Benchmark Hospitality Adopts New Business Intel System

Sometimes you have to invest money to save money, and it appears Benchmark Hospitality International has adopted that philosophy with the purchase of Pittsburgh-headquartered Aptech Computer Systems Inc.’s Execuvue Business Intelligence System. With Execuvue, Benchmark, which operates a portfolio of 30 independent hotels for various owners, will be able to automate and consolidate the data gathering and performance management processes for its properties at a central point, thereby acquiring a precise view of which activities or procedures are cost effective and which are not. With the economy in a tailspin, commercial real estate is being hit hard, and the hotel sector is hardly the exception. Lodging is taking its lumps–big lumps–with no significant relief in sight. According to a fourth quarter 2008 PKF Hospitality Research report, the hotel market has just embarked on what is anticipated to be one of the deepest and longest recessions in the history of the U.S. lodging industry. A 7.8 percent decrease in RevPAR is on tap for 2009, which, if realized, would mark the fifth largest annual decline in RevPAR since 1930. Taking the present state of affairs into consideration, it’s all about efficiency and that’s where business intelligence comes into play. “Business intelligence is like a set of speakers,” Cam Troutman (pictured), Aptech director of sales and overseer of the company’s day-to-day operations, told CPN. “If you have phenomenal stereo equipment and you stack it up and have it wired, but without speakers, it’s useless, and with bad speakers it’s useless. Putting business intelligence on data is like putting speakers on a stereo system.” Aptech’s corporate focus is on the hospitality market, so it is uniquely qualified, compared to generic business intelligence system providers, to assist lodging industry businesses. The Execuvue program covers all property information, from financial details to operational procedures, from utilities usage to laundering services, all of which make it much easier for companies like Benchmark to isolate problems and then institute best practices. The system places every single detail about individual properties under one umbrella, and then makes comparisons via a program that is color-coded for simplicity and easy identification. “You can manage by exceptions,” Troutman said, “areas of great performances and good performances. The system color-codes the information by fonts or symbols, etcetera, and goes into a world of dash boarding; it takes a lot of data and summarizes it like a dashboard on a car.” Benchmark just took the plunge into incorporating business intelligence into its operations, and many other hospitality companies may soon very well see fit to do the same. “When everything is going great, you don’t have to dig into the details, but when there’s a downturn, you need to get into the details and put a red light on the things that are doing poorly and a green light on the things that are doing well,” Troutman explained. “Business intelligence allows you to get into the weeds. Finding information with traditional tools is difficult, but with business intelligence tools, there is better access to data and it is presented in a more organized fashion. In the past, when the industry went into a downturn, companies with business intelligence performed better because they were able to control costs better, compared to their competitors without business intelligence.” Even before economists officially declared that the U.S. is in recession, Aptech was experiencing an uptick in its business due to factors that have no connection to today’s overwhelming desire to simply keep a company’s head above water. “One of the biggest trends we’ve seen over the last two or three years is hotel owners becoming much more involved,” Troutman noted. “These pure ownership companies generally relied on management companies and they took a backseat, but now they’re becoming much more active in asset management of their hotels.” For example, a hotel owner with 100 properties may have five different management companies overseeing day-to-day of activities, but with a business intelligence system like Execuvue, the owner can compare the performances of each management entity and act accordingly. While the nearly 40-year-old Aptech is a leading provider of business intelligence and back office systems for the hospitality industry, its future will likely extend beyond hotels. “We have new clients that own office space and hotels,” Troutman said. “Our newer customers are starting to learn more about the other aspects of their commercial real estate business, so we’ll expand to other areas. Business intelligence is like plasma TVs; it’s gone from being something that’s nice to have, to something that’s almost required.”