Wed 02 Jun 2004
Category : Commentary/bookhostel.txt
Riddle solved. I was wondering how all the travellers' hostels we have in Singapore (including the very small ones) could have gotten into so many web sites, like Lonely Planet, RoughGuides, BootsnAll, etc.
The answer is BookHostel.com. All these sites are using the same search engine. What a lovely business. I wish I had thought about it but we're probably too late. It's truly world-wide in scale. You can do business exclusively using the web. You don't have to send people all over the world to set up offices and drum up business. And you don't have to deal with IT departments. You deal with the owners of the hostels themselves who, of course, can make the decisions. It gives good value to these owners. And seems easy enough to set up.
There's also a desktop application a hostel owner can use to tie in all the bookings they get through BookHostels.com, with all those they get through direct calls. It's called Backpack for Windows, and there's no Mac version. It's a pity because the Mac's a great platform to run a hostel on, as we hope to show.
Also, it only handles the reservation aspect of running a hostel.
I was trying to drive a spine through the hostel operations so that all the reservations and administration activities end up in the accounting system. The idea is that you should collect data as a by-product of all the operational activities, and all these data should show up automatically in the accounting system (i.e., that you shouldn't need to re-enter data again and again to get it from one system to another). You can try to do this manually for a small-scale 12-bed operation. But it would be difficult to work this way if you need to grow to an 80-bed operation or work across two or more sites.
Fortunately, we've already had the basis of a hotel reservation system in an earlier work we did for managing course reservations, as well as for room reservations for a business centre. And we have Luca. The key to getting the required efficiency from streamlining all the operations is having the ability to integrate directly with an accounting system. And if the accounting system can guarantee that the data is accurate, you've got a good view into how the business is performing in financial terms.
And all these need to be there just so the people actually running the place can concentrate on delivering service, security, cleanliness, and a rollicking good time - all the stuff that a hostel is actually graded on - without constantly attending to the computer system. At least that's the theory. But it's a statement of intent.
The Journey is the Reward
Category : Commentary/theJourneyIsTheReward.txt
One of the things that attracted me to Apple and the things it was known to stand for was its counter-culture leanings. The sparse, clean, Zen-inspired aesthetics, the marriage of form and function, art and technology - all these were things that appealed to me. As well as ideas like "The Journey is the Reward" - an oft-repeated phrase of Steve Jobs from his early years - which is also the name of a generally sympathetic book by Jeffrey S. Young, which I'm happy to see is still on my bookshelf.
We're starting a journey of some sort here. Ever since I started this weblog, I have been looking for a project I can write about that integrates all the things I talk about here. Most of the time, we have to make peace with IT departments, and a lot of these ideas are subversive, diametrically opposed to the traditional IT department stance.
So we're going to work on a project where there is no IT department involvement, where we're just going to focus on helping one business succeed through using technology in the way I've described here.
This project is for the Travelers' Hostel that I talked about in a previous posting. I was re-reading a couple of articles I wrote about a year ago - "The Mac Business Toolbox" and "How Businesses Could Use Macs". I hope to show how all these ideas come together for a real-world project.
We created a mock-up to show how information systems could be used strategically rather than as just a record keeping tool. These are just canned words, used by consultants, but there's a way to really show it. In an IT-department-mediated environment, we would be challenged on credentials, knowledge of buzzwords (like Flash, C++, development methodology, etc), and there's no way we could have gotten going. You can be sure that creating even a mock-up is hard work, and we worry about passing data between a bed reservation system and the accounting system, etc., and all those stuff from the technology angle. But, with the user, you ought to be talking about financial controls, and about getting a view into the workings of the business in terms of cash-flows, etc. through the accounting system - in other words, about the objectives of employing all these technologies, and what the user needs to know to run the business.
Part of the reason for writing this weblog was that I felt that it's important to try to argue that there's another way of looking at technology - that the traditional IT/MIS-departments are getting it all wrong. It's a difficult point to argue because the issues are subtle. That's why the weblog format is perfect for it. You can use it to raise a point, make an observation, and demonstrate the alternatives - and then come back again, cycle after cycle, until you've worn down the opposition. Or worn yourself out! But I believe, as always, that the Journey is the Reward. The important thing is to try. So let's move on and give it a go.