Focusing on Strategy in a Fast-Moving World

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October 29, 2018
Revenue Strategy and Metamediaries
Kelly McGuire
Dr. BreffniNoone

Revenue management is a very detailed, analytical role. Revenue managers maintain rates and availability day by day, segment by segment, channel by channel. In this deluge of very detailed information, it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees. This is especially true for revenue leaders, who always get dragged into details, yet are responsible for the organization’s overall revenue strategy, and the people that execute it.

There’s an ongoing challenge to balance crucial, tactical, day to day revenue generating activities with longer term strategic activities that willhelp the organization achieve and maintain competitive advantage.

In today’s fast-moving digital economy, talent and technology are essential to support effective strategies. The right decisions in talent and technology generally lead to the successful development and execution of a winning strategy. Competition for talent is fierce, particularly for highly skilled positions like revenue managers. The technology space evolves quickly and constantly, increasing in complexity and in options. You are already using your existing talent and technology for tactical day to day activities, but they are also your foundation for your longer-term strategy. This is why it’s crucial to place a focus on ongoing training and development of your existing talent and to ensure you are getting the most out of your existing technology investments.

Keeping track of both tactics and strategy can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Incorporating a few key training, development and technology initiatives into your existing day to day activities, with your existing talent and technology, can make a big difference in achieving that important balance.
 
Here are some suggestions:
 
Keeping Stakeholders Educated and Involved
An effective revenue strategy, short and longer term, might be driven by the revenue team, but it requires buy in and participation from the entire organization. Establishing the foundation means ensuring your entire organization understands their role, and can easily identify opportunities and make a plan to take advantage of  them. This requires a basic, common understanding of the current state and future potential of the business. 
 
When you’ve orchestrated the same revenue meeting week after week with mostly the same audience, it’s easy to forget that while you live and breathe your data and reports, your counterparts across the organization do not. You may think  that everyone on the team is on the same page, but maybe they are all just nodding and smiling because they don’t want to admit that they aren’t seeing the same thing in your data that you are. Or maybe they don’t even know where they should look on the report. You may get agreement for your plans, but you won’t have buy-in or active participation from stakeholders that aren’t following your logic.
 
This is easy to overlook, but also relatively easy to correct. Have your revenue managers take a step back and look at the agenda of the meeting and the reports they are using. Are there opportunities to add more strategic conversations to your normal read outs? Can you simplify some of the charts and graphs that you are using? Are there opportunities to use graphs rather than rows and columns of data?
 
Take Time for Development
You’ve put the time and energy into hiring the right people, so why not keep them at the top of their game? Any revenue manager worth their salt is always looking for new challenges and new learnings. If they start to stagnate they will start to look elsewhere. Providing opportunities for additional training and development for the team is crucial, but it is also easy to prioritize shorter term activities over these types of activities. It’s hard to schedule full-day training, brainstorming sessions or conferences. But that’s not the only way to keep focus on long-term learning. The key is to incorporate some smaller initiatives into the day to day.
 
Leveraging your Technology
After initial implementation, it becomes increasingly easy to take technology for granted, and lose sight of all of the potential you planned on when you first installed it. It’s also easy for effective usage to decline over time. It’s similar to when you buy a new car. For the first couple of weeks, you are busy pushing all the buttons and discovering all the bells and whistles. After a few months, you’re only regularly using a few features, and have probably forgotten even how to find most of the rest. Some of those unused features could enhance the performance of your car – or even just make it more fun to drive! While this advice is particularly salient for a revenue management system, any piece of technology the team uses is fair game for optimizing usage.
 
Start small with best practice sharing from the team. Identify a few super users on the team. Have them take some time in staff meeting to demonstrate and discuss key features. Survey the users to see if there are any common areas that they struggle with and have a few working sessions to identify best practices. These don’t have to be massive efforts. Even 10 minutes to show a new report or demonstrate how to find a particular piece of data could turn on lightbulbs across the team.
 
Refresher training on all of the features and functions of your technology will open up opportunities to drive incremental value, and even innovative thinking that will support longer term strategy. Make a point to provide refresher training on your technology at least once a year, and certainly when new features are released. These days, it’s really easy to deliver training remotely, or via prerecorded training. Remember it’s to the vendors advantage that you use their technology to the fullest extent, so work with them to find programs that fit in with the team’s daily activities and your budget. This is not just for your domain specific vendors. If you have a great deal of Microsoft users, consider doing some training on these productivity tools. Bad technology habits are easily created over time. Ensure that you keep everyone fresh and excited about your technology investments.

Regular connection with your vendors, even simply learning about what’s new in their solutions, will help you keep in touch with advances in technology. While it may be biased to their products or services, vendors do provide a great deal of thought leadership that you can leverage to stay in touch with trends in their space. Keeping informed is key to understanding both short and long-term trends in the technology that can support your strategy.

Analytical systems can experience performance declines over time. The market changes, users may not be keeping configuration up to date, or perhaps the system requires an upgrade. Just like you’d need to tune an instrument from time to time, the analytics need periodic tuning as well. Your vendor should be keeping an eye on performance statistics, so pay attention if they alert you to any of these issues.

One quick way to determine if you have an issue is to keep an eye on the number of user overrides in the revenue management system. While some overrides are expected, even in a high performing RMS, if the number of overrides start to trend up, either the users need more training in how the system thinks and how to investigate recommendations they don’t initially agree with, or the system is not quite matching the current state of the market. It could be both. Work with the vendor to investigate where and how these overrides are happening. You may find a configuration that’s out of date, or a portion of the algorithm that needs to be tuned. Users will lose confidence in the system if they perceive that the recommendations are not as effective as they used to be, and that’s the first step to recommendation overrides. It may seem like unnecessary extra expense, but you should budget for an annual audit of the analytics, if it’s offered. Definitely invest in some training resources as well. Why pay top dollar for a system that is only used as a rate uploader?

This final thought may not be appropriate or achievable for every organization. If your organization can support it, consider hiring someone whose entire job it is to develop and execute longer term strategic initiatives, or to focus on training and development for your RM team. This person can’t only develop strategic programs, but they can also be an advocate for placing priority on team development, strategic technology investments, and the team’s overall revenue strategy.

Maintaining the balance between effective revenue maximizing tactics and a sustainable revenue strategy can be challenging. The best way to get the organization on the path to achieving this balance is to take it in small steps, finding opportunities to focus on the long term in the day to day. Once the habits are built, you’ll find it much easier to build on them.


Here are some simple suggestions for ensuring that the entire organization is aligned on your current performance and can assist in identifying opportunities.
 
Periodically in the revenue strategy meetings, do a walk-through of your existing reports at a higher level. Take the time to define metrics and demonstrate how the data relates. Ensure you explain any acronyms (STLY = same time last year). In very accessible language, explain what the report is best used for. “This report shows bookings by channel as compared to last year. We use it to understand whether our current booking pace is sufficient to achieve our goals, and we can identify which channels require a shift in strategy to get us there. This is what I see in the data, and where I find it on the report” 
 
Ensure that there is commentary on every report or analysis that gets sent out by the team. Most hospitality leaders get dozens of reports emailed to them every day. Many come with very little commentary. Nearly all will end up in the deleted items folder. Never assume that others around the organization will be able to easily consume your report and come to their own conclusion (let alone, your conclusion). A few bullet points of analysis will add a lot of value to the data, and keep your stakeholders on the same page. 
 
Build some dynamic visualizations. Visualization platforms like Tableau, Microstrategy and Power BI are become much more accessible and easy to use. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s very true with data. Instead of showing up with a bunch of printed out reports, start displaying key data and insights in a more dynamic platform, that allows for drill down and querying in the moment. This will facilitate a much more strategic and engaged conversation.



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