⚠ We would appreciate if you would disable your ad blocker when visiting our site! ⚠

The Road to SMEville

Order a reprint of this story
Close (X)

To reprint an article or any part of an article from Hospitality Upgrade please email geneva@hospitalityupgrade.com. Fee is $250 per reprint. One-time reprint. Fee may be waived under certain circumstances.


Technology Insights
Ron Strecker

Let me take you on a journey to a SMEville, a faraway land where life is harmonious and wonderful. You won’t find this place on any map or in any of the latest navigation apps. It takes much more to navigate the twists and turns on the road to this mystical place. But if you look hard enough, SMEville may be right around the corner from where you are right this moment.

It’s anywhere you find two or more subject matter experts (SMEs) at the same time. This may be harder to do than you think. SMEs tend to be quiet, timid and downright elusive in some environments. But with the right coaxing and encouragement, they’ll gladly come out of the shadows. 

Before we go any further, let’s be sure we understand what a SME isn’t. It isn’t a Dr. Seuss character or some creature from J.K. Rowling, though in my mind I think they look like a kiwi – the bird, not the fruit. SMEs aren’t rare. You’re an SME by virtue of the job you do every day. 

Everyone around you is an SME in some area. So why is it so hard to find SMEville? Whether your role is in finance, technology or operations you use a lot of technology in your daily work. It’s omnipresent in our industry, though not too long ago it was somewhat restricted to the world of PMS, POS and sales and catering systems. 

However, these three systems still represent the core of how daily transactions get recorded as a measure of the hotel’s performance. Finding SMEs for your revenue systems is usually a straightforward proposition. Property management system SMEs could be reservations agents, night auditors or front desk agents. 

Juggling reservation requirements for groups, plus throngs of leisure travelers with individual needs, covers a broad range of details that must be handled correctly and consistently inside the PMS. Point of sale system SMEs may be a bit harder to find. Sometimes a restaurant manager is fluent in POS, but if all else fails, ask a bartender. Maintaining the POS system is usually limited to adding or changing menu items. Setting up new revenue centers may require a higher level of understanding and skill. 

These functions are likely locked down, with limited access granted to designated staff. Sales and catering system users have long relied on designating a “key operator” or “gatekeeper” to coordinate room blocks and meeting space holds. The person in this role has always been natural SMEs. They’re often the go-to trainer for new sales team members and can build special reports upon request. Once you’ve found SMEs for each of your primary revenue systems, it’s all’s good, right? Not quite.

You’re a lot closer to SMEville, but your next step is to introduce them to the SMEs on your finance and technology teams. Be careful, finance and technology SMEs can be demanding and aloof. They have rules. Your SMEs need to freely associate if they are to benefit the organization. Each of the hotel’s three revenue systems relies heavily on information generated by at least one of the other three. Finance relies on data from all three to produce reports for managers, boards and owners. 

In the harmonious world of SMEville, there’s constant interaction between all SMEs from all areas all the time. Sales and catering system SMEs communicate accurate contract requirements to the PMS. They also provide accurate banquet checks for the POS system. Transactions from POS and PMS flow smoothly into the general ledger for financial reporting. 

When something out of the ordinary occurs and data integrity is compromised, SMEs from each will collaborate to find the root cause. You see, in SMEville every SME wants to share what they know with their colleagues. 

All SMEs are hungry to learn something new and are eager to show their skills. But some SMEs need more encouragement than others. Say an income auditor finds errors in the POS data entered into the PMS, which in turn went into the general ledger inaccurately. 

What should they do? Who should they turn to for help? Or do they just make a correcting journal entry and move on to the next task? The path of least resistance is making the journal entry. There’s no fuss, no need to interact – with anyone. Just fix it and move on. 

But what if the error keeps happening because the same journal entry gets made every day? Wouldn’t you want the error corrected? In SMEville, two or three SMEs would have addressed the problem the first day, each communicating what they knew about the error. 

The POS SME might confirm that the check was posted correctly in the restaurant. The finance SME could confirm that revenue from POS didn’t flow to the general ledger correctly after passing through the PMS. These two SMEs would talk to the technology SME. 

By collaborating on the solution, they might find a configuration setting as the root cause. One day later, the problem would be fixed and no more journal entries. More important, each SME could learn something new. SMEs are interested in resolving problems with the systems they use or support. 

Creating an environment where they can get together on a frequent basis will yield dividends for your hotel. SMEs tend to take an innovative approach to solutions. A group of them brainstorming together can be a great thing. Keeping them all in line is what system configurations are for. This is the essence of SMEville. It may take two to tango, but three or more SMEs can create true harmony

want to read more articles like this?

want to read more articles like this?

Sign up to receive our twice-a-month Watercooler and Siegel Sez Newsletters and never miss another article or news story.