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[Update] PMS and POS - choosing the right tool

The Property Management System has become one of the central tools for managing a property. Its equivalent for restaurateurs, the POS, is also being developed to support the management of properties. The final absorption of GuestJoy by Site Minder nine months after its IPO, confirms the concentration of the sector.

GuestJoy, founded in 2014, is a tool for strengthening the customer interface via digital. Since its IPO last November, the Australian firm Site Minder has completed its offer to cover more and more of the tools of tourism distribution. Online booking and payment but also website creation and now customer relationship management tools, are developed to accelerate the distribution of tourist properties.

Tracking guests from the time they book through their stay and after they have left the hotel, but also producing performance indicators, payment solutions, interfacing with other functions of the property or internal communication tools... one would have imagined that in 2022 the ideal tool existed, but it is not. It is therefore up to the operators to find the solution best suited to their needs according to the services available on their site(s), compatibility with other management tools or with accounting, and the degree of appropriation by the employees. Choosing a PMS requires a thorough and collective approach within the company, whether it is for a property, a cluster or an entire portfolio, and many parameters must be taken into account.

A multitude of choices

There are several dozen companies offering PMS on the European market. Each one has its own history that shapes the functionalities offered by its tools.

Cloud or local, integrated or API? Catering, seminars and events, spa, bar, fitness room or swimming pool... there are many variables that can be taken into account, especially in an era where it is important to make the most of every square metre of your property.

Which interfaces should my PMS "talk to"? What are the rights of each employee? What degree of autonomy versus a more structured structure should be adopted? What KPIs should be reported and in what format? When, to whom, how and why should red flags be raised in case of malfunction? How should new employees be trained to use the system? And last but not least, what benefit/cost balance should be achieved since the all-in-one product has not yet been put on the market?

Depending on the internal organisation of the property, but also on its links with the owner and the level of reporting put in place, the use and the expected functionalities of the PMS may vary. Distribution channels and booking centres also have an impact on the choice of tool, as does the payment tunnel, which should not be neglected. In addition, there are the customer relationship management tools, in particular the curation of ratings and online reviews, but also the potential sending of questionnaires and satisfaction surveys. Not forgetting the marketing tools for customer follow-up and acquisition in connection with mailings and other databases.

To cover a maximum of functionalities, PMS suppliers offer a wide range of solutions. The historical world leader Oracle is well positioned on the market with its Opera product now available in a Cloud version. It supplies the power of a tool developed since 1977 but without the flexibility of more agile structures. The processes that guarantee the proper functioning of the tool also make it a more complex medium to use. This is a fact that should not be overlooked at a time when the difficulty of working is at the heart of the debate on the attractiveness of the sector.

A sector that is consolidating to achieve market growth objectives

The Swedish company Hoist, born in 2014, joined Planet at the end of 2021, thus integrating payment solutions into its tools. A search for product complementarity and a growth driver. The group is still in the process of finalising the integration of the new functionalities resulting from this acquisition, which have not yet been fully deployed.

The acquisition tactic is also used by the Dutch company Mews, which was born in 2010. The company acquired POS Bizzon in March 2022 after acquiring PMS Cenium a month earlier. This purchase followed the buyouts of Hotel Perfect, Base7Booking, and Planet Winner since 2020. The Dutch company is not hiding its appetite for development, nor for the French market, where the breadth and depth of the supply is extremely attractive for a system that works in relation to the number of rooms in properties and not by subscription. Mews buys and delivers many functionalities according to the activities of the properties but also to their functioning. Mews Merchant charges a commission for each payment, which some hoteliers do not want to or cannot afford to pay; so it is a question of coming back to the famous profit/cost ratio.

The German company Portel, founded in 1994, was bought by the investment funds Advent International and Eurazeo. It has also developed a cloud solution with the Protel Air software and established partnerships in the restaurant and spa business.

The list goes on and on, but it is clear that, like the other hospitality sectors, the hotel industry since the 1990s and the outdoor hotel industry today, the hotel operation support technology sector is consolidating. These activities, which are also highly capital-intensive, need to reach a critical size in order to generate sufficient turnover to continue investing in the development of their technologies.

Ergonomics is now taken into account in tools that have long been developed solely for their functionality. Interfacing with other functionalities such as CRM, invoicing or marketing is also being developed through APIs for the most integrated operation possible, enabling the sharpest management of the property. This is essential in times of inflation when margins are shrinking and each rationalisation or economy of scale helps to increase profitability.

Hotel groups are also working to improve the solutions proposed for operations. Accor had launched its own PMS Fols in order to control 100% of its functionalities and its integration with the group's properties.

What must be respected to launch a project of reorganization or choice of PMS?

To audit its property or properties and map the needs and processes. Identify the decision-making nodes and the staff involved, as well as the information transmission chain and its purpose.

Have the most precise specifications possible to give suppliers as much information as possible.

Designate a qualified and motivated project manager for the project and give him/her the time to ensure quality coordination. Provide this project manager with a team leader for better follow-up and to compensate for periods of absence.

Monitor the project directly at the level of the general management in close contact with all departments: human resources (e.g. management of working hours), accounting (e.g. invoicing and calculation of VAT), housekeeping, maintenance, bursar's office....

Ensure that the chosen service provider has a contact person with the right level of decision-making power and define with him a precise retroplanning concerning the functionalities and deployment of the tool. Enter into a partnership in which the obligation to achieve results is given pride of place alongside the obligation to provide means. Plan validation stages at the crucial time of the tool's deployment.

Train, listen to and raise the awareness of daily users of the tool and ensure that they receive support adapted to the practices of the property. Working language and opening hours are details not to be neglected.

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