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IT Leaders in Hospitality Want More Automation, Expansion to ESM

The hospitality industry supports an increasingly digitized portfolio of businesses that span a range of specialties and can include everything from hotels, restaurants, and bars to theme parks, tourist attractions, and casinos. So it’s no surprise that when asked, IT leaders in hospitality say they want more automation, better self-service and the ability to extend IT Service Management (ITSM) outside of IT to other areas of the business for Enterprise Service Management (ESM).

A recent study from TeamDynamix and InformationWeek explores how IT teams can leverage ITSM platforms and processes to go beyond simply keeping the lights on and actually improve the business by leveraging ESM for everything from creating ticketing systems for housekeeping to quickly answering corporate policy questions through self-service for new workers in an industry that is naturally very churn-heavy.

Top IT Objectives and Concerns

As you know, Hospitality organizations handle a significant amount of personally identifiable information. They process copious amounts of consumer payments, register hotel guests, manage customer loyalty programs, and track guests’ preferences across their properties. As such, it’s no surprise that security and compliance are some of the biggest top-of-mind concerns in this industry.

Also near the top of the list of concerns are budget pressures, according to 48% of organizations surveyed, and modernization and automation issues, listed by 38% of respondents.

When asked what the top objectives for hospitality IT leaders were, data management and integrity came in first, named by 54% of respondents. Coming in a close second was productivity and resource capacity planning, named by 51% of those surveyed. The third most important objective was integration and system infrastructure improvements, which was named by 46%—unsurprising given the interrelated nature of these foundational fixes to the other top objectives.

These top three objectives square with the biggest challenges faced by hospitality organizations. The top challenges named were a lack of resources and high ticket volumes (44%), integrations and workflows (44%) and a heavy reliance on IT to administer the ITSM tool (38%). Integration and workflow are especially important in these hospitality organizations, which have a variety of business functions and end users to support.

Enabling Better Self-Service and Automation

As a whole, the survey results show that the hospitality industry would benefit significantly from improving its self-service and automated ITSM capabilities. With self-service and automated workflows in place, IT departments can better serve a distributed, 24/7 workforce.

Shaner Hotel Group, a hotel management firm that oversees more than 60 properties across 15 states and four countries, uses TeamDynamix for IT Service Management (ITSM) and has benefited greatly from the automation and self-service capabilities within the ITSM platform.

“With limited help desk employees, we’re trying to cut down on the number of phone calls we get requesting support” Steve Shala, Vice President and CIO at Shaner Hotel Group, said. “We’re trying to push everybody online instead.”

With TeamDynamix in place, they’ve been able to simplify the intake process for IT support tickets using a self-service portal. Because it’s web-based, employees can initiate service requests from their phone or another mobile device. That’s an important benefit for an organization where many employees aren’t sitting at a desk all day.

When service requests come in through the online portal, they’re routed automatically to the appropriate team member for a response. Because help desk staff are answering fewer phone calls, they can respond to service requests faster and more effectively as they come in through the portal.

In addition to automating ticket triage, Shala said it’s helped with requests for creating new user accounts. For instance, fulfilling requests for new user accounts can be complicated, because it involves getting input and approvals from many people. New employees might need access to many different IT systems depending on their role with the company, such as networked security cameras or purchasing software. IT staff must work with multiple departments to get the right approvals.

The customizable workflows within TeamDynamix automatically trigger messages to the appropriate people asking for their approval at each step in the process, so there are no delays and no steps are overlooked. “This might be the platform’s nicest feature,” Shala says.

Not only can Shala and his team create and manage fully customizable workflows within TeamDynamix, but this process is so simple that any authorized staff member can make changes without needing specialized programming knowledge. This feature allows Shaner Hotel Group’s IT department to be more agile and responsive to users’ needs.

The Benefits of Enterprise Service Management

Expansion of hospitality ITSM functions to ESM could alleviate a lot of business stakeholder pain points across business units, particularly around resource capacity planning. While many industry leaders engage in these kinds of ITSM-to-business crossovers, most hospitality organizations just aren’t there yet with ESM. The survey showed that less than a third of hospitality organizations have an ESM program in place. What’s more, 59% of respondents say they use their ITSM platform exclusively for IT. Another 26% who use it elsewhere only use it for one other department.

But expansion to ESM can be a critical part of digital transformation. Especially when you invest in an ITSM/ESM platform that include automation and integration capabilities.

Great Eastern Resort manages multiple properties in Virginia. Each of the resort’s services uses its own type of software. The restaurants use a point-of-sale system designed specifically for food service, for instance—while the hotels use a separate system for checking in guests including Massanutten Resort in the mountains of Virginia. This all-season resort features vacation accommodations, an indoor and outdoor water park, golf courses, a spa, several dining establishments and a variety of seasonal activities such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, hiking and mountain biking.  Each of these core offerings sits on its own tech stack – each requiring support.  All of this adds up to a busy IT team in need of the right ITSM software.

“Pretty much each entity we support has its own software that best meets the needs of its environment,” Ronald Johnson, a help desk technician for Great Eastern Resort, said.

The company’s old ticketing system was a time drain. Because it was hosted internally, technicians in the field didn’t have easy visibility into open tickets—and updating the old system took a great deal of effort. The system also required lots of manual updating, there was no automation and lackluster reporting.

Moving to TeamDynamix for IT Service Management has allowed tech staff at Great Eastern Resort to reclaim all that lost time and eliminate frustration. “The difference is like night and day,” Johnson said.

In searching for a new ticketing system, McNeely involved his entire IT support team in the decision. They wanted an all-inclusive, web-based IT Service Management platform that could also handle asset and Project Portfolio Management.

“One of the things we look for in any new product is, if we implement it, how many resources do we get to free up?” McNeely explained. Implementing TeamDynamix has allowed Great Eastern Resort to retire at least three different systems, he notes: its old ticketing system and a database server, as well as the company’s old asset management system.

After reviewing multiple products, the team chose TeamDynamix because they liked how easy it was to use. “The platform’s no-code design allows IT staff to customize the software easily” explained McNeely. “Without having to spend valuable time and resources on coding, we can easily configure the system to meet our unique needs. The interface is also highly intuitive for employees to use.

“I’ve had a lot of feedback from our client base saying they love the simplicity of TeamDynamix,” Johnson said. “It’s so much easier to submit a ticket to us. That makes everything flow a lot better, and it allows us to help our end-users quicker.”

TeamDynamix allows IT staff at Great Eastern Resort to work more efficiently. For instance, McNeely’s team has developed automated workflows for onboarding new hires and routing tickets instantly to the appropriate technician, leading to faster response times. “We’ve probably only scratched the surface in terms of what TeamDynamix can do from an automation standpoint,” he said.

Because his team couldn’t do a lot of data tracking with its old ticketing system, McNeely says it’s hard to quantify how much time his IT technicians are saving using TeamDynamix—but he says it’s significant. “It’s so much easier to create a ticket in TeamDynamix than in our previous system,” he observed.

And while Great Eastern Resort is just now branching out into ESM, another hospitality organization, Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort, has been using ESM for years and just recently switched to TeamDynamix.

Independently owned and operated by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Scottsdale, Arizona, these casino and resort properties employ about 3,500 people altogether. For more than a decade, they’ve benefited from having a “one-stop” service portal that employees could use to request everything from housekeeping services to clean a room before a special event, to the purchase and provisioning of new technology or a security badge for a visiting vendor. 

However, the legacy ESM solution these properties were using had serious limitations. For instance, there wasn’t a way for employees to log into the system remotely from a smartphone or other mobile device to track or make service requests on the go. What’s more, making changes to the system’s configuration involved expensive updates to the software’s code. 

“Our legacy platform didn’t have the flexibility to grow along with us as our needs evolved,” Program Manager, Adam Dunn, said.

In looking for a new ESM platform, Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort wanted the ability to configure the system easily and make changes flexibly and dynamically. “We looked at a number of systems,” Dunn said. “In TeamDynamix, we found the one that was most user-friendly.” 

With its “low-code, no-code” design, TeamDynamix is highly configurable, allowing organizations to create personalized service categories (both simple and complex) and build customized workflows for managing multistep processes.  

In addition, the platform’s enterprise Integration and automation capabilities allow IT staff to create customized integrations between TeamDynamix and other software programs using a simple, drag-and-drop flow builder. And because TeamDynamix is easy to use and configure, it lends itself nicely to ESM and can be easily adopted by departments outside of IT. 

Phase one of the properties’ implementation of TeamDynamix has involved the IT and AV departments. Phase two includes housekeeping and security.  

In housekeeping, for example, one of the areas the tool will be used to help with is resource capacity planning around events. 

“We have an event space where we host a variety of different things,” Dunn said. “We’ll be using the tool to get out in front of these and schedule housekeeping for room cleanings before and after these events. All of these housekeeping requests can be scheduled and managed through a ticket. This allows our housekeeping department to see what events are upcoming that they need to plan for and staff appropriately. And if we have a performer coming into our nightclubs, a lot of times housekeeping is tasked with clearing space, so they can see when those requests come in and make sure the right resources are available.” 

Whether it is a stadium venue running off a sophisticated collection of ticketing kiosks, point-of-sale machines, and tech-enabled physical security systems, or a lodging chain running front desk systems, housekeeping project management tracking, and free Wi-Fi for guests, hospitality organizations depend on rock-solid technical support and speedy ITSM SLAs. When these organizations invest in ITSM platforms that can easily expand across multiple groups, they can also increase their ROI by expanding applicability across the enterprise through ESM.

Want to learn more about the state of ITSM in hospitality? Check out the full survey from TeamDynamix and InformationWeek.