The Dominant Hotel IT Manager – Understanding the Hotel Dominion


From a single hotel to a group of hotels. How does the Hotel Dominion work? Let’s start with ownership.

There are predominantly, four different types of hotel ownership structures: Independent owner, Brand/Chain Owner, Management Company and Franchisor. I will not bore you with an explanation of each.

Types of Hotels

Over the years, the evolution of the types of hotels has grown. Hoteliers have tried to create niches in markets to capitalize on them. From luxury casino hotels to city hotels, we have seen them grow to roadside inns, resorts (Ski and Sunny), long stay hotels, short stay hotels, health conscious hotels, even themed hotels, etc. To now even home owners renting their homes out to potential guests on platforms such as AirB&B.

The evolution of hotels has been staggering. From the services provided, to the increasing level of the product, and the erection of hotels in many locations around the world as well as the add-ons to entice a potential guest.

Each having one thing in common, a room for the guest with a bed in it. But now, it has become more than just a nights sleep in a comfy bed.

The Hotel Environment

Within the hotel environment you will always have a GM, Front Desk staff at reception (though this is being gradually fazed out in some hotels with the advent of self service technology), admin staff, housekeeping, engineering, F&B staff and accounting.

In larger management companies (brands and non-brands), they are now starting to centralize their services or pool their services such as telephone support, accounting, admin services and even indeed IT. Taking advantage of cloud based services and cheaper costs.

A hotel’s on site services to guests remain the same, in some cases better but the investment in “human resources” is declining as technology is driving the direction of service and product.

Tech Strategy of Hotels

25 years ago, hotels would have been one of the places where technology would have been adopted, quickly. From Pay TV solutions, computers at front desk, server based database systems to dial up internet being available in guest rooms.

This adoption, has slightly lagged in the naughties. Where there used to be a time when a guest would say, “I wish I had that in my home”, they now want what they have in their homes. So hotels are now having to be enablers of technology to facilitate a need from their guests and also their hotel operational needs. But sometimes, they are slow in adopting or recognizing this. This could be for a number of reasons; high capital investment, competition may not have done it yet, hurting the brand experience, less foresight by owners of hotels and brands, to name a few. Most importantly, there hadn’t been a coherent strategy, just haphazard implementation of technology or if there had been, it was in name only.

In today’s day and age, hotels have put technology at the forefront of their hospitality strategy. They have realized that they cannot neglect the source of business that is derived from the use of technology and the increasing brand recognition and loyalty it allows as well as guest retention and attraction.

In an environment where hoteliers are fighting to keep guests coming in to stay at their hotels for a higher rate as possible, it would be in the hoteliers own interest not to underestimate the power of technology. This also coincides with keeping the best and smartest employees who can leverage this technology to provide a better product or service to the guest.

Now, chains and independent owners are using technology one step further to make smarter decisions by centralizing data and targeting guest behavior on social media. They are also targeting behavior within their hotels to drive revenue and sales. A tactic which supermarket brands, Las Vegas casino brands and even airlines have been doing for some time now.

The Role of a Dominant Hotel IT Manager

A Dominant Hotel IT Manager’s role is critical within the hospitality structure. Invariably, within hotels, IT either reports to the Finance Director, the Operations Manager and or directly to the owner. For a start, there are three barriers already for quick decision making. In most cases they are not given a directorship level status. Therefore putting the burden of the final decision of adopting technology on the shoulders of those that do not necessarily understand technology. This needs to change.

The Dominant Hotel IT Manager will have to make sure that they are on the executive committee at a hotel level, making or driving decisions. Reporting directly either to the GM or the owner. In the case of brands that manage hotels, they should directly be employed by the corporate IT team and not at the hotel level. In any other capacity, the Hotel IT Manager won’t be able to be dominant.

A Dominant Hotel IT Manager will understand wholly how the hotel works on a smaller scale (day to day) and on a larger scale (in relation to chains and management companies). A Dominant Hotel IT Manager will understand that it is the buy-in of the people (mainly Owners & GMs) that is needed for the success of IT endeavors. And a Dominant Hotel IT Manager will understand that communication is the key to make the hotel heed a technology strategy.

A Hotel IT Manager’s tasks can be daunting at the best of times but the Dominant Hotel IT Manager has to be a voice of concern and reason, in the case of brands and chains. In others, they have to push for dominance, beyond those who give little credence to technology. But understanding how things work, is the first way in giving the Dominant Hotel IT Manager a direction in tackling issues, challenges and projects.

The Dominant Hotel IT Manager’s role is to also marry the vision of the hotel with their own technology strategy. Understanding the type of hotel they manage and catering for that type of clientele.

If they are part of a management company that has many brands, then the Dominant Hotel IT Manager needs to marry all these strategies in isolation of brands and their standards and also in conjunction. By conjunction, I mean that this could be an opportunity to leverage one brands technology strategy and deploy it across the whole management estate. It is key, that the Dominant Hotel IT Manager engages at the front line (the hotel) and if they are part of a chain, at the corporate level too.

In which ever situation the Dominant Hotel IT Manager is in, they have to understand who has the power to make decisions, how they are made and how to influence them. This comes by understanding where hotels were, where they are now and what the setup and structure is like now. Ultimately, to understand to remove the the lengthy barriers put in place that prevent the hotel industry from from making significant strides in technology, by allowing a Dominant Hotel IT Manager to thrive.

Understanding Influence

There are different types of motivation in these different types of hotel structures. Within that, if the Hotel IT Manager has other layers of people whom the Hotel IT Manager may report to, adds additional agendas for the Hotel IT Manager to overcome. Here, Principle Five (Network of people) is very important. Understanding each persons motivation can allow a Dominant Hotel IT Manager to drive their goals through the prism of potential decision makers, with clarity and unfortunately, some subtle subterfuge.

Some types of motivation and agendas from decision makers:

  • Short Term Focus – direct reports or owners have the goal of making a targeted profit and bonus at the end of the year, so do not want to hurt the bottom line.
  • Non IT Centric Focus – direct reports and owners that don’t understand technology and see it as a wasted investment.
  • Very IT Centric Focus – direct reports and owners that want to employ every type of technology available.
  • Political In Nature – direct reports and owners that want to be the first decision makers, they are usually controlling, demeaning and one of the biggest obstacles to the success of a Hotel IT Manager.
  • Lack of funds/capital – direct reports and owners who do not manage the hotel very well and so there is never any finds available for technology. Or allocate funds for other areas they deem much more important.
  • Resistant To Change – direct reports and owners who live in the past glories and or are afraid to take risks.
  • Data, Data, Data – some just require an inordinate amount of quantitative analysis beyond the scope of what can be provided.

Whatever the motivation, it is important to remember Principle One – Divine Rule, Principle Four – Institutional Department and Principle Five – Network of People from the ten plus one principles for dominance. These principles, if applied with various decision makers, will yield results. How a Dominant Hotel IT Manager applies them will of course be with their own judgment.

I’d like to share how I overcame the motivation of a Direct Report, using the principles given in the above paragraph, who was, “Political In Nature”. This person never adopted an idea or an endeavor if it wasn’t their own.

I came across a piece of technology that gave advantages the first principle outlined. I took principle four and created an analysis to see if it would be a sound investment and if there’d be a return. And then I took Principle Five and became creative with it. I gave my direct report’s contact details to the vendor, who had been engaging with me and answering many of my difficult questions. Questions that my direct report would ask as well. I asked the vendor to cold call my direct report. I gave his name to the vendor, along with other key points of information that I knew would gain my reports attention and asked him to engage with him and lead the discussion by stating, “I understand that you are the IT Decision maker within the hotel…” Obviously, this was no guarantee that my direct report would entertain the solution, but as I came to understand my direct report, I understood their motivation. I knew that my direct report would ask me to carry out the feasibility study and the ROI, etc. And indeed they did. I was ready with all that they wanted, I used my direct report’s motivation to my advantage and they became a promoter of the technology to employ within the hotel. And the rest is history.

People with different motivations can be hindrances, as was the case above. A hotel does not want the Hotel IT Manager to be spending time navigating the nuances of hierarchical politics. However, there will be many situations where these hindrances will manifest as human beings are fraught with differing motivations. It is up to the Dominant Hotel IT Manager to remove and overcome these obstacles and for those hoteliers reading this, to understand that credence needs to be given to the role of the Hotel IT Manager, without interceding barriers.

In Conclusion

Understanding the above is a good start to try and identify a Dominant Hotel IT Manager’s strategy of how they will work and where their obstacles lie.

A Hotel IT Manager will always have to answer to someone, seek permission from someone or adopt the mission and goal from someone. Therefore, it is very important to understand how the structure works to be a Dominant Hotel IT Manager.

Understanding the current setup and the evolution of the hotel dominion, should stand the Dominant Hotel IT Manager in good stead to ride any wave. For after all, technology in itself is ever evolving as is the needs of the people. That should never detract the Dominant Hotel IT Manager from being dominant. Most importantly, it is to understand that technology encompasses all aspects of the hotel dominion and it’s success is fundamental to technology now, more than ever before.

Next Week – The IT Customers who Dominate | © 2019

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