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Rob Jones
Written by Rob Jones
November 21, 2017

Upgrading a Technology Platform: A 4-Point Starter’s Guide

It's an exciting time to be a part of the hospitality industry. 

Innovations in how to serve guests better, in how to bridge gaps between front and back-of-house operations, and in how to connect with external applications to broaden products and services are all movements from which every brand can benefit. This is to say nothing of data, which can be gathered for greater business intelligence from so many more sources than ever before, even compared to five years ago.

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Things are moving and changing fast. For all of that speed, organizations commonly don't keep pace in support of new consumer expectations that are the primary driving force behind emerging, and increasingly essential functionality. Maybe this lack of agility is a case of conflicting priorities within organizations, a lack of specific in-house expertise, or of being tethered to legacy systems and hardware for any number of other reasons, including the classic one: fear of change. But change remains necessary. 

When you're looking to update a technology platform, what should your first steps be? Here is a 4-point guide to getting started on that important journey.

1. Perform a top-level needs assessment

When looking to completely reassess your technology platform, it's important to narrow everything down to the basics. Here's a list of questions that can serve as a useful part of an assessment that should be conceived and enacted from the top level down. 

  • How is your current technology stack falling short and how many areas of the business are affected? 
  • What are the common threads to follow that may suggest a single area of concern for the entire organization? 
  • How is the competition likely addressing these same questions? 
  • What can be observed in competitor locations that may highlight a common issue in your own? 
  • What are your competitors not doing that you could provide to guests with the right solution?

When looking to examine all this, it's important to include key decision-makers in various departments, of course. But it may also include management at the local level. In the end, a wide-angle assessment of your tech platform should be about defining what the real needs are across the board and identifying important gaps. This approach makes for an effective game plan in figuring out where to invest in new technology solutions and where to discard old ones, too. 

2. Let the need drive the buy

Deciding on investments in new technology solutions should be driven by the needs you've identified and clearly defined. Once you've got that in view, you're ready to think about where you want to concentrate your budgeting priorities. There are still important questions to ask at this stage. Here's a select few of them:

  • How does the investment in a proposed new technology solution save the organization money being lost due to the inefficiencies of an old one? 
  • How do new solutions help the organization stay competitive now, while scaling in preparation for technology trends in the future?
  • How does investment in new solutions translate into more efficient processes to make the guest experience better? 
  • How much faster would the new technology help the organization realize its long-term goals compared to what's currently in place?

Many vendors out there are showcasing the features of their products. Not all of them talk about what practical problems those products actually solve. Making that distinction, and answering these questions above accordingly helps you filter out the "shiny" so you can focus on the practical in whatever context makes the most sense for your organization.

3. Determine who the experts are

Another sea change in this era of consumer-driven and emerging technology for the hospitality industry is a greater emphasis on defining core competencies and fostering scalable partnerships with the experts outside of your organization. Knowing when you need an alliance with an expert to get your organization to where it needs to go isn't always the main issue, though. Very often, it's knowing who the real experts actually are. Here are a few ways to determine that.

  • Who is it that shows the best level of understanding and empathy in the very specific area of concern that you're seeking to address with new solutions?
  • What resources do they offer to help you make the best decision?
  • What's the buzz on them in the industry in terms of their products and services?
  • Who speaks in terms of meeting needs of yours as opposed to promoting flashy features of theirs?

These are some great places to start when it comes to narrowing down your list of potential partners.

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4. Be honest. And be brave!

When you're looking to replace legacy systems or even individual technology products in an effort to upgrade your technology platform, honesty is the best policy paired with the bravery it takes to ask the tough questions within your organization. Where do you focus your efforts? Here are some suggestions.

  • Ask your people their opinions and place value in what they're saying balanced against defined company objectives.
  • Seek out the opinions of employees who are serving your customers directly, and with whom you don't directly work. Their perspectives can shed light on your own.
  • Identify the sacred cows in your tech platform to find out why they're considered sacred. This will help you determine if they even should be. 
  • When you make contact with external technology providers, tell them the whole story. Don't downplay your organization's shortcomings.

From there, you're better positioned to begin making practical and critical decisions on which technology solutions will help to transform your company's platform in such a way as to best serve organizational goals.

Change is scary, but necessary

As mentioned at the top of this post, change is both scary and necessary. To stay competitive, and to meet the changing needs of consumers that are driving the direction of the industry now more so than ever, new technology that helps you meet industry changes head-on must always be considered. And remember: you're not alone in this. With the rate at which products are brought to market, you need allies to help you get to where you need to go.

What is the state of your current technology platform? Have you already initiated a top-down assessment? What needs have you uncovered?

We'd love to hear about them, and about what your priorities are to scale your platform to meet challenges in the near future, too.

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