Spotlight Interview: Joe Vargas, SVP and General Manager of Hospitality at Infor


2.13.2024

In this Spotlight Interview, Joe Vargas, SVP and General Manager of Hospitality at Infor, shares his journey in the hospitality technology industry and his role at Infor. Vargas discusses how Infor HMS leverages cloud technology, its mobile capabilities, and its automated and customizable reporting features. He also touches on the unique needs of hospitality organizations that Infor HMS addresses, the role of AI and machine learning in Infor HMS, and the primary focus areas for Infor Hospitality this year. The interview provides an expert perspective at the current trends in hotel technology and how Infor is staying ahead of the curve.

Can you share a bit about your background? What led you to become a leader in the hospitality technology space?

I started my professional career at Arthur Andersen and earned my CPA license from California before working for Revlon and other large companies as a Controller and eventually VP, Finance. I made a career change and moved into the technology space implementing ERP solutions working my way from Sr. Consultant to Project Manager, Director and finally VP, Consulting Services. I have been working in the Hospitality business unit for Infor since 2010 and learned the business through my close relationships with all the departmental peers. Infor gave me the opportunity to become General Manager of their SunSystems (Financial) solution and I moved to Barcelona since the SunSystems customer base was mostly EMEA & APAC based. Less than a year later, I was asked to lead the Hospitality business unit and thus returned to the United States.

How has your experience in global acquisitions and business process integration influenced your role at Infor? Also, how has your time at Infor Consulting Services as well as your time with Professional Services at Ariba been beneficial in your current role?

Acquisitions require you to understand all aspects of the business you are acquiring and not just your area of expertise. In addition, as you go through the assimilation process with the new company you need to be able to explain why Infor approaches certain situations one way or another. You must help others understand the business methodology and approach. By sharing this knowledge and understanding how their business operated leads you to think openly about whether your approach or theirs is the best way forward.

Has your work in Europe and Asia influenced your approach to global operations at Infor?

Absolutely, when you work for a US company, you sometimes forget about how your solution or business practices are interpreted by other regions. I try to spend a lot of time in Europe and Asia to better understand the business & cultural challenges that are unique to these regions both from a customer perspective as well as internally.

How does Infor HMS leverage cloud technology to streamline operations and maximize profitability for hospitality organizations?

Infor HMS (Hospitality Management Solution) leverages cloud technology to streamline operations and maximize profitability for hospitality organizations in several ways. Cloud technology allows Infor HMS to scale resources based on the changing needs of hospitality organizations. Whether it’s managing a small boutique hotel or a large chain, the cloud provides the flexibility to expand or reduce computing resources as required. Infor HMS on the cloud enables centralized data storage and management. This ensures that critical information, such as guest profiles, reservations, and inventory, is easily accessible and up to date across all departments and locations.

HMS deployed in the cloud offers remote accessibility. This means that hotel staff can access the system and relevant data from anywhere with an internet connection. This is especially beneficial for staff who may need to work on the go or from different locations. Cloud solutions eliminate the need for on-premises hardware and infrastructure, reducing capital expenditure. Hospitality organizations can leverage a subscription-based model, paying for the resources they use. This cost-effective approach allows them to invest in other areas of their business. Cloud solutions also offer the advantage of automatic updates and maintenance. Infor HMS can roll out new features, security patches, and improvements without causing downtime for the hospitality organization. This ensures that the system is always up-to-date and secure.

Can you discuss the mobile capabilities of Infor HMS and how they enhance guest experiences?

Infor HMS typically offers mobile capabilities that enhance guest experiences and staff processes in several ways. For example, guests can use their mobile devices to check in and out, reducing the time spent at the front desk. This feature provides convenience to guests who prefer a seamless and efficient check-in process. Infor HMS also supports mobile room keys, allowing guests to use their smartphones to unlock their hotel rooms. This enhances security and provides guests with a convenient alternative to traditional key cards.

On the staffing side, employees can access real-time information about guests, reservations, and room status from their mobile devices.  This the primary function of the housekeeping app and enables quicker response times to guest requests and issues, improving overall guest satisfaction. Lastly, mobile capabilities may include the ability for guests to view and settle their bills using their smartphones. This streamlines the check-out process and offers guests a convenient way to manage their folio charges.

How does Infor HMS’s automated and customizable reporting capabilities help hospitality organizations?

Infor HMS comes with the most common and frequently used reports pre-configured out of the box, making it easy for a user to get started.  These reports can be modified on the fly, creating a custom report.  Additionally, Infor HMS enables users to run a report on “any” field, using a very user-friendly data spy functionality, allowing the user to filter and sort data to its heart’s content.

For multi property and even multi solution analytics and intelligence, Infor is upgrading our Hospitality Analytics to Hospitality Analytics & Intelligence (Infor HAI). This “above system solution” offers users a wealth of analytical data for operational streamlining and strategic decision making.  Infor HAI will also be enhanced with the latest in generative intelligence, providing the user with answers to complex business situations.

Can you share some of the unique needs of hospitality organizations that Infor HMS addresses?

Infor HMS addresses the unique needs of hospitality organizations through various means. With a drive for hoteliers to be come more sustainable, Infor supports digitalization by offering paperless/digital workflows. Each Infor solution is configured with the right screens and user experience for each different user persona. This ensures that users do not get lost in the solutions having to navigate screens they are not using. Infor also offers a wealth of API and integrations so customers are not forced into working with a limited number of third-party vendors. With Infor, the customer can select to continue to work with the third-party vendors they already working with.

Can you discuss the optional offerings around hospitality revenue management, and BI tools in Infor HMS?

Revenue Management and Infor HMS (Hospitality Management System) are two distinct but interconnected concepts in the hospitality industry. Revenue management, also known as yield management, is a strategic approach to optimizing the pricing and availability of products or services to maximize revenue. In the context of the hospitality industry, it involves dynamically adjusting room rates, inventory, and distribution channels to meet demand and achieve the highest possible revenue. One key component of revenue management includes pricing, or setting optimal prices based on demand, seasonality and other factors. Inventory management is another component that allows for the control of availability of rooms and services. Demand forecasting is also critical, as predicting future demand helps to make informed pricing decisions. With revenue management, customers will have increased revenue, improved occupancy rates and better utilization of resources.

On the other hand, Infor HMS BI and Analytics typically refers to the tools and capabilities that allow users to analyze and derive insights from data. Key features include data visualization, reporting, business intelligence, predictive analytics and performance metrics. Data visualization presents data in graphical formats for easier interpretation. Reporting generates standard and customized reports based on data analysis. Business Intelligence helps in making informed business decisions by analyzing patterns and trends. Predictive analytics utilizes historical data to make predictions about future trends. Performance metrics measure and monitor key performance indicators for businesses.

Combining Infor HMS with analytics capabilities allows hospitality businesses to gain deeper insights into their operations, customer behavior, and overall performance. It facilitates data-driven decision-making and enhances the efficiency of various processes within the hospitality industry.

How does Infor Hospitality stay ahead of the curve in the rapidly evolving industry? Can you discuss some of the key trends in hotel technology that Infor HMS is addressing?

Infor Hospitality is a suite of software solutions designed specifically for the hospitality industry, including hotels, resorts, casinos, and other lodging businesses. It aims to streamline operations, enhance guest experiences, and improve overall efficiency. Infor Hospitality addresses a handful of notable trends in the hotel industry. For example, the hotel industry is increasingly adopting contactless technologies to minimize physical interactions. This includes mobile check-ins, digital room keys, and mobile payment options, all aimed at providing a safer and more convenient experience for guests.

Guests now expect personalized experiences, and hotels are leveraging technology to tailor services based on individual preferences. Infor Hospitality, for example, might use data analytics to understand guest preferences and deliver customized services, from room preferences to personalized recommendations and upsells.

The use of data analytics is on the rise in the hotel industry. Infor Hospitality and similar solutions help hotels collect and analyze data to gain insights into guest behavior, preferences, and operational efficiency. This data-driven approach can inform strategic decisions and enhance overall performance.

Many hotels are developing mobile apps to engage with guests before, during, and after their stay. These apps can offer a range of services, such as pre-arrival notifications, in-app check-ins, and the ability to request services or amenities. Seamless integration with third-party platforms is essential for hotels. Infor Hospitality might offer integrations with online travel agencies (OTAs), channel managers, and other tools to ensure efficient distribution and management of room inventory.

AI-powered solutions are being employed to automate routine tasks, enhance customer service through chatbots, and optimize pricing strategies based on demand and market trends. With an increasing number of cyber threats, hotel systems need robust security measures. Infor Hospitality and similar solutions likely include features to protect guest data, payment information, and the overall integrity of the hotel’s IT infrastructure.

Can you discuss the role of AI and machine learning in Infor HMS?

Infor HAI with generative intelligence and of course our RM Solution has always been at the forefront of using machine learning, artificial and generative intelligence.  We want to ensure that we support our customers with cutting-edge technology that helps them to avoid doing mundane tasks so they can focus on both customer and employee satisfaction. For example, with our AI engine, HMS will be able to assign rooms to next day’s arrivals, considering the guest preference, the expected departures and arrivals and mix of business of that day.

What will be the primary focus areas for Infor Hospitality this year, particularly in terms of enhanced platform capabilities and/or entirely new solutions?

Infor Hospitality has a few primary focus areas for the year, such as suite solutions, HAI, InnDx allowing for multi-property, multi-solution and multi-datacenter capabilities. Another focus is to embrace the latest in cloud technology with serverless functions, allowing automatic and optimal scaling when and where needed. Finally, we want to take full advantage of AWS & Infor’s cloud technology and tooling, which will result in a cloud only offering from 2025 onwards.