Choosing replacement hotel systems: aim high, but remember the essential need for compromise

Defining requirements for a replacement system is a tricky exercise for any property. Usually the process is triggered by a bad experience, or a series of them, and this inevitably colors the priorities. It might be the need for some new functionality that the current vendor can’t provide, or perhaps one too many support calls that have been handled badly. Sometimes it can be that the vendor of an essential system has suddenly gone out of business, and a replacement must be found quickly.
All of these triggers are valid reasons, but it’s important not to make them the only criteria for a replacement. They’re highly useful in generating momentum for change, but they also present a grand opportunity to take a look at the whole operation and see if there’s a better way to go forward than just addressing the one major problem. As someone else said, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.
This leads to a new challenge of its own: the need to balance the blue-sky possibilities that suddenly seem to be available against the limitations of the real world. On the one hand, most new systems looked at will introduce many opportunities that simply weren’t available with the old ones, and that can generate all kinds of new ideas as to how the property can reorganize take advantage of them. On the other, these ideas may need new interfaces that haven’t been developed yet, and the vendors with the most attractive new concepts may not have been around long enough to give a good feeling about their staying power.
I always encourage hotels to take the widest possible view of what can be achieved, but to temper it with a pragmatic approach to real world implementation issues. Whether it’s taking a multi-phase approach to a major change when you’d rather do it in one shot, or accepting that no vendor is guaranteed to be around forever, compromises to one’s initial goals are always necessary. That’s why there’s no one “best system” for any hotel; each operation must balance the trade-offs in its own way and make sure everyone in the operation understands why the eventual solution was chosen, accept that balance and work together to make it the right way forward. Context is everything.

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