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Enterprise System Pitfalls: Summary
Today I’m wrapping up a series of posts on the broad topic of Enterprise System Pitfalls. In this series, my hope was to help shed light on the primary problems that cause us to miss budgets, fall short on capabilities, or completely fail when implementing an enterprise system. 

The Year in Review
As 2019 comes to a close, it’s time to count our blessings. One of mine has been the privilege (and fun!) of being able to reach out to so many interesting companies and get them to tell me what they’re doing that’s different, disruptive, and game-changing. The list of things I have to write about in future columns has only gotten longer in the nine months since I started writing this column.

Sustainable Innovation
Sustainability can yield multiple benefits to hotels. Saving energy and water yields direct cost savings. Revenue can be generated by guests who prefer to deal with businesses that minimize their environmental impact. And many would argue that conserving scarce resources is simply the right thing to do.

Meetings Innovation
The sale and delivery of groups and meetings is perhaps the most significant and under-automated functions for many hotels. Even though groups often account for 30% to 60% of revenue, most group bookings are still handled manually for most if not all of steps, as they move from a meeting planner’s research to a confirmed booking.

The biggest enemy to any system is complexity. In a system of inputs and outputs, such as an enterprise system, more complexity means more parts are used in interaction with inputs to create the outputs. Every part that must be built and maintained costs time and money

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HITEC Toronto 2017, A CFO’s Perspective

by Ron Strecker

I’m a numbers guy so let’s start with a few from this year’s HITEC. HFTP, who produces HITEC, turns 65 years old this year, HITEC celebrated 45 years in existence by setting an attendance record, and Hospitality Upgrade is celebrating its 25th birthday. And you couldn’t help but feel the buzz in Toronto as Canada prepared to celebrate its sesquicentennial (150 years) the Saturday after HITEC.

My week began with HFTP’s Hospitality Executive Exchange. This all-day event held on Monday has become an anticipated part of HITEC. It consists of a small group of senior financial leaders with a focused agenda on topics that we all face. 
The lead topic covered European privacy laws that already affect global companies and could soon directly impact anyone who thinks they are not governed by the EU. This was followed by a presentation that introduced a new metric in the world of revenue management – Contribution to Operating Profits and Expenses – COPE.
The most insightful part of the day, however, was the open forum conversation. When asked if what we were searching for at HITEC, most said a better tool to handle budgeting, forecasting, business intelligence and analytics. We all exchanged experiences including being current or past customers of exhibitors on the show floor.
Thank you to HFTP leadership for keeping this event as part of HITEC. It was well worth the Sunday early arrival.
Most of my time Tuesday and Wednesday was spent at HFTP’s Club and Hotel Controllers Conference. This is another co-located event that offers a series of finance-focused continuing education sessions. The excellent topics this year included finance recruiting, internal controls and the state of the industry from CBRE (formerly PKF).
The exhibitors at HITEC were the usual mix of perennial best-of-breed leaders in PMS and POS, next to hardware providers increasingly focused on the guest experience than on the data center. Think Alexa and Siri® duking it out to become the new voice controlled guestroom hub for energy management and in-room entertainment options. Does this spell the end of the guestroom phone?
The unfortunate side effect of vendor mergers seems to be a move toward less willingness to work toward the best interest of the customers, especially in the world of POS. In today’s era of app-driven innovation why would a best-of-breed POS still deploy a serial interface to PMS? The astonishing truth is that this POS vendor has an up-to-date, non-serial interface available, so long as you are connecting it to their PMS. Why does this type of vendor strategy still exist today?
Another area that seems to have grown in presence this year is in the guest Wi-Fi and hotel applications that leverage the movement of guests through our spaces. I wouldn’t call this new technology but the creative and easily deployable uses have brought on numerous start-ups. The ability to leverage key data about our guests real-time to improve their experience is a win-win when it also results in improved spend while in our hotels and restaurants.
Then there are the vendors that catch your eye and you must find out more. Maybe it’s a gadget in their booth. It might be a flashing sign with a great slogan. But sometimes, it is just the name of the company. My award for the most original company name must go to Dude Solutions. And when you look at the company’s offering, it won’t be hard to make the connection.
The group that met on Monday looking for a reasonably priced solution to handle budgets, forecasts and business intelligence were faced with several vendors to research based on the exhibitor list. Twenty-one vendors were listed in the Budget/Forecast category, 30 were listed under Business Intelligence/Data Warehousing and 14 vendors fell into the ERP/Accounting category.
Digging deeper, you first trim the number of vendors down by the duplicate listings in multiple categories. Then you trim the number further by removing those who’s BI offering is too tightly focused, i.e. procurement software that offer BI and analytics on your purchases.
What you are left with is a few vendors that have solutions that might be worth a deeper look. Select vendor A, only to realize to get the full benefit of the planning and analytics tool, you should also install their back-office accounting system. Select vendor B, and find yourself with a flexible tool that allows drill-down financial statements, but excludes balance sheet data. 
Where are the financial management information technology (FMIT) vendors? Finance professionals need a tool that allows use of data from PMS, POS, etc., that never makes it to the general ledger, residing alongside daily data destined for the financial statements. It should not require a complete replacement of the accounting system, nor the front-line PMS and POS. 
Maybe the simple, cost-effective solution doesn’t exist. Yet.
About The Author
Ron Strecker
Chief Financial Officer
Al J Schneider Company

Ron Strecker is a 35 year veteran of hospitality industry finance and technology.  A graduate of James Madison University, Ron spent his early years working for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts in Louisville, Dallas, Austin and Kansas City.  His career continued with assignments that included chain-affiliated, independent, urban, resort, luxury, and limited service operations.  Ron joined the Al J Schneider Company as CFO in 2007 after 10 years working for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Virginia.  He is an active member of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) and has earned their top accounting and technology certifications (CHAE, CHTP).

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