While Digital Transformation is a relatively new term, the hospitality industry has embraced digital transformation for quite a while. Sure, it wasn’t called digital transformation years ago when reservations went online and communications between customer and operator became digital. Still, it was the application of digital technology to everyday tasks at hospitality sites – digital transformation.
Today, advanced cloud-based applications and state-of-the art cloud platforms are further revolutionizing digital transformation for hospitality operators who have blazed a trail in digitizing processes and workflows to ensure a good consumer experience while simplifying management of the technology environment. While digital transformation means different things depending on your role in the IT ecosystem, one key element can make or break a hospitality operator’s efforts to revolutionize the customer experience -- the network, an often overlooked but critical component to a successful digital transformation.
Most define digital transformation as applying technology to an application or task to make it easier to use or to create better efficiencies, accuracy, or workflows. One recent trend in digital transformation has been to move applications and other digital resources to public cloud environments. Getting the most out of these platforms requires not just the network itself, but a set of technologies and managed services that ensure predictable, intelligent, secure flow of traffic – a concept collectively referred to as network as a service, or NaaS. Establishing these NaaS elements that enable what the industry calls the initial “lift and shift” and then adjusting it to fit longer term needs requires experience, expertise, and key partnerships.
By shifting applications and data to the cloud, operators believe they can deliver on the promise of digital transformation to provide an experience that simplifies hospitality workers’ jobs and keeps consumers coming back. But they will encounter six key challenges in doing so:
- Lack of Technology and Dedicated IT Skills – A dedicated, highly skilled IT team is essential to the success of any digital transformation project. But building such a team is increasingly difficult and costly, especially in the area of networking. More hospitality groups are looking to partners or managed services with experience in hotel networking to help.
- Data Security – Prior to today’s cloud-based environments, private networks made no “contact” with the public internet and the concerns around security were minimal. As organizations move to internet-based solutions, IT leaders must be much more in tune with their organization’s ability to prevent, detect and mitigate security risks of all kinds as “data in flight” traverses public networks.
- Application Performance – Quite often, applications need to be re-written to be optimized for their new home in the cloud. While a modern cloud platform can generate enormous amounts of computing power, the network must be designed to let traffic flow freely or the worker experience as well as the consumer experience and the hospitality brand will suffer.
- Uptime and Resiliency of the Cloud Environment – Because of the distributed nature of public cloud environments, if one data center goes down, that doesn’t mean all of the hospitality operations go down. All public cloud environments are architected with multiple redundancies and failovers that prevent against costly downtime, a key benefit of leveraging the cloud. Unfortunately, if the network isn’t built with similar contingencies in mind, a simple internet outage could have a devastating impact on a hospitality operation.
- Management and Support – Server maintenance, software upgrades and security concerns are just a few of the issues IT staff must stay on top of when digital resources sit in a data center. Moving to a cloud platform eliminates much of this, but while the network elements used to access modern cloud environments are often more cost-effective, flexible, and easier to scale, the elements of a multi-site network often leverage multiple underlying vendors. This can make management and maintenance exceedingly complex.
- Budget Concerns and Constraints – Moving to a public cloud environment can be attractive to hospitality CFOs because of efficiency and productivity gains as well as potential cost savings. Also, moving from purchased servers and databases to rented space in a public cloud reduces capital expense and shifts spending to an operating expense model. But while the flexibility of accessing the cloud environment is attractive, procuring and managing individual network elements from multiple providers can be inefficient.
From our point of view, there are three key things to think about when factoring the network into digital transformation:
- Understanding the Network Drives the Worker’s, and the Customer’s Experience – A well-designed network ensures reliable, predictable application performance and a better experience for hospitality workers and customers.
- Expertise – Understanding the infrastructure, security, network management, and private connectivity to the cloud is where a trusted NaaS provider can provide the right kind of help to optimize network services for digital transformation.
- Holistic Support – Few IT organizations have the network support that a holistic support model can provide. A topnotch NaaS provider should be able to deliver a wider perspective to each hospitality environment -- network infrastructure, security, and traffic management
As consumers expect technology to play a key role in simplifying and enhancing the hospitality experience, IT departments need to widen their aperture to include the network in any digital transformation undertaking. Pairing the resiliency, agility, and reliability of a cloud-based technology platform with an intelligently designed, custom network solution will provide a solid foundation as hospitality operators look to stand out in a competitive environment.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Todd Miller, Vice President of Technology Solutions
Miller provides thought leadership evangelizing Nitel’s capabilities and helping customers and agents understand how the use of technology can assist them with their digital transformation and overall objectives. In addition, Miller leads Nitel’s team of Solution Architects, whose mission is to work consultatively with the customer to develop the right solution. Prior to his current role, Miller served as Vice President of Product where key accomplishments included the creation of Nitel-Connect, a comprehensive strategy for designing an optimized and integrated end-to-end WAN. Integrating flexible access, SD-WAN, and security with Nitel’s nationwide MPLS network and private, direct cloud connectivity, Nitel-Connect provides customers with a secure, high-performance, and predictable framework on which to run their business. Before Nitel, Miller spent over twenty years in the Information Technology consulting space where he provided technology architecture and deployment assistance in the areas of networking, security, and cloud solutions while co-founding and serving as CTO of a mid-size Managed Services Provider (MSP); building a hybrid multi-tenant cloud architecture including one of the first desktop as a service (DaaS) offerings. Todd served three years in the Army as a Military Policeman in Germany as part of the 204th MP Company, 14th MP Brigade.
Mark Dickey, Chief Revenue Officer
In his role as chief revenue officer, Mark Dickey manages wholesale, channel, and account management teams as well as the marketing organization. His primary responsibilities include building Nitel’s brand by fostering relationships with valued partners, continuing a track record of consistent revenue growth, and ensuring Nitel maintains a high level of customer service. Dickey started his career in telecommunications with Cincinnati Bell, Cable & Wireless and AT&T. Over the past 20 years, he has built and led channel organizations in the telecommunications, cloud, and IT spaces, most notably at Hewlett-Packard and Oracle. Dickey has experience at both large public and entrepreneurial startups, having led sales organizations at three startups through initial public offerings.