The trouble with being an Oracle (Why the move to a Cloud mindset is always painful)

This week I read THIS blogpost, written by a hotelier about his frustrations with the industry’s leading Property Management Solution. What I noticed in particular was the amount of times it was commented on and shared online. As of today, almost 150 hoteliers had shared it and the article was read by over 5,500 people, clearly the writer of the post was not alone in his frustrations.

When Oracle purchased Micros back in 2014 for $5,3 billion, they gave us all the expectation (and instilled a fear in companies like ours) that they were taking this industry-leading product and were going to improve on it. Since then, most of us had expected that there must be a secret, hidden product being built, and once released it will have retained all the value of the existing version, while expanding functionality and ease of use. 

To this day, I wonder if the acquisition incorporated a process where actual customers, who work with the system day-in-day-out, were asked which features and improvements would make its solutions a front-runner once again. 

Cloud vs Cloud

What seems has been an open secret, is that Oracle has been working on their own Hospitality Cloud Solution for a number of years now, without much success and without any enthusiasm from even their own resellers. The challenge Oracle faces is that over the last decades they have been collating a huge number of custom features in their products. In order for any of their current clients to make the switch, they require functionality to be the same and preferably with significant upgrades. Expectations are so high at the outset, that it’s almost impossible to meet the requirements of their demanding customer base.

The challenge in the Cloud is that you are no longer versioning the product in the way you would with traditional server-based solutions, where you had the freedom to add features for specific markets only or even for individual chains and release an upgrade every few years or so. However, an online solution is different and since all upgrades are pushed as the product develops, the speed of development is many times faster and the standards for that delivery are much higher. The DNA of today’s Cloud-based companies is focused on speed and customer happiness. To have multiple releases per week, rather than the slow process that traditional companies like Oracle are used to with their systems and organization structure, comes with a big culture shock.

The real question is whether a company this big is able to make the switch from their traditionally slow-paced deliberate implementation, to a fast-paced release-monitor-fix start-up mode. In a modern SaaS business model, bugs that occur should be fixed in a matter of hours, rather than weeks, all without needing technicians on the ground. It would require real shake-up in the core, where most senior roles are still held by those whose mindset is from another century. 

A true Cloud solution, is one built by a different generation of developers, who take a fresh look at the old problems in our industry. They are unburdened by the necessity of essentially silly procedures (like the “Night Audit”) and tedious admin that we do during the night to ensure all of our hotels are ready for the next day. They build a solution for the challenges of today’s guests, mobile-optimised and built on open infrastructures that allow other young and creative start-ups with great ideas to connect and build on top of each other. 

Another key benefit of the Cloud is not only that employees can connect to the system from anywhere on any device, but also that guests can finally connect to it from anywhere in the world, checking in and out of the hotel via their own device without needing a person to input that data.

Mix and match technologies to find Best in Class

Last week we met with a hotelier from Paris, who has been looking for years for a PMS solution that allows him to move into the Cloud. The one thing he highlighted that he loved about Mews was not the great user interface, the online check-in or the great reporting. To him it was the ability to plug-and-play from a wide variety of integrations, or even build his own integrations, at no additional cost. This to him was something he had dreamed of for years, running his group of hotels and hostels, but he had never seen it as an actual possibility.

A modern hotel experience should no longer be defined by the PMS’ limitations. An experience where a guest has to walk in, find the reception, hand over passport and credit card and respond to a number of standardized procedures while a receptionist types away, without so much as an upward glance to acknowledge the person who is being checked-in.

Traditionally the PMS would entail getting your CRS, POS, EMS and IBE solutions, all from 1 partner. If you wanted another solution plugged in, it would take months (read: years) to get it done, and it would cost thousands of Euros. Nowadays the most important piece of the puzzle should be a Cloud PMS with an open framework, and you would be able to plug-and-play with a myriad of other solutions without much extra cost. This allows you to find best in class in ALL categories, and not just take the one solution that promises to do it all… because if sounds too good to be true, it usually is. 

How would this change the guest experiences? For example, if you are a hostel, your guests are most likely to be on Messenger and Whatsapp, and prefer that channel of communication. If you are a budget hotel, you want to ensure that you have a solution that is data-roaming proof, so use SMS, because your guests are not likely to have their roaming switched on as they travel. If you are a luxury hotel, you may want to offer add-on services to guests prior to arrival via e-mail. You should have the power to build an experience based on your target group, something that makes your property unique, memorable and easy to navigate.

Expect the same Service levels, as you provide to your guests

Considering we are the hotel industry, an industry that operates 24 hours a day 365 days a year, technology suppliers should be assisting their hotels with a similar service level. Why should you wait multiple business days for a response to a simple question?

A lot of the time, we get really great feature requests, and are happy that our customers share these with us so that we can prioritize features based on actual customer feedback. We see that hoteliers truly care about being acknowledged and taken seriously as a customer, much in the same way that guests expect the same. Service is about being able to anticipate customer needs and to exceed customer expectations whenever possible simply by listening to the problem, and thinking in and out of the box in order to solve it. 

One of the things I love the most about the Cloud is that we get to delight customers almost weekly with new features as the system grows organically into a more and more powerful solution… until we also become a legacy system and a new generation of innovators have their turn! 

Matthijs Welle - CEO