From an industry perspective, the next chapter of hospitality accounting will be all about the three “A’s”: apps, automation and analytics. Faced with greater demands in 2019, hoteliers will be forced to find new forms of automation to speed up financial processes and improve visibility on the backend, while enticing guests to utilize mobile apps through enhanced personalization on the frontend.
Here are three predictions that will impact hospitality accounting industry in 2019:
Over the last decade, the hospitality industry has developed a fixation on mobile technology that has revolutionized hotel management. In the next phase, this trend will continue with full force—and any service that is currently delivered using pen and paper will eventually make the shift to mobile. Hoteliers are already using their mobile apps for real-time data analysis, allowing them to make informed decisions whether they are on property, near their work areas, in the field or on the fly. It is this flexibility in a fast-paced environment that today’s hotelier needs to maintain a competitive edge in a world where access to data should be easier than ever before.
While there has been significant introductions with regard to guest-facing apps, and apps focused exclusively to enhance the guest experience, the untold value in mobile apps, for the operator, is behind the curtain. Mobile app reporting not only streamlines efficiencies and allows easier access to data, it also allows today’s hotelier to be more agile. GMs and other personnel can be on the go and still have KPIs, productivity data and real-time stats in the palm of their hand. This allows them more time to do what they do best: interact with and enhance the guest experience by being more available and more attentive on the floor. Removing the chains and restrictions of the desktop and expediting report compilation, hoteliers can truly begin to refocus on delivering the best experience possible without worrying about becoming mired in the weeds of business ineffeciencies. Predictive analytics and forecasting tools will continue to allow management teams to better anticipate and adjust decisions to meet future guest needs without sacrificing bottom-line results. Imagine knowing your current labor costs for the week and the forecasted demand for the remainder of the week based on planned volume of rooms, all while ensuring you are meeting targeted GOP. Ultimately, the end game for hoteliers is data management. Good data supports good management. As more guests tap into hotel apps on the front end, hoteliers can track, analyze and adjust their offerings on the backend to meet guests’ needs, all while supporting a business synergy and strategy that makes sense.
Rising demands from guests will require hotels to be more responsive than ever. To keep up with the pace, managers will need to access an array of critical information on-the-fly, from in-house guest preferences to upcoming reservations, restaurant volumes, spa bookings and so forth—with automatic alerts set up that notify staff members when there’s a deviation from the plan related to forecasts or scheduling changes.
Increased automation will remove manual workloads and streamline processes. Putting the right industry-specific accounting software in place will be a game-changer for hotels looking to pinpoint inefficiencies and significantly reduce expenses across property lines. For example, adopting an operations management platform with “touchless” A/P processing technology will enable hoteliers of the future to import entire invoices and journal entries from multiple properties into the same place at once, providing seamless, on-demand access to critical accounting and performance insight. At M3, we are rolling out a new electronic imaging process that relies on Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to extract key data from imported documents and eliminate the need for manual input. As a result, our users will be able to rely on automated invoice processing to enter the data itself, not merely the image, into M3’s Accounting Core system. This “touchless” automation will improve hoteliers’ lives in 2019 by significantly speeding up A/P workflow and offering greater flexibility in the back-office.
M3 continues to focus on automation for our end users and has invested in a newly created Integrations Team. This team will focus on streamlining the user experience between applications critical to the accounting, labor management and business intelligence functions. By combining varied data sources into one centralized location, or data warehouse, an API-powered data system will provide a holistic snapshot of entire portfolio raw data into a user-friendly format with gauges, dashboards, trendlines and more to equip hoteliers with the answers they need to impact bottom-lines.
The phenomenon of “big data” has infiltrated the professional world, spanning industries and transforming all facets of business, from accounting and operations management to marketing and business development. No longer bogged down by paper and binders, today’s hoteliers can access numerous data sets at every turn, from STR reports to PMS documents and guest satisfaction surveys. During the next wave of hospitality technology, more and more hoteliers will recognize the power of analytics and adapt their strategy accordingly. Smart operators will seek out the most versatile technology on the market to collect and store information through data warehousing, which enhances data mining, analytics reporting, decision support and business forecasting. These capabilities will result in increased efficiencies, reduction of expenses and improvement of overall performance and profitability.
Over the next five years, the advantages of having a big data strategy will be infinite. Hoteliers who decide to apply big data in a meaningful way will reap the rewards in every facet of their business, from sales and marketing to guest satisfaction. On a micro level, big data will help property managers faced with countless day-to-day decisions make more informed choices on the floor, from keeping track of labor expenses to assessing the cost of a new light fixture. Using consistent data monitoring and evaluation, hotel teams will be able to deliver a higher level of service while making informed strides every day. On a macro level, corporate and regional managers will have the extended oversight necessary to ensure the right decisions are made at every level of the company from the ground-up.
Technology and Labor
Entering the new year, I believe data warehousing and API data exchange between solutions will reap the most meaningful impact for owners and operators in the industry, which places it high on M3’s list for 2019. In addition, I predict that finding and retaining labor will continue to be a hotelier’s scarcest resource in the new year. Hotels have already begun replacing front-desk employees with apps, robots and automated kiosks. As a result, finding high-quality labor (at a reasonable cost) is no easy task. Effective labor management technology can help proactively notify management when there’s an issue and eliminate overtime before it happens to ensure that guest satisfaction remains high while balancing profitability. Mobile and dashboard data related to key functions that consume labor will become the GM’s best friend.
And finally—partnering with a hotel-specific provider will continue to be invaluable for hoteliers to speed up their internal processes, minimize investment, reduce errors, and increase overall performance to make more informed decisions on the horizon. As we continue to live in an increasingly customized world, hoteliers will seek targeted accounting tech partners to replace one-size-fits-all solutions.