IH&RA identifies new world challenges in 2nd Annual Hospitality and Foodservice Technology Summit

Paris, 14 2002 – A Summit on Hospitality and Foodservice Technology convened by the International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA) gathered top marketing and information technology executives to discuss priorities and action steps for the coming years in response to the many events of the past year.

The full day discussion, held during HOSTEC-EURHOTEC Exhibition and Conference organised at Earl’s Court from February 4th to 8th in London, alongside Hotelympia, is the third such gathering of senior management and IT decision-makers in a series of exclusive summits. It is also the starting point for a process that should allow a healthy dialogue of issues and challenges facing the hospitality and foodservice industry to be addressed openly by those who have the greatest impact. The group collectively acknowledged the value of providing strong and consistent feedback to not only the IT community but also to the vendor community, in order to better address systems and technology issues and prepare the industry for the next wave of automation, in terms of preparatory steps that must be undertaken now to be properly positioned for the future. It also confirmed that this Summit is an exclusive platform through which the association is establishing a leadership position in articulating a collective industry response to key technology issues impacting the hospitality and foodservice sector, with the goal of heightening its understanding and preparedness for the future.

The focus of the Summit was on change; specifically how to cope in a world of uncertainty and setting up new priorities as a result of the events of the past 12 months. The group discussed the changing face of technology and the skills required to succeed in this changing environment.

The group spent a considerable amount of time discussing the need to dispel the notion of what was termed “legacy thinking,” a term used to define old-school characteristics of the industry. Instead, there is a need to shift mindsets of the business manager from the craft elements of the business and focus on key value drivers and business models that will create competitive advantage. In terms of technology, this shift is from traditional tactical approaches commonly used when evaluating IT uses and opportunities in the organization to a greater emphasis on strategic planning and enterprise change management. The group identified the managerial skill sets required to be successful in the new world of hospitality and foodservice technology which includes stronger project management and project analysis tools and a keen sense of business value and how to articulate value (namely return on investment) from .

Another issue gathering a great deal of attention was the on-going dilemma between “best of breed” solutions and the single-source vendor. Citing integration and support/maintenance issues as well as the lack of suitable comprehensive system solutions available on the market at this time, the group suggested the need for increased vendor/operator partnerships and more standards and standards enforcement.

“Selling IT to senior business management as a contributor to the top and bottom line will remain a top priority for IT executives. IT needs to be recognized by senior management as a strategic asset to the company and not only as a cost factor. Alignment of business and technology, as well as clearly defined ownership of projects, is the key to success,” noted Willi Tinner, Vice President Raffles International Hotel and Resorts and Summit participant.

Project ownership was given some serious discussion, with good dialogue concerning how successful projects involve a direct and strong partnership between the project sponsor and the IT group. The group collectively agreed the gaining not only buy-in but ownership of those strategic initiatives ensured a higher probability of acceptance and ultimately success of the project.

Another area of discussion involved the unique challenges of assimilating disparate systems into an overall technology strategy, such as those that occur as a result of mergers and acquisitions. The group acknowledged that IT can be a tremendous challenge during the integration efforts and shared some valuable personal experience on not only how to address these issues, but on how to manage the expectations.

Action items
In an attempt to maintain the momentum generated from this one-day Summit, the group made several decisions concerning next steps. These included:
– A renewed focus on using IT and the IT development process to drive business performance.
– Stronger partnering with business executives across the entire organisation.
An objective assessment of the new skills required to thrive In the new IT climate and a sharing of these results with educational institutions so that they can be addressed in the formal education process.
– A renewed effort to use the media and media sources to better communicate IT issues and overall awareness to executives in order to educate and inform.
– The development of internal IT feedback mechanisms in order to objectively renew the perception and effectiveness of the organisation, as well as to assist the determination of ways to improve the process.

“As a result of the Summit, it is apparent that the industry is at an important crossroad,” noted Daniel J. Connolly, Assistant Professor – Information Technology and Electronic Commerce, in the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver and co-moderator of the Summit with Toby W. Malbec, Managing Director, Accuvia. “The industry has grown in complexity, and we can see an apparent gap in the technology solutions (particularly in the area of integration) available today versus what hospitality companies are seeking both now and in their future with respect to their enterprise-wide initiatives. This is a serious gap that needs addressing in order for the industry to move forward on a technology front, maintain technological competitiveness with other industries, and deliver the value guests and shareholders are increasingly coming to expect.”

To fulfil the expectations of the hospitality and foodservice industry IT executives, the IH&RA has decided to extend its exclusive Technology Summit programme, and is proud to announce that future Technology Summits are scheduled in 2002. To respond to the industry needs, IH&RA will invite one major technology supplier company to present its latest innovations and share its vision regarding the development of technology with the hospitality and foodservice IT executives. Information on the dates and locations of the Technology Leaders’ Summits will be communicated in short term.