What Every Hotelier Should Ask Before Buying a Property Management System? (Part 1)

“Property Management Systems are being increasingly adopted by hospitality business-owners across the world but do Hoteliers really know how to choose a PMS?”

Where does the confusion lie?  The PMS marketplace is crowded and it seems that most vendors are making similar promises, using confusingly-parallel pitches. As a business-owner, the onus is upon you to choose a technology that effectively serves your purpose which is invariably, increasing the bottom-line.

Emerging technologies in the web based hotel management niche are impressive but every product has something unique and similarly, might suffer from a cleverly-camouflaged drawback!

How can we help? It is difficult for us to pick upon each hospitality management system and review it but we can provide a road-map of sorts to help you make a well-informed decision.

The following questions should be raised by you, to your prospective vendor/operator/service-provider when analyzing any type of hospitality technology, (like Hotel Management Systems):

1. Does the PMS cater to your type of hospitality business?

A PMS should be able to handle your type of hospitality asset. For instance, it doesn’t make sense to choose a residential property-specific PMS if you are running a Spa.

Recently, there has been a barrage of segregation(s) within the PMS niche with some hospitality tech providers offering dedicated, Tenant Management Software. Some PMS solutions are retailed for rented premises only and some call themselves mixed-use property systems.

Obviously, such categorizations can be overwhelming. Highly-specialized PMS solutions create another problem—in case, you expand your business, adding another type of hospitality venture, a micro-specialist software will struggle!

This lack of adaptability means unplugging from the current PMS and buying a new software that will be inconvenient, creating unwanted time-lag and expenses. A more sensible approach lies in using a dexterous PMS solution (like Hotelogix) that is versatile and relevant for hospitality businesses of all types/budgets.

2. Is the offered technology currently operational?

If pure business diligence is used, it makes sense for you to speak with some of the existing customers of a vendor but this approach cannot be relied upon. Most vendors are not ready to share contact details of their clients or encourage discussions between existing and prospective clients. Rather than arguing this point, it is better to seek an alternativeinsight.

Many web based hotel management system providers use terms like “emerging” or “new” when defining their product. However, you need to question whether their product/service actually delivers in the real world. The more you ask about the operational aspect, the more insulated you are against future shocks, such as realizing that many fuanctionalities are redundant or useful in very rare circumstances.

If a cloud based hotel PMS system is being already used in different kind of hotels, inquire about the kind of business environment found among these clients. This is the easiest way to ascertain if the product has achieved success in a business environment similar to your type/scale of operations.

Using an emerging technology merely on the pretext that it will deliver is assuming liability for possible failures and losing business to sub-optimal performance. This doesn’t mean that every Beta version should be frowned upon. Nevertheless, buying into a pilot project isn’t the wisest of decisions unless you want to be a benefactor to ambitious entrepreneurs.

3. Is the proposed PMS cost-effective?

When analyzing cost-effectiveness of a hotel PMS system, try to think beyond the idea of how much you would be saving in terms of reduced staffing or lesser management workload. Remember to question a vendor about how much the proposed product will demand in the form of maintenance or upgrades.

Often, business owners tend to forget that all software(s) in this niche are positioned to meet the existing market challenges but all of them might not be future-ready, creating room for ridiculous upgrade costs!

Some hotel manager systems might include hidden expenditures in the form of enforced upgrades or the need to install hardware/software packages after the initial run. The fact that O&M (Operations & Maintenance) costs factor heavily into the actual ROI (Return on Investment) cannot be emphasized enough. Many hotel management solutions present a long, learning curve. This means expenses incurred in the form of product training. Even better, ask the vendor to provide some sort of pricing sheet that provides the costing break-up, inclusive of taxation, surcharges, etc.

4. Are there any operational requirements/constraints?

This question also affects the cost-effectiveness or ROI of a PMS solution for your hotel. You need to be blunt in repeatedly asking the vendor about the installation requirements—these might vary from what has been quoted on the website!

If you are on the verge of buying into a web based hotel management, it is imperative that you ask about its integration into your existing website, equipment inventory and staffing protocol. Inquire about every possible thing that looks like a cost-related, aesthetic or space deterrentbut why aesthetic compatibility?

If not chosen properly, a hotel management system can create the most unexpected of problems. For instance, the adopted technology might not be in-sync with the aesthetic sensibilities of your property. It might warrant the need to install unsightly cables/wires or may need a corner of the hotel lobby to be allocated for the server. It might create unpleasant externalities like vibration or noise that can ruin the guest experience!

 (These aren’t the only considerations for buying a Hotel Management Software. Some equally-critical questions are discussed in Part 2 of this discussion)

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