Project Management for Hotel Design and Construction

Kempinski Hotels

"The more we discover the benefits of Project Insight, the more we consider increasing the number of team members having access to it."
- General Manager

Main Challenges

The Senior Vice President of Information Technology (IT) for Kempinski Hotels directs IT initiatives for the company. He oversees the work of four regional IT directors representing teams in Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Middle East, Africa, and China.

  • No centralized, company-wide view of project status
  • Difficulty handling project dependencies
  • Multiple copies of project files, causing version-control problems

"The regional IT director is an embedded position. That is, each is a hotel IT manager is responsible for a particular property," he said, "but they spend between 30 and 50 percent of their time on regional IT activities." At the corporate office in Geneva, Switzerland, the senior vice president said, "I have an infrastructure team, I have a hotel technology team, I have a collaboration and web services team, and I also have a hotel information systems team."

His regional IT teams are involved in many different types of projects, but most involve either taking over an existing hotel or assisting with the build of a brand new hotel. He explained, "We have to be involved in a new build at a relatively early stage, because the cabling goes in, the ceilings are down and the walls are not finished, whereas in a takeover, we take what's there. The hotel's running. We just have to make it work and we have to retrofit our systems in as much as possible. So they're two very different beasts in terms of project management and what's required." A typical project load for the Regional IT Director, who directs IT for the China region, is one very large project, which is typically the opening of a new hotel.

Currently, he's directing the IT aspects of preparing the 340 room Kempinski Hotel Huizhou to open on July 1, 2011 in Huizhou, China. "This project is huge and encompasses many subprojects, which are organized into subgroups such as front office, food and beverage, finance, sales and marketing, human resources, purchasing, and so on. We work simultaneously on parallel tasks." Prior to signing on with Project Insight, the Kempinski Hotels IT teams managed projects with a combination of tools and processes, including MS Project desktop. The senior vice president of IT said, "We also have a collaboration platform called Teaming, which is a Novell product. It's not in itself a project management tool, but it allows users to collaborate on files, such as using MS Project or Excel to work on the same document."

In addition, the regional IT director noted, "We created a critical path template in Excel as it was the only tool available at that time. The main issue was that Excel was not designed with the notion of dependencies. Therefore, it took us a great deal of time when we had to update tasks that were related to each other." Without a centralized project management system, the senior vice president relied on manual reporting from regional IT managers and his own corporate IT staff to check in on the status of projects. However, he said, "I wanted something that I could use to very easily look at the status of a project in any of the regions." With regard to the hotels his teams help set up, senior vice president of IT said, "We didn't want to be buying software licenses on behalf of our hotels; we're a management company. But we wanted to give the hotels an option that if they wanted to use a project management tool there was one that we had certified and said was our preferred solution."

Why Project Insight

The senior vice president and the IT teams at Kempinski Hotels worldwide needed a solution that would:

  • Be web accessible and easy to learn
  • Operate "above property," or in the cloud, as a hosted, SaaS solution
  • Provide a central place for visibility into all projects, company wide
  • Better manage dependencies
  • Eliminate file version control problems
  • Automate many of the tasks involved in project management

Initially, the IT division intended to build a custom project management system in-house using external consultants. However, when requirements assessment took an inordinately long time, Corporate Preopening Director said, "We finally chose to go for an online project management system, which also coincided with a change in our IT strategy." Describing that change and a key characteristic of a genuine solution for Kempinski, the senior vice president of IT said, "Our strategic direction is to move to using hosted solutions as an operational expense, where we pay for what we use and can drop users in and drop users out." The corporate preopening director said, "We looked on the internet and asked our partners for recommendations, reviewing about ten project management system suppliers, then narrowing it down to three. We then asked a group of users to test the three systems and added their feedback to our own. Finally, we presented the results to our board and made our recommendation, Project Insight, which received their final approval."

The Results

What they liked about Project Insight:

  • Easy to implement
  • Powerful, yet affordable and available as a hosted service
  • Offers a centralized "mission control" view of projects company-wide
  • Acts as a "one stop shop" for project management, budgeting, and time tracking
  • Readily handles dependencies
  • Improved their project review process

Since signing on with Project Insight, regional IT director noted that, "It gives much better visibility to our head office in Geneva on each hotel opening status." In addition, he said, "The project review process has improved quite a lot since Project Insight was implemented." From a head office standpoint, senior vice president said, "We've set up the template according to our different regions and we set up a hierarchical type access to the system. I think it makes it a lot easier that everyone's using the same tool. And therefore there's a certain amount of accountability by the people using it so that we have a level of oversight on exactly what's going on with the projects.

Project Insight allows for a level of centralization, yet also allows the hotels to use it in a decentralized manner. They don't care whether we have access or not. They can get on and use the system and manage their projects and if we then have the oversight portion of it, it still allows them to get on and there's a sort of mutually exclusive relationship." The regional IT director has been pleased with the smooth handling of project dependencies. "For instance," he said, "our opening date changed a couple of times over the last few months and it has been very easy with Project Insight to update the entire critical path, respecting the dependencies between tasks.

In addition to this, when we will have increased the number of people with access to Project Insight, each department head will be able to work at the same time on Project Insight. No need to have an Excel file circulating all around the pre-opening office with everyone saving his own copy on his hard disk. I also enjoy having access to Project Insight wherever I am." He noted that the Metafuse team has been supportive and available to answer any questions for his group. The regional IT director finished by saying, "We are planning to use Project Insight for many other sub-projects which are also related to the opening of the hotel. For instance, the grand opening of the hotel would be a project by itself, and would be created as such in Project Insight. We are also planning to use Project Insight on many other projects once the hotel is open, big functions that require a lot of planning and organization, such as the opening of new outlets. The more we discover the benefits of Project Insight, the more we consider increasing the number of team members having access to it."