationships change when someone decides to be active,” says Headings. “You have hoteliers and competitors contacting you, and things really change. Just writing a check for HTNG membership is not enough.”
To find out more about workgroups, contact [email protected].