For various reasons, hotel companies are compelled and required to keep an incredible amount of records about their daily business operations. The night audit pack alone – which includes daily documents such as a Transactions Report, Financial Report, Tax Report, Revenue Report, Departures Report, etc. – can be hundreds of pages.
Federal and state tax laws require hotels to keep these records on file, on location, for various amounts of time (typical retention period is seven years). More recent regulations, in fact, require storage in multiple locations to avoid a “single point of failure.” And having these records on hand is helpful: Should a guest call years after their stay to dispute a charge, for example, the hotel should have access to all related documents for verification.
For these reasons, believe it or not, many hotels still print these documents at the end of each day and file them away in a manilla envelope in a storage area, such as a closet, a back office or an attic. A growing number of hotels have adopted some type of digital storage – whether on a USB drive or a cloud-based shared drive, like Sharepoint or Google Docs – which is a step in the right direction but can create its own set of challenges.
For those who haven’t adopted digital document management, the time is now. However, while moving your night audits and other accounting reports from paper to digital might seem like a no-brainer, there are right and wrong approaches. Choosing the wrong approach could lead to inefficient processes and leave your data open to intrusion.
Below, we’ll identify two critical areas of focus to ensure you’re building the right document management strategy that will serve as the framework for future digital transformation.
1) Digital Doesn’t Always Mean Secure
One would think that any digital approach to storing confidential documents would be safer than printing and storing boxes of reports in a storage closet. But that’s not necessarily the case – adopting digital storage without the proper procedures in place can be equally dangerous.
First, storing documents on a USB drive opens up the likelihood that the device will be lost, and losing important documents is never good. Should an employee accidentally leave a USB drive at the coffee station, for example, someone who is not meant to have access to those files could potentially copy the contents of the drive and return it without anyone noticing. In the end, USB storage provides little more protection than lock-and-key.
Storing daily reports in a Google Drive or Sharepoint environment can be beneficial but has its drawbacks. First, login issues and the ability to share with email addresses outside the company often open up vulnerabilities. Also, cloud drives act only as storage units, and often documents will sit for long periods of time with no action. Should your documents need to go through approval and signature processes and ultimately delivered to a central location, there are more efficient tools available.
At the end of the day, operators must ensure the right employees within their organization – on property and at headquarters – have easy access to these documents, but at the same time access is strictly restricted to outsiders. A Digital Document Management system can be integrated with your enterprise authentication solution, resulting in one secure login controlled by your enterprise controls. For example, when a General Manager logs in, his or her credentials can be verified in your system before access is granted. This allows leaders to grant function-based access; for example, the GM might be authorized to sign the signature pack but cannot delete files, and the night auditor can submit reports but not edit them.
A secure Digital Document Management solution will operate in a virtual private cloud environment, which restricts all ports by default and acts like a blanket firewall that protects the system. At MDO, for example, our server infrastructure is built in an AWS Cloud environment, which utilizes modern security and monitoring tools that comply with industry standards. We take the following steps to ensure we provide maximum protection for the data we store and process within the environment:
- Maximize the use of AWS identity and access management, along with zero-trust security architecture, to reduce the possibility of a data breach
- Intrusion Prevention System to take action when a potential attack, malicious behavior, or an unauthorized user is detected
- Intrusion Detection System to detect malicious behavior or unauthorized access and alert security teams
- Antivirus protection, including zero-day exploits detection using Machine Learning
- Integrated incident management system that combines alerts from all distributed tools but allows unified monitoring and responding
2) The Key is Compliance
Another reason public drives like Google and Sharepoint aren’t ideal for storing and sharing your daily reports: They’re lacking a compliance component.
Using a Digital Document Management solution ensures your files are indexed properly, with automated naming conventions and deep search functionality, to ensure they’re filed away in the right spot for easy retrieval. The learning algorithm recognizes and categorizes each document appropriately, with little human oversight. This eliminates human error, allowing Digital Document Management solutions to process hundreds of thousands of reports per day without users needing to open and save a single document.
Search functionality is essential. For example, should a guest call with a question about a charge on their folio, agents should be able to find specific details from the correlating daily report within a few clicks. This helps solve guest issues immediately, rather than taking their information, finding a solution, and returning their call in a clearly less efficient manner.
Sharing Secure Data
The COVID pandemic accelerated an oncoming shift in hotel operations: Many organizations are removing accounting and other back-office functions from the property level, instead moving those tasks to a central location at the regional or corporate level. This provides property-level staff the ability to focus solely on serving the guest and providing an exceptional guest experience. Cloud technology is empowering this shift, enabling access to tools and data from anywhere employees can connect to the internet.
Storing your documents centrally is only the first step; a true Digital Document Management solution will provide the necessary workflows to ensure documents are signed and approved, and simple summary sheets and checklists will help keep the entire team accountable. As you navigate the evolving landscape of digital adoption, be sure to choose long-term solutions that place top priority on ensuring your company and guest data is secure.
Join MDO on Wednesday, Nov. 16, to learn how smart hotel companies are improving their data strategy by going paperless. Digital Document Management provides significant and measurable results for your organization, as well as reduces your environmental impact. Register here.
About Mano Jayasekera
Based in Edmonton, Canada, Mano has served as Chief Information Security Officer and President of MDO’s Sri Lanka Operations since April 2018. Prior, Jayasekera served in several SaaS-driven project management roles, including Account Manager, Senior Project Engineer, and Project and Technical Leads. He is a certified PMP with decades of experience in project and product life cycle management.