In the post 7½ Habits of Highly Effective Hotel Revenue Managers I noted that the best RMs “think like a librarian.” At the core of that habit is the proper labeling and storage of reports and analysis. Yet, with all the emphasis on governance and PCI, I find that most hotels, of every size, do not mark their reports with any meta information. Below are 12 meta marks that I add to all my work product that has saved me time, money, and many headaches. All this information can be easily added to the Header and Footer of any MS Office document.
1. Confidentiality. Very few hotel companies, big or small, label their internal reports with confidentiality marks. At a minimum, I use “For Internal Use Only” on all reports. Some companies require stronger words like RESTRICED. If a report is only for your department, then tag it explicitly (i.e. For Revenue Management Department Use Only). Check your company’s document labeling policy and if one does not exist use CONFIDENTIAL label as a start.
2. Intended Recipient. I like to go one step further than the above and label the report with the department, team, or individual for whom the report is intended. This eliminates any ambiguity.
3. Number of Pages. I feel silly mentioning this one, but it irritates me when a printed report does not include the total number of pages that I should have in my hand. Unless it is a bound report, please reassure the reader that they have the entire document.
4. Draft or Final. Analysts typically go through several revisions of a report or a model before it is final. That is specially true for budgets. Let the reader know if there are more revisions to come. Then they can decide whether it’s important to engage with the data or not.
5. Format Changed. Confusion is easily created when the format of a report is changed. A recipient might easily think that it is a new report. Many of your Yield Reports probably look very different today than they did a couple of years ago. As knowledge is acquired, reports change. Columns and rows may be continuously added and removed. It’s always good governance to record when these changes happen.
6. Refreshed. For recurring reports, it is critical to show when the data was refreshed. Date and time are preferred when reports can be refreshed several times per day. At a small property you may run a yield report in the morning and one in the afternoon. A “refreshed/recalculated” timestamp will let the user know if a decision needs to be made or if one has already been made.
7. Printed. Another way to let a reader know if they have the freshest copy is to add a Printed Date and Time stamp. It will avoid confusion when, for example, you have a refreshed report, but there is some information that may have been added manually after the refresh. A Printed On stamp will also ensure that you are not printing an older version of a report as the “Refreshed” mark and the “Printed” mark should be similar.
8. Data Source. I always add all the data sources to the footer of my reports. This quick identifier is specially useful for executive level reports, because it will clarify whether the data is audited(i.e. G/L) or transactional(i.e. PMS/POS). It also shows the recipient where they can go to get the raw information.
9. Distribution Schedule. I think this is one of the most useful meta marks you can add to a report. Simply labeling a report as DAILY, WEEKLY, MONTHLY, ANNUAL, or AD-HOC will let the reader know exactly how to handle the information. It also lets the recipient know if they are looking at the latest refresh and when to expect another.
10. Created By. For widely distributed analysis, it is critical to include the name, email, and department of the creator of the report. This eliminates a lot of time when trying to get an answer on how the report was put together. It also let’s everyone know who has access to what data.
11. File Path. This is important, not only as a way to find a file when an analyst is promoted or leaves the company, but also as a way for the analyst to locate ad-hoc reports that were created long ago.
12. Backup File Path. For models, plans, and budgets, it is also smart to note the path of the backup location. This mark has saved me hours of scouring servers to find a backup for an original that was mistakenly deleted.