As we head into 2012, it is important for any sector to maximize its technology investments to ensure the most effective business outcomes.  And, in no other industry is this more important than the hospitality world.  With fierce competition to capture guests’ attention, coupled with the ongoing challenges of a lagging economy, it is vital for hospitality providers to make the most of their IT spending.

Based on our experience in working with leading hospitality providers, we have provided the following top five tips for maximizing IT in 2012:

1. Align IT with Business Goals: When embarking on a new IT initiative, it is critical to align these efforts with business goals.  As such, hospitality IT leaders need to be fully connected to the C-suite and have deep insights into the overall business goals and strategies and use these to guide all efforts.

2. Use IT for Competitive Advantage: Hospitality providers need to gain competitive advantage by providing unique offerings, which will allow them to be differentiated from their peers.  In essence, every IT project has to support efforts to eclipse the competition – whether it is building out a new CMS, simply enhancing your core web site with more features and functionality or developing a mobile version of your web site.

3. Use Innovative Project Management Approaches: When working with IT vendors and integrators, it is important that your technology partners offer a project management approach that is highly effective and mitigates any risk of derailing a project.  One key approach is to make sure that your partners provide results early and often throughout the project management process – as opposed to presenting a solution at the end of the project lifecycle.

4. Be Realistic About the Level of Complexity and Associated Costs: When considering going for Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) as opposed to a custom IT solution, it is important to be realistic about the costs and complexity associated with this decision.  The greater the complexity, the greater the chance that custom solutions are required, though as we have highlighted before, this is not always a “black and white” decision.

5. Remove Any Barriers Between Hotel Technology, Marketing and Operations: As highlighted in a recent white paper by Amadeus and RockCheetah, hospitality providers should consider creating the “IT Pathfinder” role.  This person can create a greater alignment between corporate business and technology objectives, as well as identify appropriate solutions and implement the initiatives that create the greatest economic value.  In addition, it may be more cost-effective to rely on an outside partner to serve as the “IT Pathfinder.”

Information Technology is clearly a major business driver for the hospitality sector.  When used appropriately, it can create major competitive advantage and ultimately drive additional revenue.  The key is to use your IT investment wisely, align IT with your business goals and make sure you are using the right partners and solutions to meet these objectives.

Posted by: Diann Turner, Director, Business Development, NetLink Resource Group