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The Power of a Unified Hospitality Platform: Insights from IBS’ Steffan Berelowitz

Discover how the concept of a unified platform is reshaping the hotel tech landscape, offering solutions to industry challenges while enhancing guest and staff experiences.

In January, IBS Software announced the acquisition of APS and with that achieved the capabilities of a unified platform. But what is a unified platform, where did the idea for it come from, and how can it solve industry problems such as labor shortages and software learning curves? To find out, HT spoke with Steffan Berelowitz, VP and Head of the Hospitality Business at IBS Software. 

Where did the idea for creating a unified platform come from?

That is a great question. The idea originated with a visionary leader in the hospitality industry: Aaron Shepherd. With more than 40 years of experience building some of the most recognized software in the industry today, Shepherd and his founding team at APS (now part of IBS Software) decided to build a 5th generation hotel platform. They took for granted that it would be cloud-native on day one. While other software companies are still struggling to migrate to the cloud, starting with a cloud-native platform opened a huge opportunity to build the world’s most advanced hotel platform from scratch. 

Let me explain further via a brief story: Imagine for a moment that you’re out hiking in a beautiful mountainous location. You see a hill nearby, and being adventurous, you decide to climb the hill. During the climb, you enjoy expanding views of the valley behind you. What happens at the summit, however, can be completely unexpected. Your progress up the hill is gradual, but when you arrive at the summit, in one sweeping moment you see what lies beyond. This is the story of the unified hospitality platform. Most of the incumbent hotel software companies are still climbing the hill of cloud computing. You’ll see a lot of news about these companies migrating to the cloud. By contrast, our unified platform began its journey as cloud native on day one. This means that APS began their journey at the summit of that hill. The view on the other side was spectacular, and it was completely new. That view was the unified hospitality platform. It wouldn’t have been possible unless that journey began at the summit.

What does this platform do that's so different and important?

There are two incredibly exciting opportunities for hotel organizations who use our platform. The first is that when a hotel organization signs up for a unified platform, they can cancel about eight or more software contracts as they dramatically simplify and consolidate the software required to run their businesses. The second is that they unlock new revenue with features that go well beyond attribute-based selling. These features enable luxury and upper chain scale hotels to sell much more than rooms. They also enable economy and budget brands to drive higher profits with in-line revenue management. Today, hotel executives are constrained by legacy technologies which require the integration of multiple software platforms and systems in order to run day-to-day business operations. The unified platform operates through a single system to seamlessly run the entire business – eliminating the need for fragmented systems, increasing profits and reducing complexity.  

How have some hotels been using this platform to their advantage? 

One of my favorite examples comes from a recent franchisee conference at one of our major chains. A group of owners came up to the APS booth, and they were holding their phones showing our team their financial reports. A few of them gave our team hugs saying, “We’ve never made so much money in our lives.”   

I think those anecdotal stories reveal much more than a case study crafted for marketing. Our unified platform provides hotels with the ability to solve for their most forefront business challenges such as labor shortages (with dramatically faster onboarding and training) and growing operational costs (by reducing the number of software providers required to run your business), while delighting guests. 

Among the top benefits to adopting the platform for hotels includes:

  • Capture record bookings by offering much more than rooms with attribute-based selling and an unlimited inventory model that can include shows, events, tours, rentals, golf, retail, and more. 
  • Optimize pricing and yield in real-time with advanced in-line revenue management, either independently or with an incumbent revenue management system. 
  • Rapidly build rate plans and enable highly targeted promotions with an intuitive yet powerful rules engine comprising 120+ configurable options that drive record conversion and revenues.
  • Brilliantly simple design, available on any device, one login to run your entire hotel day-to-day. Boosting employee productivity.
  • Incredibly easy to use. Reduce training, boost employee morale, and free up time to focus on delighting guests.
  • Real-time translation and messaging. Guests and staff can communicate in any language at each property or around the world.
  • Unprecedented peace of mind with 100% uptime and zero business interruptions.

How does a unified platform improve the guest experience?

For hoteliers leveraging a unified platform, the foundation to providing a seamless experience for guests relies on the right data. This data encompasses every guest interaction between the initial booking process to selections made during the stay to the final checkout process – offering hoteliers key insights into guest preferences, patterns and behaviors. Additionally, with full access to demographic, behavioral, and feedback data, hoteliers can gain deep insights into their guest profiles – tailoring offerings and communications accordingly. At this level of data visibility, hoteliers can craft an all-encompassing guest journey, providing curated experiences, relevant promotions, and personalized touchpoints that resonate deeply to foster loyalty and repeat business. 

How does a unified platform improve the staff experience?

Imagine reducing workflows for staff from hours to minutes. Just one example of this is real-time language translation – with the power to automatically detect more than 100 languages. In one example, a hotel with a Haitian Creole housekeeping staff implemented our unified platform. They were able to use their mobile device to photograph and describe a broken towel bar that was translated in real time to Spanish, and the maintenance crew arrived before housekeeping left the room. All that information is also available in real-time to the GM. Previously, housekeeping may have recorded that on paper, and that manual workflow may have taken half a day or more to get resolved. 

According to a survey of more than 600 hoteliers, 65% are looking at technology as the primary solution to weather labor shortages and attract new talent. Amid labor shortages, hotels are required to do more with less people. The unified platform provides a single easy-to-use system to help get the job done faster with the entire hotel team able to do their work in real-time wherever they are in the hotel on any device, including from the phone in their pocket.

Do you think we'll see more hotel tech players beginning to merge to create their own unified platforms?

Most of the established players in the hotel software industry, and these include many of the names that you would definitely recognize, want to offer unified platforms. Some of them even claim to have them now. In reality, most of those companies are still struggling to migrate to the cloud. For those that operate cloud platforms, almost universally they are in silos such as CRS, PMS, RMS, etc. It’s incredibly hard to tie those systems together in real-time. Yet, other companies are on massive acquisition sprees and that also brings major challenges. While it looks like they can check the boxes on paper, in reality, it takes years to integrate people and systems. The most compelling unified platforms in the hotel industry were designed from the ground up with that in mind. IBS Software is the only player in the enterprise space. There are a couple of companies that are effectively addressing the independent market. For the rest of them, they need to keep in mind that there’s a difference between a sign on a booth at a tradeshow that says, “unified platform” and an actual software platform that can deliver that promise.  

In the next 12-18 months, how will the concept and creation of unified platforms change the hotel tech industry?

It’s interesting to see that the industry is shifting in this direction. Clearly, the hotel brands and their leaders including CEOs, chief revenue officers, commercial and operational leaders see the advantage. It’s likely that Oracle, Cendyn, SynXis and others want to move in this direction, but most software companies are playing catch up. We thought it was pretty amusing that after we announced the acquisition of APS and we put the full capabilities of IBS Software (a global organization with 4,000 people and 16 offices) behind APS and their remarkable platform, a few other companies immediately announced their “unified platforms” (quotes intentional). They were trying to capture that PR momentum, but they have years of catch up ahead of them. 

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