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A good beginning

Rehan Zaidi, I.T Manager at Grand Excelsior Hotel, Dubai discusses how Operational standards and policies must be defined for the I.T department in advance aligned with the business strategy & goals and local laws


Discuss what needs to be taken care during Hotel Pre-opening projects from a technology perspective?

While hotel pre-opening projects are expected to be a challenge from an information technology perspective, at the same time, it’s an opportunity to showcase personal and professional strengths, skills and passion that integrates with the company’s vision, business goals, and strategy. It’s a combination of hard and soft skills. The ‘Art’ belongs to the bigger picture where you see different kinds of stakeholders and the lines of communication, human psychology and organizational culture, all in play to find the balance. Information technology plays a vital role in putting up together all lines and sketches on the canvas of the project. Hotel pre-opening projects are no different than other industrial projects but the output and outcome timings are different. The tools, systems, system’s integration, and user training make the project successful.

Do you think that Information technology department should have SOPs (standard operating procedures) customized for hotels?

Running directly to build the infrastructure for all departments without SOPs and policies do not provide fruitful results which may haunt the project success within a defined timeline. As a matter of fact, the information technology department is a supplier for internal and external customers. Internal customers refer to other operational departments of the hotel and external customers are those esteemed guests for which the complete picture is drawn. Operational standards and policies must be defined for the I.T department in advance aligned with the business strategy & goals and local laws.

Every business segment has standards and procedures at the core level such as ISO standards but for sure, when we talk about hospitality, it has its own standards. The standards shall include guest requirements and procedures that comply with guest expectations, respective departmental user requirements, nominated vendors, computerized systems, interfaces, and installation pre-requisites. This will help to build the foundation for network infrastructure. The hotel’s management company or owners might incur an extra cost than the project estimated cost if the requirements are not analyzed in-depth prior to the project plan. Foresight shall be given to hotel’s system requirements and any other local legislation that mandate the other statutory system requirements. Quality, risk and communication management policies will help to eliminate deviation from allocated time, budgeted cost and defined quality levels. The recommended method is to adopt industry proven standards and frameworks such as ITIL, ISO27001 & COBIT.


What are the recommendations for the selection and implementation of I.T systems?

Economic conditions of every economy have urged organizations to look for cost-effective solutions. I would not say that organizations should look towards price-tag associated with the products but due to fast-paced technological advancement, there are plenty of solutions which are achieving greater ROI and VOI with comparatively lesser cost.

I.T systems in hotels can be divided into two categories. One is the network and security infrastructure and their associated systems and other is the hotel customized solutions for hotel operations. Majorly, for hotel operations, the base is the PMS (Property Management System) which provide the tools for Front Desk, Revenue and Reservations department, Housekeeping and Sales & Marketing; POS (Point of Sale) system which is mandatory for any Food & Beverage operations; Revenue management systems including the website, booking engine, yield and channel management solutions; Internet billing solution; Telephone exchange and call accounting system that serves as the legacy communication tool for the guests and hotel’s team; Digital Signage solution for meeting rooms and banquet halls; Security & CCTV solution; Back office financial and HR solutions; RMS and BMS; There are several customized solutions that are offering SaaS solutions and are cost effective. SaaS solutions provide greater benefit to reduce the hosting, installation and maintenance cost as compared to the on-premise solution. As a baseline for system selection, the important factors such as the numb:er of rooms, number of F&B outlets, facilities and services that the hotel is going to offer and each departmental manning should be explored in-depth.


What can cause hotel pre-opening project failures from I.T perspective?

To realize the benefits of I.T systems, I.T infrastructure is not dependent on information technology department alone, it’s a teamwork. I.T requires input from all other departments in building the operational system. I would say that hotel pre-opening projects usually do not fail completely but yes, there can be failures in achieving the time, cost, quality, and benefits. There can be several factors and reasons for a failure in achieving project success. I.T serves as a backbone for hotel operations and one of the failure reasons can be the absence of I.T personnel while preparing the business case and in later steps, the project plan. Consultation is very important and the most important factor while selecting the I.T consultant is to examine the consultant’s experience in the hospitality industry and in similar projects. Same goes for the internal I.T team. The I.T team shall be comprised of the workforce from Hotel’s I.T background to build the I.T infrastructure in coordination with vendors, consultants, and MEP engineers. Information technology is a vast field and hence, not every I.T expert can be accommodated in hospitality industry projects. Lastly, communication plan and methodology is very important. Irrespective of I.T department, coordination and communication between all the stakeholders is very important. Concerns and issues shall be addressed and communicated timely to respective stakeholders to avoid delays in project completion

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