This year’s Oracle Industry Connect Conference (ICC) in Washington, D.C., was especially notable as the first ICC to have a hospitality presence. In June 2014, Oracle, the San Francisco-based technology company, announced that it was purchasing hospitality-focused tech business Micros for $5.4 billion. Micros’ technology is frequently deployed to hotels and restaurants; Oracle, meanwhile, is known for its database management systems and other cloud-based products.
The deal, which was finalized the following September, announced Oracle’s foray into the hospitality sector. In February, the company launched Oracle Hospitality Global Business Unit to accelerate development of cloud, mobile, and guest experience technology. At the conference, Oracle unveiled its new workstations for hotels and restaurants.
The Micros acquisition, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd said, has been “great,” especially since Oracle has been able to retain almost all of Micros’ key management team. An acquisition like this, he continued, is about “three key things:” strategy, integration and people. By keeping Micros together as a GPU, Oracle maintained the successful hospitality company’s organizational and operative models intact.
Oracle also recruited some strong names for its hospitality team from top tech companies, including former Worldwide Retail Industry Leader for IBM Global Business Services Jill Puleri as SVP and GM for Oracle Retail, Dale Grant and Ray Carlin as SVPs of global hospitality, food and beverage.
Carlin, who began his new role in September, was attracted to Oracle by the opportunity, which he saw as a “once-in-a-career” chance. Previously, he was with Hewlett-Packard as Vice President & General Manager, Retail Solutions Global Business Unit.
The benefits the cloud can offer the hospitality industry, Carlin said, can be found in its agility. “If you look at from both an IT and a business perspective, the cloud will offer the hospitality operator a lot more flexibility and speed of implementation,” he said. “Some people like to talk about the lower cost of the cloud, and that's true especially from a whole customer relationship, [but] there's another big advantage of how rapidly technology can be deployed. With the cloud-based solution, you have new functions, and features—for example, a large hospitality operator can be challenged by how they're going to deploy that across their estate. By using cloud and the nature of technology, they're able to provision changes of dates through that software a lot faster.” As cloud technology becomes more pervasive across different facets of hotels, from front desk to F&B to housekeeping, Carlin expects that the functionality will make the operator “a lot more responsive.”
Oracle, Carlin continued, is making “major investments” to make its cloud-enabled apps and systems available across the boards. “I think you're going to see this movement where it's Cloud becoming even more prevalent than you see it today,” he said, noting that with mobile devices like smartphones and tablets becoming ubiquitous in hotels, Cloud-enabled technology will become a “traditional” point of sale.
One of the big advantages of cloud technology, Carlin added, is the ability for the operator to be better able to deal with customers at different points across a property. “If you look at how the systems have been deployed historically, they're tending to be singular-premise oriented,” he noted. Already, the cloud is helping chains and brands improve service as guests stay in different hotels across the portfolio.
“Many hospitality operators are experimenting with mobile technology in many different ways,” Carlin continued, “and I think that will continue to gain momentum.” What all of these initiatives ultimately mean, he added, is “using technology to better advance the guest experience” and keep guests coming back. For example, using a tablet or smartphone while away from a counter, a front-desk agent can greet a guest by name and make sure the room is ready and outfitted with any requested amenities. “It provides more freedom in terms of it providing any experience with the guest,” Carlin emphasized. “It's going to allow the operator to be more flexible on how they use technology and how they serve.”
The time is right for a new rollout, Carlin said. While older generations may feel intimidated by the new technology, the newest members of the workforce have used smartphones and tablets for the better part of a decade and are familiar with a wide range of functionalities. “They've been brought up on smartphones and tablets and they expect that to be part of the experience,” Carlin said, noting that the new workstation operates much like a tablet even though it can become a more traditional point-of-sale terminal. “Technology has become standard in peoples lives,” he added. “We're used to that technology, so I think it's incumbent upon the supplier community like Oracle, and the operators themselves, to give people the tools that they're most familiar with. it makes training a lot easier, because people are more accustomed to the technology. I think this is a trend that actually promotes the ease of the use of technology because the workforce is almost pre-trained.”