Data tells an important story. You just have to know how to present it to understand its messages. That is an especially valuable lesson in the hospitality industry. As director of corporate reporting for Sandals Resorts International
, I know that the only way you can maintain company profitability is to know precisely where you are against budget and how you got there.
Sandals uses a Business Intelligence (BI) system to accomplish this. The BI system collects data automatically from twenty two resorts and combines it in a format that enables drill down examination to see the story behind the numbers. Sandals looks at trends to assess the impact of decisions and forecast an effective plan going forward. This visibility makes an enormous difference in the way business is conducted and has positively impacted the bottom line.
A new view of performance management for Sandals with BI
Prior to 2003, Sandals manually collected and analyzed data for an international property portfolio that extends from Jamaica to the Bahamas, Antigua, St Lucia, and Turks. Management relied on hand-populated spreadsheets, which was often cumbersome. The data was vital to the operation, but sometimes took a month to gather, compile and code.
As Sandals grew to 22 properties and 10,000 employees, there simply was no way to collect and process all the data needed in a reasonable time to make intelligent business decisions. The portfolio of luxury resorts carrying the Sandals, Beaches, and Grand Pineapple brands, was too large to rely on manual reporting of performance information. A better solution was required and it was decided that Sandals needed a dedicated hospitality business intelligence system to automate data gathering from the entire hotel group, which had multiple, separate systems, and perform timely, in-depth what-if analysis and performance reporting.
Several BI options were evaluated and in 2003 Execuvue web-based hospitality Business Intelligence system developed by Aptech Computer Systems, Inc. was implemented.
Today, the BI automates the daily data collection from all Sandals entities and enables management to create and monitor the most important KPIs. The system consolidates information from all Sandals’ resorts in a data mart where the team can access and analyze it and provide clear reporting that property managers and the corporate team use for decision making.
The data that once took a month to collect is in hands daily. This is a huge business advantage that has helped reduce costs, improve labor efficiencies, and increase profitability.
A focus on increasing operating performance
Since property information is available and current each day, Sandals management has more time to analyze performance and how to improve it. The BI tools used to make this possible include:
· Daily reports. Management reports are generated every day that include month-to-date (MTD) and forecasts with comparison to budget, YTD, and same period last year.
· Proactive performance monitoring. The reports enable management to monitor performance daily and take corrective action by mid-month to address trends before they become problems. Property expense reporting goes to senior managers for review and corrective action if necessary.
· Spending vs. performance. Weekly reports are created for revenue managers that show revenue spending with actual performance and MTD vs. budget evaluation for all retail outlets.
· Budgeting support. Data is pulled from all property P&Ls with side-by-side comparison to budget for current period, prior MTD, and YTD totals. This comparison helps keep a tighter rein on expenses than ever before.
Sandals is unique among most Caribbean resort companies because it operates in three currencies. The Execuvue system allows operators to input different currencies — Jamaican dollars, USD, and Eastern Caribbean dollars — for future budget periods with current exchange rates budgeted for the future periods and then import the budgets and perform analyses to assess planned performance which can be proactively adjusted before the budget period starts. It’s another aspect of the solution that makes day-to-day jobs easier.
Joanne Pearson is director of corporate reporting for Sandals Resorts International. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants.