Spotlighting Past Hall of Fame Inductees

Recognized for being industry pioneers, inductees to the HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame are the individuals behind much of the hospitality industry’s technology developments. Since 1989, 51 innovative and influential professionals have been selected to be a part of this venerated group, and this Spring, nominations are once-again being accepted for 2023 nominees. The deadline to apply is April 17, with inductees recognized at the upcoming HITEC Toronto on June 27.

Jeff Edwards, also a 2023 inductee, said, “Being inducted into the Hall of Fame is a true career honor, as it is a recognition by my industry peers. I am pleased to be alongside a group of outstanding professionals, each with their own specialties all culminating in the excellence and progress of the hospitality technology industry.”

Inductees are a true encapsulation of the past, present and future of our industry, having been extensively involved in the role technology plays. Because of this, we asked inductees to discuss their perspective on the industry. We talked about the challenges — old, new and ongoing — what technologies have had an impact and which will continue to bring change to the hospitality industry.

What follows is an insightful conversation with a group of inductees. Participants include: Dave Berkus; Richard Brooks; John Burns; Fraser Hickox; Ted Horner; Jon Inge; Michael Kasavana; Douglas Rice; and Harbans Singh. [Original interview conducted in 2015, edited and shortened for HFTP Connect.]

Notable IT Challenges

There is no question that change is one of the defining features of technology, and as professionals who started in this industry more than four decades ago, many of our participants went from zero to 100 percent integration. In the early days, if you can believe it, one of the largest hurdles to overcome was getting management to visualize the benefits of technology tools.

Brooks says, “Perhaps the greatest consistent challenge I encountered was just the acceptance of technology in our industry. For many years technology was viewed as a ‘necessary evil,’ or a tool that had not reached sufficient functionality and maturity to be a truly competitive asset to hospitality managers.” And because there was not sufficient support for technology, it took some time for technology companies to gain a foothold and stay in business long enough for their products to gain acceptance.

Time and technology did move forward, with technology developments leading to a size reduction of hardware — hello PCs and mobile media — and the improved functionality of systems. The challenge then came in the form of disconnected systems: the POS didn’t match the CRM, etc. Rice explained, “We operate in a world with hundreds or thousands of vendors, most of whom don’t play by common architectural rules that would make it easier for hotels to bind them together in a cohesive way. So there are lots of loose ends that each hotel group (or even individual hotel) needs to try to tie together as best they can, which often isn’t a good or cost effective solution.”

Never-ending Challenges

Today technology is an essential business element and with its ubiquitous qualities, it also brings ongoing challenges. Not surprisingly, high on the list is data security, if the news is any indication. “Security is an obvious one, though not so much that it doesn’t end, as that we didn’t use to worry about it at all. Now we have to, and the problem will continue to get worse every year,” declares Inge.

Then there is the fact that technology development still moves at lightning speed. There continues to be the challenge of keeping up with changes, maintaining functionality with upgrades and convincing executives to continue to make the investments.

“Each seven to 10 years, there is a new generation of technology that challenges suppliers of systems to upgrade or rewrite in orders to remain current and fend off new competitors who are starting with a clean slate and no massive user base to service, a reality that distracts R&D developers of current solutions from concentrating upon only the next generation,” explains Berkus. “Hospitality technology vendors and users must learn to be agile and adapt to change — or suffer a loss of leadership or even relevance. This form of creative destruction has continued to ravage the industry from its technology beginnings and provides openings for new companies with new ideas periodically to shake up this industry.”

Keeping up With Technology Innovation

In a discipline that has been experimental, new and evolving; keeping up-to-date depending on information sharing amongst practitioners.

Horner explains, “The only way to stay current is to attend as many industry events as possible, as face-to-face contact is the best way to liaise with industry colleagues and get the information you want directly. HITEC is the first date in my diary and this year is my 27th in succession.”

He further explained, “Methodology to solve problems only comes with experience and if you have a good global network of contacts this helps as you can reach out to discuss with them what they did to solve a problem. Also, I have found common sense is a great starting point in looking to solve issues and sometimes this is lost in the desire to solve a problem quickly.”

Singh agrees, “In terms of problem solving, the key issue is to identify what the problem is. It seems like a no brainer, but many times the problem is not understood. The key to solving the problem is to look for the right resources, knowing who can help you address the issue; or if not, point you in the right direction.”

Another notable way to build knowledge is to accept the guidance of others. Hickox says, “I am fortunate to have a number of mentors who would freely exchange their thoughts on what was evolving from their labs. With this information I was able to undertake further research and determine how it may be applied within the industry.”

Final Reflections

As participants wrap up the conversation, they have some final thoughts to share:

Kasavana said: “Nothing can impact the way a hospitality business is planned, conducted or managed than a sound technology roadmap.

The industry has a promising future given the progressive evolution of sophisticated property management systems, food service management systems, and guest and non-guest operated interfaces.”

On hospitality professionals, Burns is intrigued by, “The need by hotel management staff for strong leadership, mental agility, despondency and a willingness to repeatedly reinvent their teams and their objectives.”

Read this full interview in the HITEC 2015 Special Report.

Nominate a technology pioneer for the 2023 Hall of Fame by April 17, 2023.

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