Albert Einstein once said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." While that revelation may not be new, it certainly applies to hospitality's current data landscape, now more than ever before.
Why? Because the hospitality sector is awash with data, and with powerful, complex data sitting within reach, it's hard to know what to identify, what to simplify, and what to apply. With modern day business intelligence (BI) software, every customers behaviour can be constantly recorded, but how can you analyse, act, and add value to your service offering by understanding it well enough?
So, the question is, which data really matters – and how should you act upon it?
Firstly, you need to be able to review data and make decisions as quickly and as simply as possible. In fact, companies using data analytics are considered 5 times more likely to make fast decisions. The days of using spreadsheets should be long gone, now that we have dashboards, specific visualizations, and responsive design; multi-faceted tools which allow decisions to be made regarding the data that is collected—from anywhere, anytime.
But is this really the reality?
Huge volumes, of often relatively low transaction values create large databases which take valuable time, effort and money to manage, this causes IT teams to grow and costs to escalate.
Management of these databases is vital to ensure no interruption of trade, but often the solution to maintaining performance is regular purging of the database. Data is either hived off elsewhere and is no longer readily available or in the worst case simply deleted, never to be available again.
Many software systems drive this explosion in data volumes, whilst epos is probably the main culprit, other systems such as time and attendance, ordering, stock take, loyalty, payroll, reservations, membership, property management, ecommerce, financial systems and social media are all contributing to it.
The problems are further complicated by the fact that a lot of organisations select best of breed solutions to ensure the closest possible fit to their business needs, usually resulting in systems being distributed across multiple servers, sometimes in different locations and in completely different databases.
But what are the challenges caused by these disparate systems and the vast amount of data that they create?
In our experience of working with many hospitality organisations, they really come down to the following things:
One version of the truth
This is the holy grail of what the business is aiming to achieve, a suite of reports which are accurate and up to date - no matter who runs them or when they are run.
These reports are critical for timely and informed decision making.
In many organisations, managers spend time extracting data from different systems, loading it into Excel, manipulating it and then creating the necessary reports. In the best case this might take only a few hours a week but in the worst case it can take a few days - and often more than one person’s time.
This is a waste of time and resource when systems can do this work automatically and more regularly. Managers can be freed up to spend their time understanding and using the information rather than creating it.
No matter how good the information is, managers will always come back with more questions, either to the finance department or IT. Given the workloads of these departments, it’s often impossible for them to respond to the volume of requests within the required timeframe such that when they do respond, the managers’ need has gone away and they have moved on to another issue.
Managers need a self-service capability; the ability to answer their own questions. This capability needs to be controlled and managed so that obscure and incorrect conclusions are not drawn.
Reports regularly need information drawn from multiple systems, for example, stock and ordering data combined with sales data, or property management and payroll combined with financial management.
Doing this manually is a time consuming and laborious task. In fact, it is so resource intensive that regardless of the benefits it might bring, it’s either never carried out or only very rarely. This means companies miss out on these additional insights that could be helping them to improve performance.
Gaining access to important data held in line of business solutions is of paramount importance and a common mistake made by organisations, is that they often oversimplify the complexity of what’s actually involved to gain access to the right data.
This coupled with the disruptive affect that technology is having on business models and customer engagement, means that connecting systems becomes increasingly, more important. Customers are now booking online or through apps. Payments are done through the tap of a smartphone. It can be a challenge to assess what technology to invest in. What are the choices? From payment systems, online booking systems, CRM to digital marketing, what is crucial?
So back to the question, which data really matters?
Here at Tahola we do not align ourselves to one single BI platform or complimentary solution, but instead, to ensure that we provide the right solution to our customers, we have chosen to work with industry leading, world class solution vendors. Instead of taking a 'one size fits all' approach as some organisations do, we offer a variety of platforms to meet the differing and challenging needs of our customers. All of which are designed with one aim in mind, to identify which data really matters to them, working in partnership we maximise the use of their data to gain greater insights, that will in turn support their business growth.
If you would like to understand more about which of your data really matters to you and what you should be doing to act upon it, please contact us: