Lodgistix-HMS: “Lanmark Training Support Package”

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In the early 1990s, Lodgistix-HMS (Phoenix, AZ), a division of  Sulcus Corporation, was one of the world’s largest developers of hotel reservationing and management software (also known as a “property management system,” or a “PMS”).

Until that time, the only way trainees could learn how to use PMS program were through two time-consuming and expensive methods:

  • bored-reading-320x190One-on-one or classroom instruction
  • Via a series of thick binders filled with technical materials – which were often written above the trainee’s reading level, or were filled with “techno-babble,” incomprehensible to people who’d never used a computer before

For its new flagship product, and in preparation for the hospitality industry’s biggest trade show, Lodgistix was intent on revolutionizing the PMS marketplace.


Mission: To create the hospitality industry’s first paperless training program

After developing its latest PMS program, the “Lanmark” system, Lodgistix wished to become the first in the hospitality industry to design and produce a completely paperless, comprehensive CD-ROM based training program. The ultimate purpose of this program was:

  • To dramatically reduce – or eliminate altogether – the need for PMS program trainees to study from paper-based materials.
  • To give trainees throughout the world would have the opportunity to study via an an engaging multimedia learning system, available 24 hours a day.
  • To take trainees with no knowledge of computers, or experience in the hospitality industry, to a basic level of proficiency, in the minimum possible amount of time, effort and expense.

Lodgistix awarded the contract to develop this training program to Rainbow Multimedia Group (Phoenix, AZ), where I was employed as a screen layout (storyboard) artist at at the time.


I made a  big gamble – that paid off for Lodgistix, Rainbow, and myself

I originally started working on this project just doing the tasks that were assigned to me – namely, designing screen graphics to correspond to the materials submitted by Lodgistix.  I, like PMS trainees, was given thick 3-ring binders filled with narrative training scripts written by the software programmers who wrote the Lanmark PMS.

After reading these materials, however, and designing the initial storyboards, I felt strongly that Rainbow was being asked to produce little more than a multimedia adaptation of the same dry, boring, technology-focused training materials that Lodgistix already knew users found boring and cumbersome.  A narrator would be effectively reading the instructional materials and guiding the trainee through certain keystrokes and screens.

In essence, I argued that the materials were being written in “techno-babble,” to tell trainees what programmers wanted them to know – as opposed to creating an environment that makes the learning process engaging, and fun, by taking full advantage of the possibilities of the multimedia platform.  Furthermore, as I had worked in the hospitality industry prior to joining Rainbow (including at the Ritz Carlton for two years, in part as a trainer), it was apparent to me that however competent Lodgistix’s programmers were regarding PMS development, they had never worked in a customer service environment.

I and Rainbow’s CEO spoke at length about my views and concerns.  The CEO ultimately told me, “If you think you can write better scripts, then go for it.” Even though I had never written a script of any kind, I developed a sample adaptation of a training script, and presented it to Lodgistix executives for consideration.  The scripts I wrote called for extensive use of:

  • Lodgistix8smallHeavy use of voice actors to play different roles, synchronized to custom photography simulating what was being discussed, to depict various scenarios that the trainee will or may face.
  • A lively, animated “game show” to replace the simple check-off style skill test, at the conclusion of each module.

Lodgistix executives quickly realized the potential of my approach, and authorized Rainbow to “translate” all of the raw training materials it had submitted into the “new” format that I was suggesting.


The evolution of Lodgistix’s training project – now, under my creative leadership

Rainbow’s CEO assigned me more and more responsibility for the project.  During the course of this and other projects I was directing at the time, Rainbow promoted me to Art Director, then to Creative Director, within 15 months, a position I maintained until leaving the firm in 1993.  See the Rainbow CEO’s letter of recommendation for me here.

Ultimately, I performed all the following tasks for the ten lessons that the Lodgistix program consisted of:

  • LDGXPhotoExcerptsWrote all narrative scripts.
  • Designed all storyboards.
  • Directed photography and audio sessions.
  • Directed animators and programmers.
  • Planned and managed this nearly year-long production.

Key features of the finished program, which was contained on three CD-ROMs, include:

  • Interactive audio-visual tutorials.
  • High-end graphic visualizations of the components of a computer, how terminals are networked together, and the function of the PMS program.
  • Guest-interaction simulations, in which the narrator guides the user through all the keystrokes necessary to deal with guests who call in to make, change and cancel reservations.
  • A humor-infused quiz at the end of each lesson: the “Lanmark Lesson Quiz Show” – which featured an animated game-show host, “Cool Ray Tube,” which I designed exclusively for this application:

    GameShowExcerpt

The first lesson of the program walks the user through the basics of the computer terminal, keyboard, function keys, and how a networked computer system operates.  See the complete script-storyboard here.

Below is Lesson 3: “Retrieve A Reservation,” in which the trainee is taught how to call up, modify and process an existing reservation.

Lodgistix Lesson 3 by jonsutz


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The results Lodgistix and Rainbow realized via this training program

For Lodgistix, the Lanmark “Training Support Program” resulted in:

  • Increased sales, by being the first (and only) PMS developer to include an interactive multimedia training program with each system installation.
  • Reduced training time for PMS trainees to gain minimum proficiency on the Lanmark system, from two weeks to three days.
  • Dramatically lowered per-employee training cost.
  • Increased sales, by positioning LHMS as the first PMS developer to include an interactive multimedia training program with each system installation.

Lodgistix executives were thrilled with the result of their decision to trust Rainbow with this production:

“The power of our program far surpasses any training product I have ever seen.  The comprehensive quality of the creative consulting, script writing and storyboard design services that Rainbow provided to us was fundamental to creating training materials that brought our program concepts to life, and made the learning process fun and efficient.  Congratulations on a job well done.”

John Picardi, Chief Operating Officer (LHMS)

Rainbow also benefited, by becoming known as Lodgistix’s multimedia developer of choice, and for producing such an engaging, efficient training program.

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