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How Mobile Hotel Solutions are Transforming the Back-Office

By Scott Watson Chief Sales & Marketing

The hospitality industry's integration of mobile technology into hotels is undeniable. Over the last decade, mobile technology has become a necessity in managing guest stays and offering convenient access to guest services, such as making room reservations, placing room service orders and accessing online entertainment.

While guest-facing technology is now commonplace in most hotels, back-office technology has made tremendous strides in recent years to save hoteliers time and money by providing access to financial data in the palm of their hand, allowing them to leave their desks and spend more time serving guests.

Back-office mobile solutions are transforming the way companies manage property portfolios and day-to-day operations, especially when it comes to labor management and business intelligence. Labor has, and will always be, an innkeeper's greatest expense. Fortunately, emerging mobile technology offers hotel back-offices an easier solution to organizing, monitoring and analyzing their labor expenses.

Mobile business intelligence solutions are also rapidly growing in popularity, as operators are relying more heavily than before on data sourced from hundreds of inputs to monitor and manage the financial health of their properties. In an already fast-paced business, mobile back-office solutions are helping managers remain informed and one step ahead in a constantly changing industry.

Day-to-Day Convenience

Real-time access to financial and labor management data is essential to any successful back-office mobile solution. General managers and upper-level staff must be able to monitor financial and labor expenses remotely, especially while they are balancing more tasks with less staff amid COVID-19. Back-office mobile solutions help GMs spend less time at their desks and more time managing their properties and engaging with guests and staff.

As previous revenue, occupancy and labor forecasts become increasingly unreliable because of the pandemic, hotel operators across the globe have been forced revaluate how they approach forecasting to account for a faster, more immediate method of projecting costs to better adapt to changing labor and revenue demands. Forecasting on the fly has become the new normal, and powerful, mobile business intelligence solutions are helping hoteliers remain agile in a tumultuous time for the industry.

Mobile solutions that utilize business intelligence are powerful tools to have at your side when making quick decisions, as they offer organized financial dashboards that automatically analyze and deliver large data sets, enabling the ability to make informed business decisions quickly, in real time. With hotel managers juggling more responsibilities with less staff, having dedicated BI tools ready at a moment's notice is a major advantage.

While aggregating so much information has been a historically difficult task, many hotel technology providers offer mobile extensions to their powerful data presentation and management solutions that enable managers to leave their desktops and view key business data remotely. From monitoring and auditing staff KPIs daily to gaining real-time insight into future occupancy levels, hoteliers have access to all of their hotels' financial and labor data, right in the palm of their hand.

Labor Management + Staff Communication

So much of the world's workforce has been disrupted, and the hotel industry is certainly no exception. From accountants and human resources to portfolio managers and owners, people are working from a variety of remote locations using a wide range of different technologies. As a result, communication is a major obstacle to be overcome in the hotel industry in 2021. Fortunately, mobile solutions are making employee and team workflows much smoother by enabling versatility and introducing standard communication systems for centralizing and disseminating information quickly across large teams.

Hoteliers need dynamic, back-office solutions that allow them to act on and engage directly with the information at hand. Being able to view and share data is only the first step. Back-office managers must be able to edit data reports and add commentary where needed so that everyone with access to the report is able to view the most up-to-date version. Editing and commentary capabilities are key to saving time for managers who need to view, consider and approve things quickly.

Mobile technology applications (or mobile apps) are also in a prime position to augment other key labor management elements of a hotel back-office's functions, from scanning paychecks and documents to managing labor schedules. For example, mobile apps can automate and manage employee timesheet inputs, eliminating the need for manual punch clocks and ultimately saving time for employees and management. Biometric sensor technology is already commonplace in most contemporary mobile devices.

Paired with a comprehensive passcode system, biometric sensor technology can be easily applied to back-office technology to ensure reliable and protected labor management data. If hoteliers can automate and secure the deployment of these solutions with AI or location services, they can easily manage their employees and drive financial performance while freeing overhead costs.

Before the emergence of cloud-based technology, hotel proprietors relied heavily on IT hardware infrastructures. Today, they can enjoy the best of both worlds while not having to invest and install complex hardware systems thanks to the modern-day progression of mobile software. Property owners stand to save on additional hardware costs as most mobile solutions can be accessed directly through an employee's personal mobile device, cutting out the need for purchasing dedicated mobile devices for staff members.

Economizing User Experience

User design is a significant aspect of developing a successful mobile solution. How many times have you downloaded a new mobile app only to find that the system is hard to work with or even counterproductive? This lowers the likelihood that you would invest in and use the app again, let alone deploy it across your portfolio. In the hotel technology space, solution providers must walk a fine line between managing what is useful and what is unnecessary regarding the app's capabilities, tools and services.

For example, while an in-app instant messaging service may seem helpful for employee engagement, designing the app to integrate well with other established messaging apps, such as Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp and more, would be more useful, because most employees likely already use a preferred messaging application and will not want to add another into the mix. Additionally, the app's user design must work naturally and efficiently. Take spreadsheets, for example. While easy to view on a desktop, spreadsheets are very difficult to manipulate on a mobile device. Financial apps should be able to efficiently convert data to an appropriate format for both a mobile device and a desktop computer.

Keeping on-the-go access and flexibility as a top priorities for developers, users should be able to seamlessly integrate the mobile solution into their daily workflows, meaning app providers and development teams must enable customizable configurations within their solutions. After all, no two hotels are the same on the operational level. Mobile solutions offer virtually limitless opportunities to customize and organize hotel operations and looking forward to 2021, there are a few things proprietors will need to consider to as the industry continues to roll out new mobile solutions.

2021 Outlook

As mobile technology remains popular with large enterprises for employee engagement, the hotel industry will continue to see a rise in the use of mobile back-office solutions. Particularly as travelers begin staying in more hotels and property managers become less tied to their desks in 2021, mobile technology will become an ever more important communication tool across the industry. With the increased use of mobile back-office solutions, new challenges will arise which vendors need to begin developing proactive strategies for to ensure successfully deployment. Two of the largest concerns on the horizon for increased back-office mobile solutions are app fatigue and cyber security.

App fatigue, or the overwhelming feeling of excess mobile stimulation, is a major challenge for developers to overcome as guests' and hoteliers' mobile devices become crowded with applications. Many app developers have opted for a one-app approach, which is optimal for users and is helpful for operational teams when deploying updates and new features.

Cybersecurity is another important topic for the hospitality industry due to its expanding capital size, large workforce and global presence. Particularly for larger hotel chains whose employees access private company data on their own personal mobile devices, many will view mobile access as an increased security liability, aside from concerns over external threats like hacking and data leaks. These are very real problems that will only compound as back-offices incorporate mobile technology further, so it is crucial that hotel solution providers are updated with the latest in cybersecurity technology and partnering with key industry organizations to ensure the best possible security coverage.

Overall, mobile solutions offer hoteliers a myriad of cost and time saving functions to help them manage labor and hotel financials easily from anywhere in the world.

As the hotel and travel industries continue into 2021, many hotel operators across the world are still recovering from the devastating effects of the pandemic and are working hard to get back on track. Mobile back-office solutions are a cost-effective way to help hotel managers reorganize typical labor and financial management functions, without the need to invest in expensive hardware and train employees on an entirely new platform.

Armed with well-designed mobile solutions tailored specifically to helping hotels manage labor and financials, hoteliers will be well-positioned to tackle any challenge 2021 holds.

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