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Opinion: An entire industry finds the benefits of working together

June 22, 2009 12:01 AM ET

Computerworld - In difficult economic times, every company seeks cost reductions and process improvements. But now an entire industry has banded together to help its constituents maximize their IT-based assets. By developing an industry architecture (IA), the hotel industry hopes to provide the entire sector with the same types of advantages an enterprise architecture offers a corporation.

An IA seeks to remove inefficiency, facilitate communication and enable customer service improvements. But can an IA deliver tangible benefits? The hotel industry consortium recently approved Phase I of its IA. Its aims include the following:

Improve supplier products. The IA clearly describes products and services needed by hoteliers. A clear architectural road map allows suppliers to focus efforts on the capabilities most important to customers. As a result, suppliers can improve product offerings and reduce development costs.

Improve architectural coverage. Since an IA facilitates the mapping of IT products to internal business processes (and associated applications), hoteliers can more easily identify how particular software packages support their operations. It also lets them identify gaps in their architectures and make apples-to-apples comparisons between products.

Enable global operations. Standardization enables an IA-compliant product to operate across regions without compromising architectural integrity. Standardized interfaces allow hoteliers to integrate regional products required to meet guests' cultural expectations, respond to local government regulations and support differences in language, alphabet, currency, etc.

Reduce training requirements. Standardization of core business processes across the industry reduces training requirements.

Improve agility. An IA reduces the time its takes to install IT in a new hotel. It also allows IT products and services to be reconfigured rapidly in the face of consumer demand, new regulations or new business opportunities. In addition, the IA facilitates the planning and monitoring of architectural changes in companies that manage multiple hotel brands.

Increase buyer confidence. Buying IT products is difficult; features are hard to compare, documentation is often inaccurate or inadequate, and applications may not interface properly with existing software. A hotel industry consortium, HTNG, will provide an IA product certification program. Certification increases buyers' confidence that a product meets IA guidelines and interacts properly with other IA-compliant products.

Improve security. Security standards are part of an industry architecture. The hotel industry's IA incorporates security standards from the World Wide Web Consortium, The Open Group and the PCI Security Standards Council. Hotels complying with these standards are much more secure than those using homegrown (and sometimes conflicting) security approaches.

Lower IT costs. An IA facilitates component reuse, standardized interfaces, centralized software management, and version control. These practices lower both acquisition costs and ongoing operating costs.

Developing an industry architecture is far more difficult and resource-intensive than building an enterprise architecture. But the hotel industry anticipates achieving diverse and significant benefits in return. The IA enables companies to simultaneously reduce costs, improve efficiency and increase customer service. Moreover, the benefits affect all industry participants, including hotel owners, suppliers, employees, customers and investors. Could your industry profit from an IA? The benefits certainly warrant consideration.

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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