April 11, 2005

Imitating technology not always the best idea

hr.jpegOften secondary are decisions based on whether the technology is a strong fit for the company, its workers and its goals, says the report by The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell Universitys School of Hotel Administration.

Playing Copycat With Information Technology

Playing Copycat With Information Technology
4/11/2005
By Allan Richter

ITHACA, N.Y. Just about every major lodging company is putting its spin on comfort, introducing or refining guestroom bedding. Similarly, it appears before long bathrooms in every major hotel chain will feature a curved shower rod that gives guests an extra half foot of elbow room when standing in the middle of the tub.

The copycat mindset also seems to apply to how hotels use information systems, or information technology, the technical backbone of most businesses and organizations. A new report says hotel operators too often roll out technology systems self-serve check-in kiosks might be taking this route because they seem to be getting more popular.

Often secondary are decisions based on whether the technology is a strong fit for the company, its workers and its goals, says the report by The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell Universitys School of Hotel Administration.

Being driven by a best-practice model of IT investment, where one benchmarks ones organization against the performance of competitors, is a risky strategy, the report said.

One model the report analyzed a socio-technical model of information systems challenges business leaders to analyze how IT that is successfully used by their competitors would fit into their companys context. Does the IT in question suit the individuals, processes, and structures of their firm? If not, one must question whether it is a wise strategy to make changes to the firms operations and personnel to fit with the IT.

The reports authors blamed heavy media coverage, vendor pressure and a lack of solid models for quashing independent thinking. The results are wasted resources, the report said, citing a perilous mindsetone that is focused on investing the next innovation without a thorough analysis of the implications that such a purchase will have on company performance.

The report, IS Design: A Systematic Way to Analyze IT in Your Business, calls for hospitality managers to think about how they need to design their technology infrastructure before thinking about their capital investment.

Too often system-selection considerations focus on system functionality, the reports authors said. We argue that just as much time should be spent considering the best way to accomplish those functional goals. Rather than look only at the systems capability, managers should step back and examine how the work should be done.

The report gave high marks to Harrahs Entertainment for tailoring an information systems foundation to its needs, rather than copying industry trends. The Cornell reports authors noted they were surprised that Harrahs, in reworking its business systems, found that its best customers were not high rollers. Harrahs then found ways to encourage those customers to become even more loyal.

What makes Harrahs case so compelling is that the firm has created a system specific to its needs based on an understanding of the context in which it operates and an informed sense of available IT functionality, the Cornell report said.

The report was written by Cornell Professors Erica L. Wagner and Gabriele Piccoli with Sharon Louthen, a Cornell Hotel School BA candidate.

The key insight here is to trust your internal expertise and dont always look to keep up with the Joneses, they wrote.

Allan Richter is editor in chief of Hotel Interactive and Hospitality Insider.

Posted by keefner at April 11, 2005 02:16 PM