What is the difference between reporting and business intelligence?

For years, hotel management has been reading reports, either as on-screen reports, printouts or in PDF format. These reports, sometimes called operational reports, list reports or flat reports are generated and distributed daily, weekly or monthly providing staff with the same information on a regular basis.

This probably worked fine at first, but inevitably a few problems emerged. Whenever the hotel management wanted to change or add a report, they would usually have to go back to their software vendor and buy additional services to get a new or modified report.  Some hotels would hire an IT expert who is familiar with the complex report generators in use by many hotel software vendors. Others would export the data to excel and reformat the data there in order to get to the information they required. All these are time-consuming or expensive tasks. The question at the end remains: is the hotel getting the right information in order to help make decisions? Are these flat reports providing real insight on the business?

Standard reports can provide all sorts of data – probably too much data – about WHAT happened. But the more interesting question is WHY is it happening? Why did sales increase rapidly in April? Why are the numbers of repeat guests diminishing? Why are guests from the Middle East booking one instead of two months in advance? Why did guest satisfaction decrease for those guests who stayed over the weekend?

This is why business intelligence was born.

The fundamental difference between standard reporting and business intelligence is the ability to interact with the data – to perform multi-dimensional analysis that provides meaningful “business intelligence” that supports decisions and strategy. The main commercial benefit this provides to hotels is SPEED TO ACT – to identify and respond to changes in the market, economic, competitive, and financial environment. This agility can become a unique competitive advantage as hotels and chains of all sizes struggle to compete in a constantly changing market

Most PMS, CRS or other hotel management products include a set of hard-coded reports. Some, such as the hetras Hotel Management, have gone beyond this and include a business intelligence facility that lets hoteliers create, modify, manipulate, compare and view data and statistics in real time, helping answer the WHY questions.

Here are just a few of the benefits of business intelligence compared to standard reporting:

  • Multi-property data selection and analysis
  • Multi-dimensional data handling
  • Graphical elements with various display options (pie chart, cross-tab, …)
  • Analysis of hotel specific key figures (ADR, APR, RevPAR, RevPOR, …)
  • Forecasting and trend analysis
  • Proactive strategies instead of retroactive reporting
  • Included CRM functionalities with cross-selling options
  • Multiple export options (Excel, PDF, …)
  • Automated report sending with night audit procedure and built in report storage on FTP server
  • Real time data availability (no waiting for data upload or nightly exports)
  • User definable reporting
  • Month-to-date and Year-to-date comparison models
  • Fully web-based user interface

Here are just some examples of the types of questions that a Business Intelligence system can help answer:

  • How many reservations/room nights did I enter in August 2010 for Christmas 2010, compared to the number of reservations entered in August 2011 for Christmas 2011?
  • How much revenue did we generate out of the above?
  • Revenue and occupancy comparison between hotels.
  • Market segment statistic by channel code
  • At what time of the day do we generate which revenue? This could be the basis for promotions.
  • Reservation lead time per country of origin
  • Reservation lead time per booking channel
  • Which/how many guests stayed in more than X hotels in the group or chain?
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