Maximize Your PMS' Value: Top Tips to a Smooth Running System

By Steve D'Erasmo, CHTP | November 11, 2008

A property management system (PMS) installed in a lodging operation serves as your property's central nerve center. Virtually hundreds of vendor and home-grown PMS solutions are available today, each offering a variety of features and functionality intended to serve operations across the spectrum of operational complexity. While many of us can debate the advantages and opportunities of any given solution, there are some universal tenets each hospitality technology professional should follow to ensure the PMS solution is providing the maximum value to their operation.

System controls
First and foremost, your PMS solution is designed to provide a series of controls. Typically, these are achieved through the definition of application business rules, the establishment of login credentials and the definition of user privileges. We tend to get this right during the installation process and then allow this to slip as time forges on.

When was the last time you reviewed or audited your PMS login file? Take the time to properly review your current state. Focus in on these questions:

  • Do you have active logins for people no longer employed?
  • Where employees have moved to new departments, have you adjusted their rights?
  • Do existing employees have the correct access authority?
  • What process is missing to correct this situation moving forward so that the next audit returns clean results?

Next, focus in on your practice for system overrides (i.e. rate overrides). There are times when guest recovery situations warrant a departure from the enforcement of system controls. However, many operations become lax over time, defeating the purpose of the control and eroding revenues.

Focus in on these questions:

  • How many overrides occur each day? Why so many?
  • Do the right people have access?
  • Is their password known to all mankind? Do line employees actually call a supervisor when an override is needed or do they just key in the "public" password?
  • Is training needed to reinforce your polices in this area?

System interfaces
As the property's central nervous system, the classic PMS system plays the role of air traffic control as guest and operational data flows both inbound and out. Getting disparate systems to talk was a huge industry achievement in the 1980's, eliminating the need for manual postings, duplication of data entry, and providing a significant reduction in human error. While we haven't advanced greatly in this area since then, the HTNG initiative holds great promise for the industry. If you are not actively moving your property towards an HTNG-certified solution, I urge you to get educated and "get on board".

While working the HTNG solution angle, there are several things that you need to be doing today to ensure your PMS solution is fine tuned to work well on the interface front. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How many manual postings occur in a day? Why do they occur? What can be done to drive this number to zero?
  • Do you have chronic interface communications problems?
  • What procedures do you have to audit/reconcile interface charges from each outlet?
  • Are you capturing all interface charges in the PMS (cash and credit card) or just room charges? Chances are your interface provides this functionality but is not configured to help in this area.

Distribution
The third area of focus centers on distribution. We tend to duplicate rate and inventory data in every system that contains the letter 'S'; PMS, CRS, RMS, S&C, GDS, M.O.U.S.E., etc. Until the true vision of Single Image Inventory is really achieved, some PMS-centric auditing is needed in this area.

With your distribution hat on, comb through the setup of your PMS solution and look for the following:

  • Does the PMS rate set-up match your marketing plan? Look for the obsolete rates you didn't even know you were still selling.
  • Do rate codes reflect all rates being sold today?
  • Are package rates defined properly? Is breakage going to the correct accounts?
  • Are rate mappings between PMS and CRS correct? When's the last time you checked for error messages?

The PMS solution was designed to provide operational controls and efficiencies to your lodging operation. A lot of effort was put into the initial setup and configuration of the system, but while that effort reflected your operational needs of that time, chances are good your property has evolved since then. To ensure continual improvements and operational excellence, an audit focusing in on controls, interfaces and distribution will prove to be a wise investment. Make the time to look in the mirror. Schedule this practice to be a recurring event. With a little time and effort, you will like what you see and your operation will be better off.

Steve D'Erasmo is a business advisor in the Financial Services practice of BearingPoint and brings 26 years of direct industry experience to his engagements and has held positions with The Walt Disney Company, Micros Systems Inc., United Airlines, Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Marriott Hotels & Resorts. He is an active member of HTNG, HFTP and holds the Certified Hospitality Technology Professional accreditation.

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