Taking Inventory of your Analytics
We at IBS Software spend a great deal of time speaking with our hotel partners about their needs. We help them with distribution, marketing, operations - all critical areas of their business. A common thread that runs through many of these conversations is that the various departments often feel they don't have the visibility they need, to do their jobs as effectively as they would like. Hotel operations are awash in data and daily reports. They are inundated with new tools for collecting data and new platforms to present the data. Most of them present data after the fact, when it's too late to positively impact the business. One of our partners' digital marketing team has 20 different applications that provide reports daily. Since each is just a slice of the bigger picture, they have to load each into a consolidated executive dashboard. The last thing the hospitality industry needs is another report that requires manual manipulation, especially when organizations are having fewer resources to consume such reports due to staff reductions.
Given the rapid growth of tools to report operational data, what we hear our partners saying, very clearly, is that now is the time for hospitality organizations to stop and assess what data they have, what resources they have, and what should be learned from these informational assets. It's time to inventory what intelligence they really need, and then determine how to source and organize the required components. It is important to provide reporting on what happened as well as on what is currently happening.
Wouldn't it be great if there were tools that truly allowed you to see real-time results so you could gauge yourself against your competition? No more after-the-fact "looking in the rearview mirror", but live data points that could help you make decisions that positively impact business performance. In today's world, data points that allow you to pivot based on how a partner is consuming and or re-distributing your availability, rates, and inventory is critical. If you had a rate increase or a closeout that occurred 4 hours ago and the partner you distributed still hasn't made that change, wouldn't you want to know that? And more importantly, wouldn't it help to understand why that is occurring? Even more importantly, what about filling in the missing, critical data points that drive your marketing success?
It is important to define the goals of the analytics strategy as well as the components that support those goals. Daniel Miessler, a data security specialist, defined the hierarchy of analytic impressions in this way: "Data are individual observations. Information is a useful collection of data. Intelligence combines information to form a predictive narrative that enables better decision-making."1 First, a hotel has to define what it wants to learn from the observation of data. What is the intelligence the hotel wants to improve on with time? Next, they need to identify the information that needs to be delivered on a continuous basis in order to support the "predictive narrative". And finally, what is the data that delivers the information that forms the basis for learning. Does the hotel have access to this data and if not can it be obtained from any other source?
This is where the inventory of your analytics becomes really important. First ask the question: "What do I need to know in order to do my job or do it better?". This is the basis for identifying the intelligence the department or function within the hospitality organization needs to develop over time. One critical thing to realize is that, just like any other type of intelligence, business intelligence is a continuum. There is no maximum or minimum level. It can always be improved upon with attention, effort, and access to the right information. These are the discussions we are continually having with our partners.
That brings us to the second part of inventorying your analytic stack. What information do you have access to? In order to be more intelligent about the way you're doing business, you need to know you are receiving the right kinds of high-quality information. Information should be all those organized reports that are the basis of decision making from day-to-day, quarter-to-quarter, and year-to-year. To give an example of this hierarchy, let's say a hotel in Mexico wanted to know where, geographically, their guests are coming from. This seems like a simple task. The PMS would have mailing address details for all guests, right? Well, not if the hotel's rooms are primarily booked by group arrangers and tour operators. If 50% of the hotel is filled nightly with names from a rooming list that is all a repeat of the group organizers' or the tour operator's mailing address, instead of those of the guests' origin, then the picture or geographic diversity of the property is incomplete. This may be a data problem (there is no way to get the correct addresses) or it may be an information problem (the addresses are somewhere but the hotel has not yet accessed them).
It is important to identify the information that you need to support the development of intelligence. It is equally important to identify the data that you need to support the information that is gathered. What are the sources of data that a hospitality organization can tap into? The industry has made great strides in creating better tools for collecting and curating data from within the hotel's four walls. It's much more common in recent years to find a hotel company with a sophisticated data lake or using Big Data platforms like Hadoop than it was 5 or even 3 years ago. What's largely missing from most of the initiatives we have seen our partners implement, are "external" data sources. The information delivered is only as good as the data that underlies it. The sources for creating an inventory for data available would include OTAs, partners like IBS Software who can provide valuable insights into real-time search and conversion data across channels, and external sources like DMPs (organizations that "sell" customer data and digital analytics).
The first step to removing the blinders that most hotels have at the start of the exercise is to catalog
a) The areas where your organization continually needs to build intelligence
b) The reports and reporting capabilities that you need to support this learning
c) The data that needs to feed this information
Using this hierarchy provides a framework for talking about needs that is easy to understand and applicable to all situations and departments. It is important in this process to recognize that through no one's fault, often just organic growth of reporting capabilities, there may be information silos that different departments were not even aware had existed. That's why when developing this analytic inventory, all departments should share their requirements for data and be open to supporting each other.
About the Author
Sheri Rogers, Head of Account Management, iHospitality, IBS Software
Sheri Rogers is a hospitality veteran with 28 years of experience including Sales, Marketing, Revenue Management, and Distribution. Sheri is currently the Head of Account Management, for the Hospitality group of IBS Software. She has established a global footprint for emerging distribution technologies by leveraging innovation with operational efficiencies that grow business partnerships.
Prior to IBS Software, she developed her experience and knowledge through a wide range of positions from entry level to Senior Leadership with Radisson Hotels, Pegasus, Wyndham Hotels, Doubletree, Aramark Parks & Resorts and Best Western Hotels & Resorts.
When Sheri isn't busy traveling across the globe, she enjoys spending time with her family and focusing on her photography.