So, just what does your IT department do?

I am not about to make a big reveal in regards to how pervasive the use of technology is within the hospitality industry. It’s an everyday reality for all of us in this modern world and is key to our operations. But, I realize that while many of us use specific technologies to support our work functions, you might not know what the overall trends and issues our hospitality IT colleagues are facing.

To help bring in focus on what the IT department is concentrating on, I am going to cover some of the themes discussed at the recent Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC). This past June, in Los Angeles was hosted the 42nd HITEC, an annual gathering of the industry’s top technology experts, vendors and practitioners alike, produced by Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP). I’ve been with HFTP since 1991, and this was my 23rd HITEC—giving me a direct view of how the industry’s technologies have evolved. Let’s see what was covered.

Data, Data, Data
We collect and record all sorts of information on about our guests now, from their demographics to their preferences to their stay patterns, and of course payment information. The focus on the IT side is how to manage it.

We need to primarily make sure this information is safe from outside parties and cyber criminals. Much of this protection is directed by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), which are mandated security guidelines given by the big credit card firms. And to support the PCI DSS and build a secure network and data storage, technologists are working together to make the information safe. Methods include encryption, redundancy prevention, and staff education and awareness.

The other big data conundrum is how to harness all this data. The buzz term is Big Data, large and complex stores of data. Well we’ve got it, but how do we use it? The practice is building as marketing teams and IT departments are organizing the information to reach the right guests with information specific to individuals. 

In-room entertainment used to be a big draw, providing guests viewing options that they might not get at home. Now guests travel with their own media; and on our end, we must offer a smooth connection, without blips. But with hundreds or more guests, plus operations support, IT strategists have long been working toward building a strong infrastructure that gives a seamless connection to laptops, tablets and smart phones. Plus, there is always the recharge stations we are installing in guest rooms to power all this the media.

With the personal media, or BYOD, comes a great opportunity to reach guests with messaging before, during and after their stay. With personal electronics in hand, hotels can directly send to guests offers, location guides and property information. This increases awareness of a hotel’s additional revenue streams and adds value to a guest’s stay by providing useful information that improves their time in your property. And, there is also the possibility of using mobile devices for direct check-in/check-out and as a key for entry into the guest room.