During the 2009 holiday season, the M Resort Spa Casino, one of the newest resort-casinos to open in Las Vegas, wanted to provide 3,000 of its loyal casino guests with retail gift cards to the resort. While some might have thought that loading 3,000 individual gift cards with varying denominations would seem too daunting a task, hotel management was able to load the retail cards in less than five minutes with a few clicks on the Internet.
The M Resort, one of the few hotels on the forefront of cloud computing, currently uses a cloud-based gift card module called iCare SasS Solution provided through MICROS. The SaaS solution provides a suite of gift, loyalty and payment modules that deliver a 360 degree view of guests' activities. This degree of detail allowed the M Resort to recognize their core guests (most frequent and/or highest spending) and determine methods to attract and measure the development of new trial, or less frequent customers.
Through the SaaS solution, the resort is able to use the Internet to maintain data and applications without the additional expense of installation, maintenance, licensing and required hardware. Lower upfront costs and faster deployment weren't the only reasons the resort looked into a SaaS solution. The enticement of easier access to upgrades, patches, flexibility, resiliency, and streamlined integration of applications into point of sale (POS) all played a part in the decision. With more businesses choosing to run modules or entire POS systems on the cloud, operators should choose their provider wisely and consider the following before selecting:
Security: Before selecting an Enterprise solution that would reside in a cloud on the Internet with customer's information and company's money, determine who would have access, the methodologies for co-location / disaster recovery, service levels, and supportability. Having a single provider for POS and other products allows for tighter integration, flexibility and the ability to negotiate pricing (if you are an existing customer).
Price: Before jumping into the clouds and paying for a service, be aware of any hidden fees, like service charges, or per transaction fees. Lower upfront costs might have higher back-end costs if lengthy unexpected outages occur, not to mention customer service issues that can arise as a result. SaaS offerings often vary in pricing making it challenging to compare. Create several benchmarks and compare upfront and ongoing costs.
Adaptability: How easily can you modify the application? Is it important to be able to migrate your data from a SaaS hosted datacenter to an on-site datacenter in the future? What costs would be incurred down the road if decided this was the best route? Some vendors only offered the products feature and functionality, while the best solution is direct database access for custom reporting needs.
Longevity: Be sure to do your research on the SaaS provider. How long will the company be around? When a SaaS provider closes down, your entire IT systems could vanish with a flick of an "off" switch. Make sure you are covered by your provider.
Functionality: Functionality should be a key driver. It is important to find out if the vendor changes the functionality when going from a traditional purchase to a SaaS model. Do they get the same 'soup to nuts' product or is it inherently different because of the means in which it is served up to the end user? Take the example of loading the 3,000 gift cards. If that feature only existed in the traditional licensing model, the purchase of the MICROS iCare program may have gone a different route due to the opportunity costs that are related to manually loading that many cards. The best practice that can be gained from looking at SaaS is in doing the homework, the researching, and an ROI analysis. Beware of the hidden costs.
Shari Schulman has been at the forefront of hospitality technology as it relates to POS for over a decade. Shari has led and managed various implementations all over the country from POS systems to business intelligence reporting modules as both an end user and a vendor. Shari's extensive knowledge in casino and hospitality technology has helped her successfully deliver next generation projects.