Keeping current with hotel technology: obsolescence is risk

Why don’t hotels update their systems more often? Probably for the same reason that I’m still using a six-year-old laptop: the all-too-human ability to rationalize inertia. After all, it costs money and causes disruption to replace older technology (even if that’s only a PC running on Windows XP, which I still find in hotels even though it’s an automatic PCI Fail) (and no, my laptop isn’t running XP) whereas the benefits of replacing it – lower risk of failure, PCI certification, the opportunity to do more things more efficiently – are financially unquantifiable. We can easily convince ourselves that the old systems are stable and do what we need for now, workarounds notwithstanding.
The same’s true for vendors’ need to keep up with technology developments, though obviously they have even more invested in their current technology stack than do hotels. Max Rayner’s presentations this spring at the HTNG Conference in San Antonio and at Rich’s Vendor Summit in San Francisco made a compelling argument for the use of newer technologies that offer greater flexibility, more dynamic interactions with third party systems and much greater performance at affordable prices. Max believes that an approach like this is essential if hotel systems are to be able to compete successfully with the CRM and marketing technology used by the OTAs, and that without it we have little chance of providing the instant-response, customized offers to search inquiries that will attract our guests. But switching to newer technologies is just as traumatic for a vendor as it is for a hotel.
You may not be able to make a financial case for keeping up to date, but you can certainly make a business case for doing so. Staying with older systems means that you tend to lose sight of better ways of doing things, because it seems so natural to do them the old way. But obsolescence is risk. Hotels and vendors adopting the latest technology have an immediate advantage in speed of development and flexible integration with other systems and other data sources. Older systems have trouble coping with the highly fluid dynamic relationships that characterize current trends in customer support and marketing. They’re also harder to support; the older programmers needed to support them will retire one day, and the best and brightest new software developers aren’t interested in working on old technologies. The same applies to the best and brightest hotel staff; they want to use the best technology they can to leverage their talents, and won’t stay at properties that slow them down with old approaches.
Consultant Bob Lewis claims that the idea that humans only use 90 percent of our brains is false. He believes we use 100 percent: 10 percent for thinking and 90 percent for rationalizing. In this case the rationalization is that there’s always something else that’s more urgent than the conversion – right up until the time when there isn’t. And doing it as a fire drill when you have no alternative is always far more expensive and disruptive than planning for it.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go shopping for a new laptop.

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