Centara Case Study: For control of your Hotel Chain and Food and Beverage Outlets, would you start by building a data warehouse or add Business Intelligence tool?

 

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Recently, at my firm we implemented a business intelligence (BI) system for  the International Centara Hotels and Resorts chain using Infor Performance Management. This  places Centara as a leading best practice organization with much more power to meet its plans to grow.

Being veterans in this domain, we knew at the outset this project was a little different. I want to now tell you that story, which is about how this Business intelligence project took a quite varied approach that paid off. It began  when we considered the first question: Where to start?

clip_image002It’s horses for courses when it comes to what needs doing first when adding a BI platform in any organization. And every organization is different, be it  management culture, its maturity, its client mix, diversity and even how it sits in the market.  But its Courses for horses that are needed to make the right choice.

So before we rushed in with our expensive  horse trainer (code for consultant) we knew the common thread in business is the information. Once you understand the hospitably business and its outlets value chain, like all business it is actually quite generic in nature when it comes to how we use it. What makes it different of course is the workflow and language that people use to describe it. But in hotels more critical is the marketing process dynamics that create the business itself. How we assemble and report that for control and to keep generating business momentum and growth is about having consistent and ready access to all the information. That is the key for hotel businesses success or their failures when it has no data.

We also knew if the Business Intelligence reporting does not cover the broad base of the business information, it will typically stay departmental and become orphaned.  It then has a very short life span as new systems and processes come along. In my case, I know of no other effective way for BI deployment than to address the entire business. Generally this also needs a data warehouse to feed it.

For some, having a business intelligence tool, it is perceived as adding a reporting layer to see the financials in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). That is good to allow conversations to add and compare budgets and plans. But others need something more. E.g integrating departmental access to operations data for such things as measuring marketing and daily revenue activity by category.  This can also be joined with a Customer relationship management (CRM) system or in the case of a hotel the guest data. That access to deep detail allows understanding of the variables to then plan better business strategies. For example, understanding guests country of origin consumer habits allows better business performance on guest activity. Knowing this and its worth is like being given gold as you can  tailor guest services and such things as food and beverage outlet services to match.  Understanding how Agents and Outlets add to the mix, helps plan new business campaigns. The bottom line is it is much more empowering with a BI process to provide for both an organic and strategic growth to take more market share.

So enough of the motherhood stuff. I will now get to the heart of my story.

This Hotel business of long-standing in the last few years had grown quickly to a multi site, multi channel business spread across several geographies. The initial brief was to help provide access to company data to help them manage their marketing.

What they wanted was to see where their referrals were coming from and what services were in most demand and who bought them. They also wanted to see the performance of campaigns and their agents and what promotions worked and where and what was profitable or not, right down to a product and customer level.

Being a hospitality business, they also wanted to see where and how they could promote other services to their customers and to understand the approach they needed to add value to the base, with continuance as that aim.

All that sounded quite straight forward and what most people want. But it did reek of telephone number sized costs to achieve and we had a limited budget

It may sound  na?ve or even heretic to say, but doing it the Method 101 way was a joke. In fact we did start out with requirements studies and business rule conversations and so on as part of the buy in step. We even spent a day on mapping processes. But that was about it as no one wanted to join in all that theatrical change management stuff. They were just too busy.

So we took a stealth approach and began looking at the data itself to give us the clues and accountability. This let us get those serious questions answered by the right people who actually owned and or used the data. For us the only way to get any success was get the data into a data warehouse to surface it in a BI tool That meant we could have sensible conversations for more effective and immediate in the business. They saw in real terms what they would get and what they wanted sense. They were also able to understand risks of changes they needed to get it.

Taking a department approach initially got answers fast and got business teams talking . It cut to the chase to surface issues without the trappings of formal business case management. We used other ways to report our progress to the management and made the approval of stages part of the conversations. Letting the issues drive the outcome gave us a bonus. As they were sorted out we used that chance to get ownership with those who needed it right.

In a nutshell, the Financials seemed a good place to start as the framework for control. It was an easy step that got us brownie points very early to see what was possible and what was missing. But we limited that to reporting only and just did enough to have a base, as our prize was the operations. We left budgets and forecast update processes and the other departmental reporting like cash and receivables until we understood the dynamics of the business better and how the data moved though the operations. Then as we worked hard on the operational systems as we collated all the data into data warehouse. In turn we surfaced operations data in the BI tool and matched it back with the backbone financials. Then we added the integrity to join all the dots. Marketing came last but is was easy to then  get the data they needed to  make their plans.

With the commission to do this now all but done, Operations, Back Office, Marketing and Sales are all now getting what they want and making improvements. The business managers too can also go to the BI reporting tools and rely on the numbers delivered daily via a consistent data warehouse.

What has actually occurred with this change is the spreadsheets are now in decline as the primary access to information and analysis tool.  With ongoing ready access in a trusted “information culture”  in place it has changed forever the quality and ability of the business to improve its performance with an ease to grow.

The ability to see hidden truths fast can be confronting. But such a powerful motivator that  shows up quickly means issues and plans can be more easily deal with or fixed. The data warehouse that feeds it with cleaned and much  standardized data is all it in one place. The redundancy bonus here is for roll-back in the event of a business system failure or change.

Like a chicken and egg, we need to understand which comes first? We considered building a data-warehouse then add the BI tool later. But we knew that way we would  most certainly change or even rebuild it. So we acquired the BI tool to help define the data itself and the data warehouse that stores it.

That way we knew we wouldn’t waste time as our end game tool would show us how to make changes to get a good data set. It worked like a charm with a complete performance based business intelligence system now in place. With the inevitable learning curve now in full swing as standards refine and its use for marketing takes root, the system brings the vital front and back office data together to help this business immeasurably to plan better and  grow.

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About

clip_image004Centara Hotels & Resorts, the largest hotel chain in Thailand offering idyllic locations, International standards, and gracious Thai hospitality. We operate and manage hotels & resorts in Thailand: Bangkok, Hua Hin, Krabi, Pattaya, Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, Phuket, Rayong, Trat & Koh Kood, Hat Yai, Chiang Mai, Mae Sot, & Udon Thani and International: Maldives, India, & Egypt. They promote great rates and a selection of fully inclusive packages which not only take away the stress of travel planning, but offer programs of special interest which can be tailored around you.

About

clip_image006Infor is a leading provider of business applications and believes in the importance of constant innovation and the value of laser focus on its customers.  Infor’s products give customers the ability to deploy faster with less disruption, and grow with better insight.  Their products are easily deployed on-premise, in the cloud or both.

About

clip_image008Sherwood Group Consulting in Asia-Pacific, since 1993, advises business on best practice in performance management. To help companies change and grow, their expertise in business, financial management & information technology draws experience from a wide spectrum. They get projects up and running in a very short time to provide planning, budgeting and consolidated reporting. for performance management integrated with business intelligence.

It may not be all you need to know about doing “Data Mining” but reading some basics on how experts do is a good start.

imageIt is said "Energy cannot be created nor destroyed; it can only change in form". Predicting the reformation is the challenge. One of the biggest issues is people delivering services and selling product is they don’t understand the behaviors of how they are consumed. Hence data mining to that let people understand this more, is now looming large.

When you hear about data mining and the Clementine methodology; it is nothing to do with digging for precious metals or singing some old song by the same name around a miners’ camp fire. And the job of Data Mining certainly is No Free Lunch.  A guy called Tom Khabaza, using information in telecoms and law enforcement defined a solid approach and some rules for data mining. The advanced thinking he applied is a widely used in processes in predictive analysis work.

On his website, Khabaza defines data mining this way:

imageData mining is an analytical business process which applies predictive modelling algorithms to solve business problems.  Predictive analytics is a family of business solutions which embed predictive models, produced by data mining, into a business process.  Data mining is the “predictive core” of predictive analytics.

……………………………Tom Khabaza

Khabaza developed his mantra with what he calls laws These are embedded in his objectives based methodology with a knowledge centric approach that lets him create and see patterns in what many may see as unstable information. This allows him to make sensible determinations about real predictive value, while being able to understand implications of data model accuracies and the impacts of laws of change.

He asserts “Data mining is not primarily the technology, it is the process, which has one or more business objectives at its heart. Experimentation is a key aspect as is preparation more than half of every data mining process.

At the heart of our very existences is our inquisitiveness. Analytics turns that into value. Understanding what data mining is all about is not just for academics and marketing gurus It is for all of us.

Meta Brown, an advocate of the Khabaza work and an analytics software marketer, says

clip_image002Much of what passes for data mining is no more than reporting”.

Ms. Brown, on her website claims she has introduced and expanded analytics in offices and factories across the US and Canada. That sort of pedigree makes her insightful comments on Khabaza’s 9 laws noteworthy.

She interprets that there there is more to it than just needing good data but  manipulation is an important part of the data miner’s process. Her editorials makes it LL easy to understand this recommended reading in her post, also reproduced here, below fold.

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Distractions can be distracting but also work in your favour.

Here is a 4 minute video I did to talk about distractions. At the time I was involved in a project that had all the usual roadblocks and attention grabbers that can derail things.

To some extent it is reflective. I do hope there is value for you.

In this day and age do you believe a shonky salesman can still fool all of the people some of the time?

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We all know that part of selling is matching problems to solutions is an important service.

But not all sales people play by these rules. For unwary buyers the sting comes when they don’t need something but get hooked on the promise of what may lead to a better life.

John a mate, from my local watering hole, sent me a link inviting me to join Paybox.me. The carrot for him was he got $10 if I joined. So in spite of my father’s warning to be wary of men selling things in pubs, I went ahead.

This site looked good and promoted an early bird chance on a prelaunch business set to take on the giant payment and currency system PALPAY. To humor my mate and for fun I joined and immediately got $25 deposited in a new account that I registered. And then if I encouraged others I got a $10 referral fee too.

It seemed so easy even though I suspected a catch. But in just a couple of days I had a few hundred dollars in my account for doing virtually nothing. It seemed a great deal but I still wondered when they would tell me about how I could spend my new money.

But even when it came clear it was all Disney Dollars in drag, by then magic $ signs growing had me ignoring the fine print. Like an out of control train you should jump from, nothing can stop gullible people like me believing it will be ok. I already had a large pile at stake, was on ground floor si it was easy for them to use clever wording to muffle any common sense I had left. For example the alternative competitor concept to grab some of the obscene amounts of money from a greedy mogul like PayPal, seemed to make it compelling even though by now they were opening saying it was a long shot the play money would eventually be acceptable to buy good and services if they could make it turn into a real currency.

The truth is, even though I did knew it was all crap, to me what made it worth watching was finding how they planned to get a list of 20 million names, that they boasted would make it all work. Nothing to lose I thought and even disbelieving the substance I still considered it fun to see how many $10 bonuses I could rack up for each referral I made.

With a few years doing this blog under my belt I had nearly 19,000 loyal followers on my Twitter account built up the hard way. I did myself no favours by sending then this junk as my following immediately fell to 18,000; a lesson not to mess with people who trust you.

That made me re-look at PlayBox which actually had nothing real. The material on their site was all play-me material clearly designed for suckers. The usual vagueness of a sting-marketing program was had the typically long on hype and short on promise landing pages which also seemed unrelated. Like a bad TV Ad they had subliminal adjectival messages with no substance designed to reduced resistance with nauseating repetition designed exhaust skeptic’s natural distrust.

The poorly disguised links were way out of context and a dead giveaway. When I followed some they lead to other suspect money making schemes that promised nothing and just lead to dodgy schemes with “Send me real money to get rich quick sucker schemes”

I am sure they were working on the theory we all know. that as any story gets bigger and more people get involved it starts to take on proportions of trust and the truth that even Blind Freddy can’t see. Like many such schemes that never happen, I suspect this was a scam for building lists with hooks, hype and halos for something that will never be launched.

We all know the biggest and best cons are the ones that fool all of the people some of the time. NO less true here with the sting being all the while as the crooks cream off loads of cash from gullible people in small doses with equally dodgy side promotions then quietly evaporate before someone tumbles them.

And like mud on your face it is also so obvious when you look back. Such a service would involve all the banks and all financial markets. Anything free is a sure sign that there is something to be wary about.

So I think I will stick to PayPal . Right now it costs me nothing to buy and when I sell it’s safe. .

To stop erroneous dealing is it better to give a One Hundred Dollar Cash Back or a use a Performance Management system to fix the route cause?

imageThis week in my subscriptions inbox was a post from a contemporary. Larry Berezin writes about a proposed law to Pay-the-Motorist-$100-when-a–Parking-Ticket-is-Dismissed, His regular blog is on legal issues around New York Parking.

Berezin discusses the so called DenDekker Bill for a law to dis-incentivize rogue parking inspector rackets. This potentially exposes NYC to a $6M liability based on last count published statistics where 14.7% of violations were dismissed and 17.1% of appeals were granted reversal.

I agree with Michael DenDekker’s underlying sentiment and for a moment it seemed there was some hope for an end to the parking ticket scams. But as the threat to city coffers makes the bill passage tenuous, it seems going one step would obviate that by having perpetrators involved foot the $100 bill.and not the NYC.

Of course the real question is defining rouge practices. Those just doing their job, and making honest mistakes must be protected, Like the public they serve, they must not be made victims. And in the end where does it stop. Would this law set president on all pecuniary penalties? 

Hence setting the pendulum weight to bias the swing the other way, may be well intentioned, but could be potentially ugly too. Exposing the soft underbelly of law abiding public could be too tempting to any rouge parking inspector to use their inside knowledge to swap sides and then milk the system with $100 cash back scams.

The famous NYC Mayor Giuliani approach could work for zero tolerance on scams. And I like Larry’s idea about bringing back Arnie with his Terminator gun to help too. Those suspended disbelief movies were good weren’t they? And so much better than the Governator role he played that lead him to that long running Days of Our Lives series he was in. But now he has left that show, he could be up for a comeback and be of real value to the public as well.

But the best suggestion of all is Larry’s KPI approach. Six Sigma with black belts all that sounds like a fun. What I do like too is it has all the good aspects of performance management built in with no real down side. Being transparent, it is balanced and with collaborative reviews and timely alerts, makes cake-walk of continuous improvement. The statistics that NYC have too make it clear they have a good data base there already So to make that work a Business Intelligence system to do the analysis and let people see the information is all that may be required. I might just have one in stock and we have some good consultant to advise too.

So you see, with Larry Berezin’s quite brilliant big picture KPI amendments to Michael DenDekker’s equally luminous get out of jail cash back initiative gives hope to a need. And knowing we have the make it happen Ware-With All with performance management solutions, everybody wins; the NYC, the Parking Inspectors , the Public, Arnie, plus my business intelligence software based consulting firm Of course we need good Lawyer for the contracts management too Larry.

All jokes aside, I have already send a message of congratulations for a truly thinking piece.

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