Integrating technology – the “how-to” guide

Over the last twenty-five years, our work has involved designing solutions for a myriad of operational challenges or growth opportunities. Fundamental to our methodology is ensuring we effectively analyze the nature and breadth of the challenge, develop impactful and sustaining solutions, and implement those solutions alongside our client partners to validate their effectiveness. In the first half of this series, we explored a few of the trends that have seen increasing support levels throughout the pandemic and posed some correlating considerations that should be explored. Below we will discuss how you can maximize the integration of technology or automation in your operation and uncover additional financial and service benefits to further improve its initial ROI.

Asses the current state

The installation of a new technology is only as good as its degree of adoption. For that to be successful, both executives and team members must appreciate its benefits – executives must understand its means to reducing a cost, enhancing a service, or improving employee satisfaction; while team members tend to concentrate on how it will make their assigned tasks easier, less arduous, and not as tedious, consequently enabling them to take on more engaging activities. For both groups, a burning platform must be established.

In the first article we explored technology-driven advancements such as QR-driven mobile ordering and the ability to select menu items at the same time the booking is made. At face value, equally the health & safety, planning, and efficiency improvements should jump out. But what impact will these truly have on the operational model? Answering this question quantitively is not usually a skillset that most operational leaders are commonly trained to complete, nor do they generally have the time to conduct the necessary analyses.

In all atmospheres, our technical methodology is deployed to calculate the granular aspects of each activity in a process in order to analytically generate a picture of the current state, roles, hand-offs, and layout. Using this collected data in its pieces allows for a new process to be created, leaving behind excess or unnecessary steps, or identifying an opportunity to insert value-adding tools or controls. When applied to real, forecasted, or designed volume and transaction scenarios, the impact on the operation can be modeled with specificity. What’s more, through appreciating the totality of the process, the upstream and downstream implications are equally captured in addition to the advertised benefits targeted to those at the point-of-execution. Questions such as: what the likely monetary and service impact that the technology will have on steps of service and staffing constructs, guest throughput, points for inserting additional revenue generating opportunities, or what it will mean for the amount, movement, storage, and staging of needed materials can begin to be more confidently answered.

While conducting such an analysis may seem cumbersome, when partnering with a third-party company, such as Carpedia Hospitality, this quantification and modeling is generally completed within 2-4 weeks. The resulting output enhances the decision-makers’ ability to weigh the true potency of the change before moving forward and improves the decision-makers ability to articulate what walking a mile in the shoes of a team member will be like in order to generate broad support early in the installation process.

Infuse or refuse? Design the critical path

With the magnitude of the opportunity defined, designing the roadmap for installation (i.e. priority, timelines, and stakeholders) becomes the vital next step. While tailwinds are often generated as the analysis of the opportunity is constructed, headwinds can quickly follow if this stage is taken for granted.

It is a natural affect when moving towards implementing a change that occurrences of resistance or doubt begin to transpire. While this can sometimes take place overtly, more often it manifests passively through colleagues posing a series of probing questions. For example, in the case of mobile ordering: will guests prefer traditional menus versus digital. Or in the case of prix fixe menus, how will our guests respond to limited offerings? Additionally, in the first article we explored smart-guest messaging services and guestroom occupancy sensors. Questions pertaining to the quality of the guest service, invasiveness, and privacy could equally be posed for these respective examples. While the adage, “all questions are important,” is certainly true for both technical and tactical reasons, the volume of questions is largely incongruently correlated to how well the preceding analysis was conducted and the burning platform for the change was initially conveyed.

Maintaining momentum for the change is often difficult, especially when the initiative is being led internally as competing priorities or functional responsibilities take on a greater weight with time. Partnering with a focused third-party company, like Carpedia Hospitality, can generally allay these issues; both by ensuring the development phase is expedited (typically an additional four weeks after our analysis period) and that the change is effectively infused into standard operating procedures (i.e. onboarding, training, performance management) and the organization’s management operating system (i.e. planning, executing, and reporting tools and discussions). Each component is essential for the successful adoption and sustainability of a technology-driven change.

Install & Sustain

Flicking the switch on an installation should come as the easiest and most exciting part if your due diligence phase and integration roadmap were completed properly. Yet even still, it is likely that bugs or interruptions may present themselves; derived from the technology itself or a persistent staff learning curve. Most of these occurrences will be highly manageable and temporary. It is for that reason it is important to ensure measurable performance targets have been developed along the impacted process’ path in order to identify quick wins to celebrate and personnel to recognize.

Coincidently, the very nature of installing a technology generally means easier access to data. For example, mobile ordering can provide a central platform for table management and guest flow, but also menu consumption and pricing analytics. Additionally, an automated guest messaging system could generate a real-time Pareto of guest inquiries, and occupancy sensors can offer a glimpse into guest flow and traffic. Yet, as discussed throughout, it is how you operationalize and leverage that information that generates the benefit to the business. Using the new data, coupled with existing operational information, a suite of standard reports or dashboard should be created to monitor results in-the-day, for-the-day at the department level and weekly to monthly, the further up the organization you go. In the latter case, the required results of the initiative should be tied to an anticipated improvement on your P&L or balance sheet to ensure there is accountability of the exercise.

Sustaining the initiative and finding opportunities to continuously improve will largely come through how well both positive and negative variances to the plan are reviewed and managed. Persistent negative variances could trigger an early departure from the installation. Whereas persistent positive variances may be a prelude to a forthcoming service issue or conversely, a missed opportunity to embed actual performance into your forecast. While this phase should mean a transition from a concentrated project-like focus to being part of routine behaviors, if taken for granted, left to be self-managed, or moved through too expeditiously, the full benefit of the initiative will likely be missed, and the technology left to blame. Unlike most in our industry, Carpedia Hospitality designs its projects for us to remain present for the final third of the program – working along side the stakeholders to monitor the initial results and coach on variance management.

Conclusion

In the conclusion of the first installment, it was referenced that it is not uncommon for us to find between a third and half of the total time scheduled to be lost due to interruption or excess, and a portion of that time can be recovered.  Additionally, it was noted, that while technology has advanced – both in terms of frequency of adoption and capabilities – during Carpedia Hospitality’s lifespan, the total observed opportunity level has remained similar.

Throughout this series we have reviewed just a few of the many trending examples where technology is being integrated into hospitality and discussed some of the considerations that should be taken under review. The desire, and arguably the need, for further technological adoption in our sector has never been greater than in the current state. Partnering with Carpedia Hospitality to define your needs, quantify the benefits across the organization, manage the roadmap, and coach through the installation should be considered when you are defining your anticipated ROI for a technological solution. Let’s seize these days together.

To learn more about a few of the emerging tech trends, read: Integrating emerging technology – is this the hospitality industry’s moment? or learn more about how we can help your business here.