Business intelligence in hospitality: Adding value to daily decisions
Insight you can act on equals business success
After more than 10 years, business intelligence (BI) is catching on. In many organizations, everyone from C-level executives to the controller to the chef rely on dashboards, scorecards, and daily reports to provide information about their business and the entire enterprise.
A recent IDC Research study ("Worldwide Business Intelligence Tools 2005 Vendor Shares," October 2006, #202603) found that organizations are looking for more than just tools for queries and reports. People want insight from their BI solution to support collaborative analysis, forecasting, and decision-making, so that BI can help drive better business processes—and results. Microsoft BI solutions can provide such support—and have helped companies such as Hilton and Expedia save money, provide superior guest service, and improve business performance and the bottom line. In this article, we’ll discuss how the Microsoft Business Intelligence platform can help your company.
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Insight you can act on
"The trend now is to move from reporting about the past to studying targeted information about how key metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) compare to current goals," says Sandra Andrews, industry solutions director in the Retail & Hospitality group at Microsoft. "Delivering the right information to the right people in the right format at the right time is critical. Empowering employees with real-time views of where the business is now and where it’s headed adds value to daily decisions."
To accurately manage and forecast, you need an integrated system that provides one version of the truth, and then you need that information to be easily accessible to your teams. But many organizations in the hotel industry are still using different BI tools in different departments. Complicating the matter more—companies use separate systems for different locations. As a result, it can be extremely difficult to standardize information and reports, forecast staffing and supply needs, let alone provide real-time analytics. However, the business benefits for delivering information to people in a format they can use to take action or make better business decisions far outweighs the costs.
Keeping scorecards to track BI
Scorecarding is an efficient, immediate way to capture the key data you need. Recently, Expedia implemented a scorecard solution to better serve online customers and put complex Web performance metrics and KPI at its analysts’ fingertips. The result? Automated data collection saved time and effort, allowing analysts to spend their time developing answers rather than crunching numbers.
"Customer satisfaction is essential to helping make Expedia a great company. With scorecarding, we have the means to evaluate how well we are doing to make the company even greater," says Laura Gibbons, manager of Customer Satisfaction & Six Sigma at Expedia. "And if scorecarding is adopted throughout the company, I believe we are that much closer to becoming the largest and most profitable seller of travel in the world."
A system everyone can use
Making sense of enormous quantities of rapidly changing data, visualizing and prioritizing that information, and holding the organization accountable for specific performance metrics is essential for success. If you have insight that you can act on, then you can align those activities with corporate goals and forecasts. And by empowering people through familiar tools, you make it easier for your employees to access the information they need to build relationships with guests.
The Microsoft Business Intelligence platform leverages the Microsoft Office system on the front end, helping you create a BI solution that your people can use easily, without a steep learning curve. "Managers and executives can create reports in Excel, link them to PowerPoint, and easily update their reports and presentations. Hotel managers are already using Excel," Andrews says. "No matter what BI tool organizations adopt, ultimately the user extracts the data into an Excel file to manipulate it. By giving your people the information they need in the Office system right from the start, you reach all employees and increase collaboration. You change the way your company works."
It’s all about forecasting
To provide the type of service that generates customer loyalty, you need to be able to pull data from multiple systems to analyze guest profiles, forecast trends, determine occupancy rates, or predict food and beverage sales. The right BI solution can help you manage your business, increase productivity, and provide the excellent service that builds customer loyalty.
For example, Hilton Hotels wanted an adaptable, scalable solution that would include demand-based pricing and improve forecasting for group, catering, and public-space sales. Hilton leveraged Microsoft’s Business Intelligence platform, deploying Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and using SQL Server Analysis and Reporting Services all running on the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 operating system. As a result of the Microsoft BI solution, Hilton increased their data processing rate by 300 percent. They reduced catering forecast time by 25 percent. And they improved customer service by accommodating more catering requests, all with a 15-percent reduction in deployment time. Kathleen Sullivan, vice president, Sales and Revenue Management Systems at Hilton Hotels, says, "SQL Server 2005 provides Hilton with the power and extensibility to deliver revenue analysis and forecasting capabilities."
Business intelligence and beyond
One trend that’s already changing revenue and channel management is how BI is fueling a better understanding of convention space and catering needs to generate revenue for sales and catering.
Organizations are integrating customer relationship management (CRM) sales tools with business intelligence to help book their conventions and catering events. The sales department can determine which event will bring in the most all-property revenue. Harrah’s Entertainment, a forerunner in innovative use of BI, is using customer intelligence and CRM strategies for tracking and increasing customer loyalty. Harrah’s hands out credits to their guests each time they visit the casino and play games. Harrah’s then tracks visits and the more the guest visits, the greater the value of the reward. Harrah’s can predict the value of each guest, their habits, and how to increase each guest’s total revenue per available room (REVPAR).
The Microsoft Business Intelligence solution
IDC’s competitive analysis report, "Worldwide Business Intelligence Tools 2005 Vendor Shares," found that Microsoft’s BI tools revenue growth was more than twice that of the other leading database management systems (DBMS) and legacy pure-play BI vendors.
The Microsoft Business Intelligence platform is a complete and integrated solution. Whether you use it as your data warehouse platform, your day–to-day user interface, or as an analysis and reporting solution, Microsoft provides the fastest growing business intelligence platform to support your needs. The Microsoft BI solution includes the following servers and client tools to enhance your business:
Microsoft SQL Server 2005 (along with Visual Studio 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006) provides advanced data integration, data warehousing, data analysis, and enterprise reporting capabilities to help ensure interoperability in heterogeneous environments and speed the deployment of your BI projects.
Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services is a comprehensive, server-based reporting solution designed to help you author, manage, and deliver both paper-based and interactive Web-based reports.
Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) is a next generation data integration platform that can integrate data from any source. SSIS provides a scalable and extensible platform that empowers development teams to build, manage, and deploy integration solutions to meet unique integration needs.
Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) provides tools for data mining with which you can identify rules and patterns in your data, so that you can determine why things happen and predict what will happen in the future – giving you powerful insight that will help your company make better business decisions. SQL Server 2005 Analysis Services provides, for the first time, a unified and integrated view of all your business data as the foundation for all of your traditional reporting, online analytical processing (OLAP) analysis, KPI scorecards, and data mining.
End-user tools build on the BI platform capabilities of Microsoft SQL Server.
Microsoft Office Excel 2007 helps you to securely access, analyze, and share information from data warehouses and enterprise applications. And maintain a permanent connection between their Office Excel spreadsheet and the data source.
Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 becomes a comprehensive portal for all of the BI content and end-user capabilities in SQL Server Reporting Services and the Microsoft Office 2007 release, providing secure access to business information in one place. Excel Services allow customers to more effectively share and manage spreadsheets on the server.
Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 offers an easy to use performance management application spanning business scorecarding, analytics, and forecasting to enable companies to better manage their business.