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

What's Missing? Preventing Digital Information Age Frustration

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.


July 11, 2019
Financial Systems
Ron Strecker

Every now and then it’s time to update or replace a critical system. It could be PMS, POS, HRIS or a phone switch. Or maybe you bring in a new system to automate a manual process. Regardless, if you rush through the implementation process just to get out from under the outdated system, you may find yourself wondering why you changed.

The reason many new systems fail to deliver on their promises is that we don’t sweat the small stuff. Yes, you read that right. A new system brings with it the need to focus on the smallest details and determine how it will fit your process. Be wary when your staff says they’re too busy to get all the details finished before the go live date and makes empty promises to come back and fill in the gaps later. Smart vendors will push to get this level of detail addressed to alleviate dissatisfaction when you do go live. 
The best advice I can give is to invest time up front sweating the small stuff. This involves a thorough understanding of 1) what you want from the system, 2) how you may need to adjust your process to better match the flow of data in the system, and 3) a commitment from all users to follow a new process. Establishing required data fields is one method of reinforcing a new process.
This approach can also apply to systems already in place. Every three to five years it’s a good idea to have a vendor-led review of the configurations and business rules with all key managers and end users. This ensures a common understanding of the system and clears up misconceptions that come with management changes.
Sure, you can take the fast approach and get a new system implemented with the hope that you covered the most important pieces. Or maybe you’re just making an upgrade and don’t know, or care, what new features come with it. This shortsightedness can have ramifications that impact your daily routine or data accuracy, whether it happens on day one or much later.
The moment a new system begins delivering inaccurate or unexpected results is when the chaos begins. The team is now faced with trying to retrace the data flow to find the root cause of the inaccuracy. It’s also likely that as soon you resolve one issue you’ll discover one or more new ones. This highly inefficient means of correcting problems could have been prevented with more time invested up front. 
What’s worse is that the new system’s credibility is at stake. Management will begin to question the reliability of every report generated. The vendor will say they never saw this issue with other customers. They’ll work diligently to help regain the team’s trust, but it’ll be a hard task. In extreme situations, lack of trust in the new system could result in management finding a replacement system and starting the process all over again. 
When a system is operating exactly as designed but fails to deliver, it’s rarely the result of what’s in the system. It’s the result of what’s missing.
This is a short list of situations I’ve experienced over the years with various systems used throughout the industry. Some may sound familiar. Others may give you helpful hints about configuration details you should review
Property management systems represent one of the most critical applications we use today. The accuracy of the data being collected is critical to the teams in the front office, housekeeping and accounting. However, others rely on this data long after a guest has checked out. 
Marketing has long been a key consumer of guest profile data. Before the advent of email, PMS data was downloaded to a service bureau to cleanse it against the post office change of address database. The refined database was then mined for business prospects and solicitations were sent by old fashioned mail. Group business was often excluded from these data dumps for fear the address information wouldn’t be the home address.
Enter the age of email. A guest without an email address is the exception. Most systems include an email field on the reservation screen. If booking online, you’ll likely find an email is required. What happens to a guest record without an email address? Do you discard it before it reaches the database? If so, you’re throwing away opportunities.
How can you easily turn this exclusion into a potential return stay? Why not tell the front desk agent to ask for an email address at check-in. Make it a required field before the process can be completed. If the guest doesn’t have an email address, or doesn’t wish to share it, the agent could enter a default email address that tells the marketing team to contact this person through alternate channels. This offers another opportunity to entice the patron to register online to become a valued guest.
Inventory management systems in large food and beverage operations should play a role in streamlining several procedures that result in accurate cost of sales reporting. Likewise, they should help conduct periodic physical counts for control purposes.
If you don’t use a bar code reader, you’re doing this physical count using a printed list of inventoried items. What sort order should you use for the inventory count sheets?
The logical answer is that they should line up with the way the storeroom shelves are organized. This is often called sheet to shelf order and it can dramatically speed up the process. What happens if the user says it can only sort by the part number or item description? 
The process of populating all fields available for each item such as commodity class, UPC number, etc. is often overlooked in the inventory management system setup phase. Much of this data could likely be populated through the initial download of your vendor’s catalog, but only if someone has the forethought to say it should be included.
Using the commodity class, i.e. dry goods, meat, dairy, or frozen, could certainly help sort the count sheet closer to the physical order. If you look closer at the available fields, there’s a good chance you’ll see a field called shelf number or bin number. Voila! Now the storeroom manager can update these fields to show the physical order of the storeroom. 
Here are a few more simple ideas. 
  • Have accounts payable record utility consumption data into reportable, user-defined fields for energy management analytics. 
  • Study the logic embedded in the segments of your general ledger chart of accounts. Do the accounts follow the same sequence as they appear on your financial statements? 
  • Have accounts payable record the job code and hours worked from all temporary labor invoices in a reportable, user-defined field. Or better yet, set up electronic timekeeping for your temp staff. Both approaches allow for a more complete analysis of your labor costs and productivity.
Here’s the bottom line. Look for what’s missing in your data sets. Someone probably anticipated this need when designing the software. What’s missing can be found, but making good use of it requires everyone to understand why it matters in the first place.

©2019 Hospitality Upgrade 
This work may not be reprinted, redistributed or repurposed without written consent. For permission requests, call 678.802.5302 or email info@hospitalityupgrade.com.

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.