1. What is the future of business intelligence?

In the beginning, there were enterprise forecasting systems that only saw internal "unconstrained" demand and suggested inventory and length of stay controls. In the '90s, online distribution changed the game. Competitive rate shop tools soon followed, then forecasting models started to take into account competitor price position with "limited" price optimization guidance. Today there is market demand based pricing...and the influences of social media, traditional org charts and customer relationship marketing systems.

In the near future, the semantic web and intelligent web will change distribution strategy once again by focusing and filtering information presented to consumers based on individual preferences, requiring hotels to personalize their service and product offerings similar to the individualization of applications for handheld devices today. And that will only address certain portions of transient business.

What will be the next tool in a revenue manager's business intelligence arsenal? Some might say (or want) a PMS, CRS, RM and social media solution that integrates consumer behavior, distribution strategy and marketing strategy with demand-based pricing by distribution channel with willingness to buy quotients. Too much to ask? Add to that a predictive labor forecast and expense modeling system to adjust strategy for optimum GOPPAR and we might really be on to something.

2. Why does the revenue manager exist?

As the practice of revenue management has evolved in the hospitality industry and as technology has become integral to the discipline, the revenue manager can no longer simply be the person that collects data and implements rate changes. Revenue managers must have a more strategic focus, gaining support of other key executives in their hotels and setting direction. This requires the skills to influence other decision makers in addition to the subject matter expertise.

The ability to set direction and influence others is not guaranteed by education or experience credentials or technology or reports alone. It comes from the revenue manager being able to use their expertise and insights to develop and communicate sound strategies that put the hotel in position to achieve its revenue and profit potential.

The best place for this to begin is in your revenue meeting. The revenue manager must take ownership of this meeting, using the technology, tools and information at their disposal to clearly outline a recommended strategy in a way that is accepted by the general manager, director of sales and marketing, and other key executives. The technology can help you identify opportunities, strategy implications, and expected outcomes, but only a human, with well developed skills and expertise, can build consensus and influence others.

3. Who are your true competitors?

In the best-seller Blue Ocean Strategy, the authors provide several examples of companies that have sought after and capitalized on an uncontested market space. Unless you are fortunate enough to be a stakeholder in a lodging operation that offers such a differentiated experience that your competition is rendered irrelevant, it is likely that you are competing head-on with others that are reasonable substitutes in terms of service offerings and amenities. Not have price as one dimension but think of product type and quality, etc.

The trick then becomes how to best identify your true competitors. Often pro formas are created by developers as part of the underwriting process to help secure funding for a project. Contained within most pro formas are a list of "competitors" (often aspirational in nature), against which financial performance of the asset is then measured. The trouble is, those involved in the underwriting process are not typically the ones running the operation once it opens, but that original competitive set needs to be monitored for obvious reasons.

From an operator's perspective, other competitors also need to be considered, as a practical means to ensure that the day-to-day tactical decisions are supporting the goals of the business. Given the complexity of the distribution landscape today, combined with seasonality and shifts in market segmentation, it stands to reason that monitoring the performance amongst a "fixed" set of competitors is not sufficient - nor is it wise.

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