Conferences and connections

We’re right in the middle of conference season again. Every year they seem to run back-to-back for a couple of months, and it’s hard to decide which ones to attend. They do take up a lot of time, especially with travel, but the educational sessions continue to be informative and thought-provoking and the networking is invaluable, so here we are.

I was at Rich’s Executive Vendor Summit last week, and am at Oracle Hospitality’s Industry Connect event this week. Both are very worthwhile for different reasons, but they do have a common thread. As always, the Vendor Summit had an excellent variety of sessions, with the added highlight this year of the Travel ‘N Technology (TNT) conference the day before, an event that included eight new-technology vendors pitching their products to a shark tank. The round table discussion introduced at last years CIO Summit was repeated here, with very informed, free-flowing discussion among all attendees on a variety of topics they’d chosen themselves. These sessions are really helpful and open, and should be a part of any technology conference; there’s just no substitute for back-and-forth feedback between people with real-world experience and advice.

The estimable Charlotte, unflappable organizer of Rich’s conferences, once again did a sterling job, and continued to raise her own bar for the social events. I’ve no idea how she did it, but the private tour of Alcatraz she arranged for us was truly an exceptional experience. It’s a beautiful location, but its history and the atmosphere of the cell building itself are very sobering. And her arranging a fabulous sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge while we were on the island… priceless.

This week’s Oracle Conference replaces previous years’ Micros User Group events, and brought many of us up to date with Oracle’s progress in absorbing our industry’s biggest vendor. Merging cultures on this scale is never easy or quick, and despite the undeniable depth of Oracle’s resources it’s apparent that there’s still a way to go until they fully grasp the challenges of this vertical and gear up to meet them. All good luck to them; Micros – sorry, Oracle Hospitality – products continue to be key to very many hoteliers, and a great deal is riding on the success of this adventure.

The common thread between these two conferences? The need for partners and for good interfaces between systems. No system does everything a hotel needs on its own, and interfaces between systems will always be necessary. The Vendor Summit is an amazing incubator for developing relationships between vendors with complementary products, and it’s very rewarding to see the evolution of these links over the years. Oracle, too, despite the industry dominance of Opera and the Micros POS systems, appears to have recognized the vital importance of the partner vendors who round out its offerings, and is committed to improving its relationships with them as a high priority.

Partnerships are essential. No-one wants to end up isolated on Alcatraz.

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