THE PMS CHALLENGE

Constant technological transformation has changed the business value dynamics of property management systems. CIOs and software vendors alike struggle to coax their PMSes to meet new ways of doing business while preserving existing functionality. Greater focus on the customer, relationship marketing and pervasive services are among the feeder technologies increasing the number of new business models and opportunities that must be addressed to stay competitive. Despite these technological challenges, installed PMSes continue to provide advantages through the support of business processes that have matured around the capabilities of the system.

Addressing these challenges is an umbrella concept known as services oriented architecture. In layman's terms, SOA emphasizes the ease of accessing a system's functionality in several different ways. For example, a PMS should be able to check in a guest at a kiosk the same way a front-desk clerk does. To do this, the system needs to be usable in such a way that ensures that the same functionality works in all situations. The problem is that most systems were built years ago when developers thought “inside the box,” often with little consideration for new business models.

How SOA is applied depends on the sophistication of the software and the organization. A newer PMS is likely agile enough to effectively adapt to new channels, new business models and new processes. An older one either needs somewhat complex tools to tap into existing functionality or new logic must be programmed to overcome its lack of flexibility.

In traditional software development, agile architecture is often disregarded in favor of less flexibility based on rigid coding to specific requirements. This approach is flawed in a world where support that anticipates a future need often is required. The architect is responsible for designing agility into a system so it meets today's requirements while being sufficiently flexible to address, at least in part, tomorrow's unknown needs. This method of design is commonly referred to as SOA.

The architect can be charged either with ground-up development of an SOA or with using tools to adapt existing systems to a services orientation. An example of the latter is an adapter used to access and program a legacy PMS screen, which then enables the PMS to act as an interface to another application or a communication hub such as a services bus. Typically, a modern PMS system has more discretely defined logic and adapters built into the system for the technological interfaces.

In today's fast-changing lodging field, PMS should have the tools available to upgrade to at least adapt to high-value business propositions. As for tomorrow, a PMS must be even more intrinsically agile to allow the competitive organization it serves to change sufficiently quickly to enhance the business it serves.

For more information and related articles, go to www.LHonline.com.


Criss Chrestman is director of strategic technology for Agilysys, a leading provider of enterprise-computer and hospitality-software solutions. Contact him at criss.chrestman@agilysys.com.

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