It’s a new era of innovation.
Highlighted by far-ranging discussions – from Oracle’s open APIs to Edwardian Hotels’ do-everything virtual host, “Edward” – the opening day of Oracle Hospitality Connect in Lisbon, Portugal, revolved around a single theme: Using technology to better cater to guests’ ever-evolving needs.
Oracle Hospitality’s first customer conference assembled some of the region’s premier hoteliers, Oracle executives, product experts and partners to explore technology’s role in enhancing the guest experience. The event also signaled a maturation of Oracle’s merger with MICROS, underscoring a shift from enduring growing pains to emerging as a customer-focused, global business unit with clear goals to help hoteliers:
“We will be customer focused. We will be easier to work with. We will make things simpler. That’s the goal of this organization,” said Greg Webb, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle Hospitality.
Such clarity of mission is evident in the latest version of OPERA Cloud, which also was unveiled at OH Connect. OPERA has long been the preferred hotel management platform for thousands of hotels from the world’s most recognizable brands to independent properties. Now, OPERA Cloud brings the same comprehensive features to a cloud-based, mobile-enabled platform.
In addition, OPERA Cloud offers open APIs enabling faster and easier integration with third-party providers that hoteliers can leverage to deliver unparalleled guest stays. The new solution, which includes a completely redesigned user interface and deeper customer insights, enables hotel staff to focus on better connecting with guests and delivering personalized experiences.
Such enhancements are exactly what technology needs to deliver. According to Michael Mrini – director of information technology for the Edwardian Group, who served as a OH Connect presenter – technology needs to “empower our hosts to be hosts, rather than administrators.”
During his presentation on digital transformation, Mrini shared Edwardian Hotels story of developing 30 employee mobile apps to help staff better serve guests, including a housekeeping app that prioritizes room-cleaning assignments. And one of its initiatives that enabled guests to check in online via simple SMS texts evolved into Edward, the hotelier’s enormously popular virtual host, which can help guests with almost any request, from room-service ordering to finding the nearest florist. To date, Edward has helped 28,525 guests from 99 countries in 59 languages. According to Mrini, guests don’t want to wait in line or click through a website to get service. “They just want to say, ‘Do it for me,’ ” he said.
In a captivating panel discussion about the impact of emerging technologies and balancing technology with human interaction, other leading hoteliers weighed in with their perspectives.
Sanjay Sharma, head of IT at Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, talked about the importance of giving guests control of their stay and providing them the technologies they’ve come to expect. “What they experience in the living room, they should experience in the hotel room,” Sharma said, offering voice-activated devices as an example. He also stressed the importance of being able to discern the many personas of an individual guest: “Who you are depends on which day of the week it is. We can be a completely different persona, and artificial intelligence will help us understand this context.”
For hoteliers, accelerating innovation means moving to the cloud. But it’s a journey filled with many questions: What’s the criteria? What are the benefits? How do you plan for it? Top hotel executives such as as Karin Boraston, vice president, Hotel Center of Excellence, Scandic, served as a panelist and shared her experience. She urged attendees to fully capitalize on cloud’s power of delivering quicker upgrades and newer functionality by thoroughly reviewing existing processes and eliminating what’s not working before transitioning to the cloud. “Don’t take the old stuff into a new system,” she said. Reducing IT complexity on property and enhancing security were other key drivers for embracing cloud, she added.
OH Connect also provided attendees with insights into Oracle Hospitality’s product development strategy for hotel and food and beverage operations. Such efforts include even better synergy between OPERA Cloud and Simphony Cloud, a global platform capable of delivering personalized guest experiences across the entire restaurant industry.
Both platforms are committed to Oracle’s new strategy of being “open for innovation” and facilitating integration with best-of-breed solution providers to enhance what Oracle doesn’t “build out of the box.”
Said Webb: “Our mission is to deliver platforms that enable innovation. That’s the reason why we opened up the platform. We know we can’t do everything.”