Integrating your technology
Several years back, when I opened my Twitter account this was my first tweet, “Don’t let software vendors hold your data hostage!” It was seen by all four of my followers worldwide. As you can tell, this is a subject I am very passionate about, and my tweet was an indication of my frustration with cloud-based software providers. Not so long ago, we all ran software systems that resided on servers and networks in our own offices. While this meant we had to purchase and maintain equipment, apply updates regularly, and have the local IT shop on speed dial, it did have its advantages.
Vacation Rental Managers (VRMs) often have to run 10 – 20 different pieces of software to effectively and efficiently run their businesses. There may be vendors claiming to do it all, but rarely is this the case. Accounting, payroll, reservation software, lead management, call tracking, distribution channel management, marketing automation, business intelligence, website design, and booking engines are just a few of the tools needed to run a successful Vacation Rental Management Company. Having all of these different systems running creates data silos and can make it nearly impossible to get the information you need to make good, data-driven decisions.
When we housed all these systems in our own environments, it was easier for one vendor to create custom extractions of another vendor’s data. The other vendor may not have liked that, but it was the way to quickly create interfaces. This made integration simpler in most cases and meant that the originating vendor of the system, whose data was being extracted, didn’t have to spend time creating and integrating Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for other vendors and could focus on enhancements to their core product.
The World Wide Web has changed all of that. Most of today’s systems that we use to run a vacation rental management company are cloud-based. Cloud-based software has some very distinct advantages over on-premise software, which I won’t go into here; however, there is a down side. The data captured by cloud based software is also stored somewhere in the cloud. While this also has some appealing advantages, such as better security and hopefully good backups, it means that third party vendors cannot get to your data without the original software vendor creating an API to access the data.
Over the last 17 years that I have been a part of this industry, I have seen most software vendors create APIs to easily access the data in their systems. Yet, there are a few who lock this data away as if it were their own and refuse to let you use your data as you see fit. I think we can all understand not letting your competitor have access to your client’s data, and I certainly think it’s fair to charge a fee for custom interfaces. Nevertheless, vendors should view the data in their cloud based systems as belonging to you to do with as you see fit.
How can we to avoid getting our data trapped in the cloud? Following are some things you need to ask before buying software to help ensure you have access to YOUR data.
- Does the software vendor have published interfaces? If so, ask for specific documentation.
- Will the software vendor share your data with whomever you choose at your direction?
- Is there a fee associated with another vendor gaining access to your data that is charged either to the other vendor or to you?
- Does the software vendor require data sharing agreements with third party vendors that assures the security of your data?
- Does the software vendor charge for custom interfaces? If so, how much do they charge and what is the time estimate for completion?
- Will the software vendor supply relevant data to any industry organizations you belong to at no charge?
- Does the software vendor currently have interfaces to other software vendors and partners?
- Does the software vendor have a list of competitors they refuse to interface or provide access to? If so, who are they?
- Will the vendor export your data and give it to you if you decide to stop using a current software system?
These are just a few questions you should be asking current or future software vendors to verify that you can use all the data that you have spent days, months, and years gathering in a manner that you see fit. If your vendor answers “NO” to any of these questions, I suggest you keep looking for the best open solution to drive your business in the future.
Cloud based systems bring many advantages over traditional, on premise solutions. The key for VRMs and cloud vendors is to confirm that interfaces exist between all these disparate systems. This will ensure VRMs have access to all of the relevant data to make solid, timely business decisions.
By Mike Hollibaugh
NAVIS | Hospitality Sales and Marketing Optimization
T: 1-541-617-2930 M: 1-541-410-0870