There was a lot of future-looking promises and strategy outlined at a recent Oracle user conference, taking place January 28-30 at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego, CA. The one that seemed to resonate most for the Oracle Hospitality Connect 2020 audience was, “We’re open! Seriously open!”
Darko Vukovic made the statement, and it is what could be described as the rallying cry for the entire conference. As the director of Oracle Hospitality Integration Strategy, he is also one who will likely most keenly feel the pressure to deliver in this area.
Oracle has had its struggles over recent years, especially post the Micros acquisition. Hoteliers voiced frustration over the lack of attention paid to their unique needs and being the “big ship” that Oracle was, steering it and – perhaps more importantly – pivoting quickly – proved difficult.
3 FOCUS AREAS FOR ORACLE
- Last mile execution: Bring that level of detail to hospitality. Connect those activities to get across end line. This will start with transparency and evaluation of products and services.
- Innovation: Take advantage of momentum in moving the industry into the cloud. Acknowledge we can do better in terms of what that path looks like for brands getting into cloud infrastructure. Open up the Oracle infrastructure so others can innovate more easily around Oracle’s systems and allow customers to on top of Oracle solutions.
- Service Orientation. “Progress is not the end game,” Alt says, outlining the ultimate goal for Oracle to improve its “referencability” – being worthy of having operators recommend Oracle to their peers in the industry. This term was repeated several times throughout the conference to illustrate the desire for Oracle to regain – and be more deserving of – its position as a market leader.
Now with Alex Alt at the helm, the ship seems to be doing just that. Alt, who became SVP and GM of the Oracle Hospitality Global Business Unit in November 2019, was previously CEO of Stack Sports, but has roots in hospitality, which provides a level of kinship as he seeks to convince hoteliers that he understands their unique problems and goals. Prior to Stack Sports, he spent 11 years in hospitality, six years on the operating side with Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, and more recently, five years in technology as President of Sabre Hospitality Solutions.
Kicking off Oracle Connect, Alt illustrated his focus for Oracle Hospitality in a trio of priorities, telling attendees, “I do things in three.”
Cloud & Change: The New Normal(s)
After outlining market changes such as consolidation, Alt notes that for brands that are not part of a major consolidation, the competition is daunting. Technology must be used to differentiate, he stresses. Alt believes that the new imperative is “delivering connected outcomes.” He admits that every business has some degree of siloed behavior, but technology partners need to be a solution to help businesses break that.
He outlines the components that will be necessary to deliver upon connected outcomes, prioritizing customer obsession. Hotels will need to know what is observed about guests to leverage that in meaningful ways. This will require a high-level of digital IQ work that will free human staff up to provide value-added services. Future-proofing connected solutions will require an “infinitely scaleable,” open, mobile and AI-based foundation.
The Gen2 Cloud is Oracle’s solution to help hotels run their portfolio and Alt shared the stat that Gen2 Cloud properties are seeing a 55% price performance advantage using Oracle Cloud above AWS. Despite that economic point, Alt stresses that partnership with Microsoft is still imperative, recognizing that in the hospitality industry it’s necessary to ensure coverage to certain applications or geography.
Leveraging AI, Oracle made another big announcement --- the launch of the world’s first autonomous database that will reduce labor and offer more operational efficiency that will deploy across the entire Oracle ecosystem.
To illustrate the hotel solution strategy for Oracle, Laura Calin, vice president of strategy led a discussion painting a picture of the full technology stack at Oracle and the company’s plan to address the forces of change in hospitality. Calin called out six areas the Oracle Hospitality Solutions suite addresses, including: guest experiences, new revenue opportunities (attribute-based pricing and AI-powered upsells), consolidation paired with 70% turnover rate, reliable and scalable systems, compliance and finally integration.
Calin asserts that open APIs will be a first key to unlocking all the possibilities and enabling personalization and exceptional guest experiences. The employee-facing components will include making sure that applications are available to employees on any device, so that staff can recognize guests and provide special moments. Finding ways to automate manual processes will also make employees happier and free them to provide those moments of high-touch service.
“The magic happens when things become easy,” Calin says. “Moving into the cloud helps to achieve scalability, performance, and security – something we don’t compromise on.”
To support these open systems, Oracle is focusing on APIs first, coding web services then the user systems on top of that, the same process is used for all integrations. The modular strategy creates a platform that is based on components. This is designed to appeal to customers who want to be able to adopt certain components in a gradual way and allows easy integration into the total ecosystem.
“The foundation needs to be solid and getting the basics right,” Tanya Pratt, EVP, Opera Cloud Strategy, Oracle, explained, saying that her team’s focus is to ensure that solutions are stable, scalable and supportive. She bemoans whenever she goes to a hotel and is asked whether it is her first time with the brand. She wants the answer to be as easy as looking at the screen, but acknowledges the information must be easy to find.
“How can applications give a staff member all the information they need,” Pratt asks. “We need to provide them consistency, reliability, and repeatable tasks and a CRM that has that level of personalization. From an application perspective, it needs to be quick and intuitive. When you know better, you do better.”
In a panel discussion, executives from Disney Parks & Resorts, H.I. Development Corporation and Banff Park Lodge, shared experiences from their cloud journeys.
Larry Collier, Director of Operations, H.I. Development Corp. said the primary reason for the cloud migration was maintaining the security guests, but that has now expanded.
“I’m excited about all things that we’re able to integrate,” he says. “We are improving efficiencies and finding new ways to do things. Moving to the cloud has let us take mundane tasks and now we don’t need staff to do it.”
Doug Leckie, Senior Vice President, Cast and Guest Systems, Disney Parks and Resorts, shared that Disney had started its journey to Opera Cloud at Disney land and Disneyland Paris roughly five years ago. “We have been leveraging services for commodity functions and our own services (media for magic bands, dine plans, etc.),” he says. “With Opera Cloud we consider how unique that experience is – you can dig in and understand once you have that ability you decide where to innovate yourself.”
Steven Schultz, Director of Rooms, Banff Park Lodge, agrees that the opening up of the data is amazing. “The lifeblood of our business is our guest data,” Schultz says. “Cloud has simplified the interfaces and therefore simplified getting data out.”
Vukovic listed a series of challenges including: partial API coverage, legacy protocols, proprietary protocols, multiple protocols, poor performance, poor scalability, expensive licensing integration and partner onboarding, and a lack of support for partners. He then asked the audience if they agreed that these were issues. The audience response was effusive and affirmative.
To this Vukovic promised that Oracle is “seriously open” and made two commitments to hoteliers. First, he promised that the data hosted in Oracle’s system is the hotel’s data and pledged that it would be accessible without restrictions. Second, he pronounced an understanding that hoteliers are building best of breed systems with multiple vendors and therefore Oracle’s job is to make sure its software is able to integrate easily, so that best of breed is easy for hoteliers to accomplish.
“Together, we’ll build a stronger platform,” Vukovic said and outlined his vision for the future. This includes full API coverage, integrations included in the cloud and self-integrations made possible.
“We’ll support everyone,” he says. “Partners will be treated as customers – they can call the same support line.”
Alt concluded his opening remarks by promising that the new Oracle is focused on being “proactive and universal.”
“We want to be a partner as opposed to a vendor,” Alt says. “And we want to be the most important partner in hospitality.”