Welcome to the Opera

Micros Fidelio has been the dominant property management system in the hospitality industry for sometime. However, the aging software can no longer keep pace with the growing requirements of the industry, and it has had to step down to make way for Opera.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  April 24, 2003

I|~||~||~|Version 6.0 of Micros Fidelio’s property management system (PMS) is the most widely used in the Middle East’s hospitality industry. However, the software has its limitations.

Its aging DOS operating system is both slow and difficult to integrate with more modern applications, while the application’s clipper-based architecture means data from different areas of the hotel has to be stored in separate databases. As such, night audits and report generation take hours and lengthy downtimes are the norm.

“Most properties in Dubai, as well as some of our own, run Fidelio’s version 6.0 and have these challenges daily,” says Roy Verrips, information systems manager of the Grand Hyatt Dubai.

However, 2003 promises to be the year during which these problems are solved, as Micros Fidelio has introduced Opera, the latest incarnation of the vendor’s PMS. The new software not only promises to eliminate downtime, but also accelerate front desk operations, tighten application integration and ensure better data management.

Key to this change is Micros Fidelio’s migration to an Oracle database. Rather than having to keep information in unconnected information silos, as was the case with the clipper-based architecture, Oracle allows hotels to consolidate all of its data in a single database. As a result, there is no downtime in report generation and this, in turn, enhances data management and boosts data sharing by allowing users to store data in a single file.

||**||II|~||~||~|At the Grand Hyatt Dubai, for example, Opera has enabled quick check-ins, advanced housekeeping, downtime-free night audit and extensive customer profiling.

“Opera addresses a lot of the internal issues that Fidelio always had; the biggest one being database structure,” comments Verrips, who has just overseen the deployment of the Opera PMS at the Grand Hyatt Dubai.

While moving to an Oracle database has solved the bulk of version 6.0’s problems, the migration of Opera from a DOS operating system to Windows has also delivered a number of administrative advantages.

In the case of the Fairmont chain, for instance, hotel employees will no longer have to use multiple logins to work on different applications as the Windows operating system will provide a single sign-on environment.

“Our employees will need only one login once we have migrated our Fidelio server to Windows 2000,” says Andrew Huzyk, technology manager, Fairmont Dubai, adding that all Fairmont hotels will have moved to Opera by 2005.
“This will make financial administration and server administration easier. It will reduce overheads, and financial reporting and running statistical reports will also be much simpler for the chain,” he explains.

A Windows-based platform also has added benefits in terms of sourcing the right skill sets and reducing the time and money spent on training staff.
“Local hiring goes up because there are lots of people who are trained to work on Windows,” explains Huzyk.

Verrips of the Grand Hyatt concurs and says that with the Opera implementation, “staff training went down from eight days to five because it was Windows-based.” The Fairmont Dubai plans to go live with Opera in mid-2004.

The shift to Opera will also allow local hotels to take advantage of e-commerce. Crowne Plaza, which is thinking of migrating to Opera by the end of September this year, will first work on its supply-chain management.

“It is very difficult to manage e-commerce with a DOS-based application,” says Dharshan Kaluthanthiree, IT manager of Crowne Plaza, Dubai.

||**||III|~||~||~| “Most of our suppliers, like MMI and beverage suppliers like African & Eastern, have online procurement services. To take advantage of these, we need to have our systems ready to interface with theirs. So far, that has not been possible. But if we get Opera running, my initial goal will be to go for supply-chain management and reduce our inventory levels,” he explains.

“We will be able to enter the actual consumption into Opera’s internal stock control system and, when the stock comes to a certain level, there can be triggers set to inform our suppliers so that they know that we need more supplies. This way our stocks can be maintained,” he continues.

Although the Opera PMS will lie at the heart of the region’s hotels, many properties are already looking to build on the core application by implementing additional features that improve guest services.

The Grand Hyatt, for instance, has linked Fidelio’s Quality Management System to the PMS to ensure rapid responses to all guest-related tasks. For example, when a guest requests that his or her luggage be taken down to the lobby, the operator logs it into the PMS as a quick task, which is then paged to the first available bellman. Once the task is completed, the bellman inputs the information into the system.

“This enables us to look at average lead times to pick up luggage, what the busiest times are and also lets us know when he is available for the next task,” says Verrips. “And if any person takes too much time to complete a task, the system reports this to the supervisor automatically,” he adds.

The Hyatt has also integrated its PMS with the property chain’s Spirit Central Reservations System in Chicago. Every room that is let to a guest in Dubai is entered into Spirit and a guest history is kept on every person who stays with the chain in any part of the world. “This makes marketing initiatives more precise and gives us a global view of our guests,” explains Verrips.

Despite the apparent benefits of Opera, some hotels are finding it difficult to justify the implementation of the PMS. One reason for this is that, apart from the change to the database structure, the functionality enhancements of Opera versus version 6.0 have been very few. Another major deterrent is the cost and although this varies depending on the number of rooms in a hotel, the number of properties in the chain, value-additions and the level of integration to be carried out with other systems in the chain, it is often high.

For a ten-year-old hotel like the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza, for example, implementing Opera in its 572 rooms would cost approximately $540,000, including hardware and software. The Fairmont’s Huzyk says it would cost a lot less if it is an upgrade from version 6.0 but hotels that are installing a PMS for the first time must be prepared to pay anything from a quarter of a million dollars upwards.
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