Michael Schubach
Mar 17, 2023

Iffy New Year by Michael Schubach

Not exactly the greeting that businesspeople shout from the rooftops, it is nonetheless this year’s seasonal wish that is most likely to come true. There is so much to be grateful for in 2023 – our beloved-but-beleaguered industry is showing strong signs of salvation. We appear to be back – tanned, rested, and refreshed – but I’m here to give voice to that nagging suspicion in the back of our minds: even though we are through with the crisis, are we, in fact, through the crisis?

Iffy New Year by Michael Schubach

Michael Schubach
Mar 17, 2023
Technology Investment

Not exactly the greeting that businesspeople shout from the rooftops, it is nonetheless this year’s seasonal wish that is most likely to come true. There is so much to be grateful for in 2023 – our beloved-but-beleaguered industry is showing strong signs of salvation. We appear to be back – tanned, rested, and refreshed – but I’m here to give voice to that nagging suspicion in the back of our minds: even though we are through with the crisis, are we, in fact, through the crisis?

There are a variety of reasons I’m trying to jinx our apparent good fortune, and you may want to hang onto your hats and horns for just a few minutes longer. Our recent public health issues aside but not forgotten, here is my short list of concerns:

1. We live in a volatile world.

2. We work in a very volatile industry in that volatile world.

3. Speaking from a technology perspective, we are the most volatile sector in a very volatile industry that exists in a volatile world.

Have you noticed the recurring theme?

Coming out of a pandemic, optimism is appreciated as a refreshing change of pace, but I must regretfully decline to participate. Like the stock market, I, too, fear uncertainty – ‘volatility,’ if you will – and I can outline that trepidation, point by point:

As to world volatility, we have active issues that are pushing us toward a precipice. The first and most obvious is the war in Eastern Europe. This isn’t a battle over who owns which parts of a faded empire, it’s a battle between that continent’s largest fuel production economy and the world’s largest granary. No matter where your sympathies lie, that’s a problem that looms far beyond the borders of the countries in conflict. In the olden days, a war in a faraway place wasn’t much of a local business concern, but those days have faded as well. Global interconnectivity has consequences for everyone; a disruption anywhere presents a concern or has an impact everywhere.

And speaking of global concerns, how’s the weather been where you are? Changing climate, regardless of cause, is changing the desirability of many destinations, as well as complicating the process and probability of arriving at them. Transportation and tourism go together, and environmental volatility works for neither.

If I sound like I have a political agenda, it’s because every issue of magnitude has political implications. We live in a world of heightened political polarization; the amorphous center has been replaced by dueling factions, reducing a once-colorful spectrum of alternatives to a choice between black or white. That translates into greater volatility; we are always one vote away from sweeping transformation instead of incremental change, and the broom sweeps both directions. Again, which side you side with doesn’t matter – it matters that you’re riding on a seesaw. Our new reality is that opposites repel rather than attract. Compromise is off the table, so important problems end up with win-lose solutions, which only serves to intensify the standoff and heighten the conflict.

As to the volatility of our industry, the status of hospitality is reflected in the old cliche that we are “the first to fail and the last to recover.”

So much of travel, whether for business or pleasure, is purely discretionary, so when consumer confidence falters, we rapidly become the deceased canary in the economic coal mine. Hospitality is a leading indicator of reluctance, hesitancy, and any ‘duck-and-cover’ thinking that may be going on at large.

That adage has never been as true as it is now in our new post-pandemic reality. Doing business has never required a physical presence less than it does today. Online consumerism, heightened by pandemic isolation, has left us changed for life, if not for good. We’ve sent old school road-warriors to re-education centers such as MS Teams, Zoom, and WebEx to show them that boarding passes are no longer required to close a deal. It doesn’t take a degree in economics to see that it makes good business sense to use technology to lower the cost of doing business. Everyone wins ... except perhaps the hospitality and travel sectors.

Of course, most of us prefer face-to-face contact, but when push comes to shove, travel, travel costs, and travel-related delays and interruptions no longer must be suffered. In today’s world, push is wildly shoving, and that makes hospitality and travel more discretionary than ever. We remain perilously close to a tipping point, with or without the possibility of a renewed public health crisis.

And now, I’ll speak as an IT wonk. Nothing is more transitory or more volatile than information technology itself. The business community can’t afford to invest the time or the money required to constantly be “state of the art;” manufacturing speed-demons can easily outpace the business community’s implementation resources. Nonetheless, the need for NextGen products is a reality; they are where new features, refinements, and security measures come to life. You can defer your purchases, but you can’t avoid them as long as you might have hoped. Pressure continually mounts for you to keep pace even if or when there is no apparent advantage to the end user or the business entity.

The pandemic caused a prolonged business intermission that fostered two diverse kinds of buyer reactions.

1. The first was to use the unexpected hiatus to make infrastructure improvements – build while you can and get while the getting is good.

2. The second response was from businesses that found themselves struggling just to survive from 2020 to 2022. They evoked a “3D” strategy: defer, defer, defer. Those who did survive now face their 2023 reality: a piper who must be paid. The coming year holds a bonanza of pent-up demand despite soaring price tags, product shortages, and consumer reluctance (or defiance). It seems like a perfect storm: we face a need to act in a wait-and-see market that could deteriorate as we struggle to make rational business decisions. Welcome to this year’s sequel: The Pandemic, Take Two: Damned If You Do, Sidelined If You Don’t.

The need to keep technically current has never been so pressing. Our adversaries, Information Age cyber-pirates, are working overtime to take advantage of any weaknesses introduced into previously stable network environments by changing paradigms to enable the rise in remote work. There is no time off from cybersecurity or the need to keep your environment pristine and up to date.

So how do competing pressures translate into action? IT is primed to be asking for a great deal of money – urgent, immediate spending requirements – that might have been routine if the company had had the normal revenues, staffing and system maintenance efforts over the previous two or three years. At a time when operators see the same volatility issues that I do, they are simultaneously being asked to spend numbers that might well give them pause in a good year, let alone an iffy one. Their primal instinct may be to opt for a “gradual recovery,” taking only highest priority half-steps to work back toward equilibrium. That’s very rational and justified thinking, but it has the strong possibility of causing short-term business interruptions, longer-term system disruptions due to supply chain delays, as well as a loss of system integrity and security that could jeopardize a player’s ability to stay in the game. You might get lucky, but the longer the deficit is unmet, the more likely it is that your luck will change.

I’ve long heard it said that the IT spokesperson is the Debbie Downer of the executive team. We come forward with unending predictions of pending disasters – the type of horror stories like the ones you used to hear in a darkened room from someone holding a flashlight under their chin. We constantly argue a negative that you can’t disprove – unless you do as you’re asked, your life could become a living nightmare. Never mind how it turned out when you did as you were asked because it always could have been worse.

As if to drive the point home, I’ve just given you more reasons to face the future with fear and dread, but I do so with a greater purpose in mind. Your IT team is onboard to consult, to render informed opinions, and to get you to consider your options with a clear-eyed understanding of possibilities, outcomes, and ramifications. Please try not to think of me as intentionally depressing; it’s an occupational illness not covered by Workers’ Comp, but it’s what I do, so I’m sorry and you’re welcome.

That said, let’s all drink up to an iffy new year! It will help you through the process.



Let's Get Digital

7 Questions to Ask Before You Invest in a Hotel Mobile App


Make a Better PMS Choice!

Not all properties are ready for PMS in the cloud. The good news is, at Agilysys it’s your choice on your timing. State-of-the-art leading PMS in the cloud or on-premise PMS. Either way we say YES.