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Coming soon: The ultimate industry architecture

February 16, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Standardization of business and IT processes is increasing. Many corporations are building enterprise architectures, and a number of industries have formed standards for sharing data. For example, banks use Federal Reserve standards for clearing checks. The grocery industry uses the Uniform Communication Standard for communication among food manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. Oil companies have standards that facilitate the purchase, shipment and trading of gas and oil.

The hotel industry is the first to be applying enterprise architecture concepts across an entire industry. When completed, the industry architecture (IA) will describe nearly all the business processes, applications, data and technology required to operate a hotel or resort. Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG), a global consortium of the industry's major stakeholders, is leading the effort.

The IA isn't envisioned as merely an agreement among IT staffers at large chains. It's an industrywide effort that must meet the needs of multiple stakeholders such as these:

  • Hotel chains. Large chains own many hotel brands. For example, Marriott includes Ritz-Carlton, Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn. The consistent business practices specified by the IA will help individual hotels meet various requirements established by their parent brands.
  • Ownership companies. These provide capital to buy, operate and refurbish hotel properties. They often own hotels in multiple chains. The IA will provide consistent operational data and financial reporting across brands and chains.
  • Management companies. These manage the hotels' day-to-day operations. The IA will help them comply with brand standards regarding all aspects of daily hotel functions, such as registration, checkout, cleaning and maintenance.
  • Technology companies. Manufacturers and service providers supply IT-enabled devices and services to hotels, from guest-room consumer electronics to POS devices. By clearly specifying hotel needs, the IA will help providers target products and services.
  • Developers. Architects and construction firms make many hardware decisions that affect hotel operations. The IA will describe capabilities required for hotel technology, such as for room locks, LAN wiring and HVAC controls.

HTNG's IA will accommodate hotel properties of all sizes, from small hotels with as few as 30 rooms to large resorts with thousands of rooms and elaborate dining, conference and leisure facilities.

Since HTNG is a global consortium, the IA will also accommodate full internationalization, including local languages, character sets, date/time formats, measurements and postal codes. It will allow for differences in laws governing subjects as diverse as taxes, food safety, financial reporting and passport control.

HTNG's architecture working group has released the first version of the IA's business process architecture, which uses The Open Group Architecture Framework. The first version is limited to small hotels with only sleeping accommodations. Future releases will expand the architecture to include additional functions required to operate large hotels and resorts.

The working group is currently specifying the applications required to support each designated business process. HTNG's application architecture is expected to be approved during the second quarter of this year.

HTNG's industry architecture will provide a template for processes and applications that can be used worldwide. An industrywide architecture will improve interactions across the hotel industry, with benefits for stakeholders, hotel employees and, ultimately, hotel guests.

Moreover, this first industry architecture may inspire other industries by providing a model that standardizes communication and information-sharing among diverse industry participants.

Bart Perkins is managing partner at Louisville, Ky.-based Leverage partners Inc., which helps organizations invest well in IT. Contact him at BartPerkins@LeveragePartners.com.

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