Data Bus Is the Way of the Future

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October 01, 2007
CounterPoint
Scot Campbell

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© 2008 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

It’s only natural that people ask questions.  We always ask questions.  The key to future technology is to ask the right question.  What are the right questions you ask?


How can information technology streamline and simplify our technology architecture to enable the business to be more agile in the way that they service their customers?

Why is it so hard to get data flowing around my business so I can make better decisions about how I value my customers?

Why is it that during a full moon my systems go haywire?  (a Rich Siegel question)

Questions one and two are now easier to answer.
 
For years our business line has seen success and failure in implementing complex business applications.  But one thing is for sure, it’s not the problem.  The real question is how do you get everything to communicate?  Over time information technology professionals have figured out the problem on a case-by-case basis.  Hook up a serial connection between the cash registers and the property management system, get the right tools, (break out boxes), find someone who understands the communication protocols (overpay them) and when it breaks they pack up their tools and head out into the field.

Creative vendor solutions to this problem include integrating POS with PMS (kind of hospitality ERP), building the interfaces themselves (leading to finger pointing), or just opening up an API to their system to enable anyone to write a data exchange interface (not so common).
 
The world starts to change and operations people want more and more from these IT systems.  IT launches projects to go into each interface and try to enhance to data sets.  Time and money become hurdles and we are left with less than superior customer service because we can’t get it done.

Other industries have experienced similar problems and have begun to migrate to data bus architecture.  Simply put, data bus is a common framework to which each system provider writes an interface.  Once the interfaces are sending and receiving the required data to the bus, business middleware is used to route the data to the appropriate places.  If the cash register wants to query the hotel system to find out if a customer can charge to their folio it asks the middleware and it queries the hotel system, gathers the data and delivers it back to POS system.  The spa system may request the same data and the hotel system responds with the same answer.  It is one PMS interface enabling many systems to ask the same question. 

Now things get interesting; once you get these interfaces talking to the middleware you can add rules that might intercept these transactions and post them to your CRM system –  no new interfaces, just a new business rule. 
When it comes time to change your hotel system you only have to work with the new vendor to write interfaces to the middleware and not every outlying system. 

Customer Service on Steroids
Imagine all of your business systems talking the same language.  Imagine every customer touch point having the same customer value data.  Your employees would know who the customer is and what value he or she brings to the entire organization.  In our current world we would have to keep a copy of all customer value records in every system to accomplish this. 

Additionally, the data bus would be used to perform business functions common to multiple applications.  An example of this might be confirmations.  Today, each individual reservation system (spa, PMS, restaurant reservations) has to develop functionality to provide for the printing, faxing, e-mailing and now short message service confirmations to guests.  Each system, individually, has to be programmed and configured to support existing and emerging messaging formats.  As new formats are available, these must be programmed and configured across all applications.  The service bus would allow each application developed to publish the event to the bus and a third-party application would receive the event, format the message and send out via the preferred transport.  This provides a single point of development and configuration as business requirements change.  

Ask your business contacts, they will tell you the value proposition that they could bring with this kind of data.  It’s about data in the right location, at the right time, in front of the right employee.

Our industry has some tremendous point-of-business systems (PMS, POS, spa, convention, locks, kiosk).  The complexity of sewing all these systems together has a logical migration to data bus.

The sooner you move to data bus, the quicker you can provide the right data in the right location at the right time.  Imagine having your hotel business partner thank you, they might even invite you to lunch.  At lunch you can collectively talk about the full moon syndrome.



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