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.

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