As the vice president of IT at the hotel brand Accor Asia Pacific, Paul Smith oversees the IT needs of more than 250 hotels and other properties stretching from Perth to Vanuatu and beyond.
How is IT organised at Accor?
We are responsible for all internal systems; so administration, CRM, a guest management system and so on. We are a management company, so we don’t own the properties, but as a global company we have a global technical standard for properties. And we work with system integrators to run projects with the properties, such as server and network upgrades.
What do you look for from a service provider?
The hospitality industry has its own specific requirements, so we look for providers that have that industry knowledge, which is not always easy to find. In some markets there may only be one. We also think about what they know about our customers, because at the end of the day it is all about the guest in house, and a lot of systems do touch that guest experience.
What do partners and vendors do that annoys you?
One thing that really irritates me is assuming that because they have a product, I want to buy it. And in that context occasionally we have suppliers who go direct to owners and do a sales pitch, and then the owners approach us to do an integration exercise. It is very difficult to do tailored solutions hotel by hotel, so I like vendors who will talk to me and be upfront. The other one is just not communicating enough or when they don’t see ways things can be better. And the good vendors are very free and open with their information and insights about their product and the marketplace.
There are one or two that are really good at that and always adding value, whereas some think they can sign the contract and then not turn up again until three years later when its up for renewal.
Is cloud playing a bigger role in your organisation?
We do have some solutions that sit in the cloud. And in the next two-to-three years we are going to see a significant shift in that direction. As a management company, the costs need to sit with the hotel owners, so if things are provided by a third party they are seen as transparent to them.
Do you see partners playing a bigger role in how technology is delivered?
Moving forward, the model is much more about SIs, and not only project delivery. There is an ongoing responsibility to maintain the site, either onsite or through remote access. Some of our sites are pretty remote and in Australia it is difficult to get integrators to provide universal coverage.