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If I'd had more time, I would have been a Data Scientist

February 28, 2018
David Turnbull

Twisting Mark Twain’s famous “If I had more time” quote, David Turnbull, SnapShot’s Founder & Chief Commercial Officer discusses the recent launch of SnapShot's new Data Warehouse as a Service Product, SnapShot on Demand, reflecting on what would happen to the current generation of hotel revenue managers if the pains of collecting and storing data were simply removed.

Nearly 20% of business time is spent searching for information.[i] That’s one full day per week. I know the impact of this lost time all too well. During my many years spent running an outsourced revenue management service for brands like citizenM and 25hours, my team of revenue managers racked up countless hours collecting data.  Not to mention the tiresome process of formatting the data in Excel. It genuinely pains me to think about how much more analysis time my team could have performed if they’d had clean data available at their fingertips.

Back in 2012 already, I knew there was a better way. And I knew it involved killing those spreadsheets and gaining back that productive time. This is how SnapShot came to be. We replaced the time spent digging around for data and the cumbersome formatting process with a demand management application (DMA) for hotels.  Launched in 2014, it   put into the cloud all the tools (forecast, budget strategy) a hotel would need to manage its demand.  However, the DMA wasn’t flexible enough for our customers, especially hotel groups, whose bigger pain wasn’t being given a new interface to manage the data, but rather the flexibility to access the right data at the right time.

Snapshot On Demand was the answer. Built to sit both above PMS as well as above property, it gives data and insights to hotel groups at the push of a button. This means no more scrambling for hours to get the data and visualize the quarterly reports, and no more banging your head against the wall when the MD wants a spontaneous deep dive on a demand or revenue issue.

Moreover, it permits to hotels to clean and map segments across properties and regions so that data is understandable and actionable. It’s crucial to understand how fundamental this ability to clean and map key performance data (especially on a multi-property level) is to reporting and BI projects, and why so many of these fail.

Data scientists spend 60% of their time normalizing data. And these are data scientists. They are not revenue managers or marketing directors or reservations managers or group sales directors or general managers, all who almost certainly have far less experience dealing with mass amounts of data. Imagine how long it takes for the average commercial analyst or revenue manager to clean up and segment data across varied properties. The answer: too much. (Note, also, that second to the amount of time spent cleaning data, data scientists spent the most time collecting data. The problem spans industries.)

Forbes Data Scientist Hospitality Data Platform


The most frequently overlooked step when it comes to data is the last one—the visualization. According to Dataconomy, visualization is one of the only means humans have for understanding complex analytics. Our brains are only able to process two to three pieces of information at one time and frequently consumer behavior requires understanding more than that.[iii] When represented visually, however, we can grasp the patterns and trends that emerge from large amounts of information. If we skip this step, however, the data becomes far less actionable.

We have heard from the market that hotel groups spend a lot of time, effort and budget on BI projects via providers like Tableau and PowerBI that have ultimately gone nowhere because it’s too hard to get the data. That’s why we added a BI Connector to On Demand, which pushes reports to tools like Tableau automatically so that the data can be easily visualized and reported upon, allowing hotels to complete those pesky—and vitally important— projects that have been on hold for ages.

On Demand comes with a third component, a dedicated API, where groups can build custom applications and dashboards. The opportunities are endless: create a customized dashboard interface, or an app that tracks channel costs and automatically pivots your inventory strategy based on pre-set criteria; or one that ties housekeeping and check-ins together to improve efficiencies; or one that predicts guest behavior. The list could go on and on.

Despite the obvious arguments that developing and implementing such proprietary applications and algorithms is a distraction from a hotel operators core focus, the reality is that hotels will need time to explore and identify patterns in their data.  Investing now in resources that make the sharing of key PMS and Non-PMS data will yield positive results, before the first “idea” for a custom app has been committed to.

What it comes down to is this: in the past, effective data collection and visualization has been such a pain that hoteliers sit paralyzed rather than actioning their data. With SnapShot On Demand, there are no excuses. The issue of how much time and effort it takes to deal with data has been solved, so hotels don’t need to sit restlessly on valuable data anymore. So, it's time to ask yourselves, if you could gain back one day of productivity each week, would you take it?

David and the SnapShot team will be hosting drinks at ITB this year in Hall 8.1, stand 127, beginning at 4:30pm on Wednesday and Thursday. To learn more about SnapShot On Demand, RSVP to the event here.