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10 simple rules for hospitality IT projects

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Diving into the 10 rules for approaching IT projects in hospitality with Frank Wagner, Director International Sales – Hospitality Group at Advanced Computer Technology (ACT) to give you the guide to effective investment. Avoid resource loss and losing time, save thousands in Hospitality IT Projects by following 10 simple Rules - hear the reasoning behind in this episode:

  • Appoint a project manager: What are the key criteria, experience and skills to consider?

  • Define the full scope of the project in painstaking detail: What are the key aspects that really need to be expanded on?

  • Compare offers: How many suppliers should you engage and compare?

  • Consider separating between hardware/software and services: Why is this so important today?

  • Agree on a fixed price order: What does this mean?

  • Involve vendors of interfaced systems in time: Why this is so important?

  • Request a detailed work schedule: What it should contain?

  • Check what your team can do: How to manage expectations and deliverables of internal members?

  • Be present: How to be the best leader

  • Adjust your staff schedules: Why this is important?

And finally, the benefits of treating your consultants well. Frank Wagner is presenting at the ACE Hotel Tech Summit 2023 of which Ryan Haynes is host and Travel Market Life a media partner


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Programme Notes


This episode has been automatically transcribed by AI, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors


Ryan Haynes:

Hello and welcome back. To Travel. Market Life. I'm your host, Ryan Haynes and this episode is part of our media partnership with the ACE Hotel Tech Summit. In September 2023, we are going to be covering saving thousands in hospitality IT projects by following 10 simple Rules with Frank Wagner, the director of International Sales Hospitality Group from Advanced Computer Technology. Check out the rest of the episodes from ACE Hotel Technology, Summit, as well as our live LinkedIn session that we're going to be hosting. You can also follow our other podcast through travelmarket.life. Subscribe there to our newsletter or on LinkedIn or of course make sure you're following us on Spotify or your Apple, Google, or Deezer podcasts.


Ryan Haynes:

We'd also like to take this moment to thank you for being our listeners as our listenership continues to grow month in, and month out. It's a real honour. If you could take a moment to potentially just provide a rating review of our podcast it adds a real value to those who might be looking for a podcast to follow. Right. Let's get on with the show.


Ryan Haynes:

Frank. thanks ever so much for joining us today. So, you've come up with these 10 simple Rules, can you tell me why?


Frank Wagner:

Yeah, thanks a lot, Ryan. Thanks for having me. Basically, in my job, I do mainly IT projects And I see the same issues coming up again and again and they can be easily avoided. Most of the projects that we are doing are initiated too late. The scope definition is to cut short, the attention is not there of the people who are actually interested in the solution and the training is superficial because it is not facilitated in the right way, or it is basically not. The people that should get the training are not enabled enough to get it.


Frank Wagner:

And that's why I said that gives the people some rules and that allows them if they follow it, to have a project as successfully but as well as cost effective as possible.


Ryan Haynes:

Absolutely. I mean if you're spending not just thousands on the installation and development of the products and systems themselves, you're also spending that on the people and that could actually affect the end guest experience, especially when the hotel today where experience is everything. Now we're going to start off at 0.1. So, 0.1, rule one, Appoint a project manager. So, let's look into this then. Frank, what are the key criteria, experience and skills to consider when looking at a project manager?


Frank Wagner:

The project manager, it's maybe a term that is shying people off because it sounds expensive, but basically, it just needs to be a person that is involved and interested in the project and that might be an internal person as well as an external person. And with this role, the person should be in this role from the start of the negotiations until the post-project life phase to accompany it and drive it forward. It is very difficult in a larger organization if you do not have that person who is really or as well taking the time to do this project.


Frank Wagner:

Hence, he does not need to be an IT expert. The thing that he needs to know is what he wants to achieve or what the organisation and the hotel want to achieve with this product, this solution or this suite of solutions that they're planning to implement.


Ryan Haynes:

Now I know particularly product managers, some of the issues that you can have is that if the person does not come have that vested interest, particularly if you pick up a project manager halfway through, you're not necessarily going to have that buy-in completely to see it through to the end. So that's one thing I believe that needs to be considered is as you say, getting that person in from the beginning and ensuring that they are really excited and engaged in that project.


Frank Wagner:

Absolutely and we have a lot of customers who are not multinational companies, they are individual hoteliers sometimes and they will not have a project manager. But then I strongly recommend that the owner or manager really dedicate their time to the project. A project does not take forever but it's really worth spending time to dedicate it to that during this process and the implementation.


Ryan Haynes:

So, rule two, define the full scope of the project in pain staking detail. So, what are the key aspects to consider?


Frank Wagner:

The scope definition has multiple components. You have a software and hardware piece, you have interfaces to third parties, and systems that need to work. You have training requirements. That means who needs to be trained, what needs to be trained to whom and when is it possible. There's a time schedule behind it, meaning you have to have a planned opening date. You have to plan the cutover process which not only affects your operation but also your guests saying Hey, sorry, I need to charge you with the invoice the night before you leave because tonight, we are cutting over to a new system.


Frank Wagner:

So, all these aspects are super important, and it means involving a lot of people in the process. So, the important thing in the scope is not how to do it, but to know what you want to achieve with this implementation. If you know what you want to achieve then everything else will lead towards it and as well, you're starting to ask the right questions to your vendors. Important is you have to sit with a vendor that takes the time and the scope definition. If you just send somebody, send me an offer for implementing X, Y, Z, you will get an offer for implementing X, Y, Z the way he thinks it should be done.


Frank Wagner:

But if he knows your aims then he can figure them out and customize them in a way that helps you.


Ryan Haynes:

And one of the things he did mention there was to make sure you Involve all stakeholders, especially the internal stakeholders as you say, you won't be able to make much momentum without having them on board. Rule three, compare offers. So how many suppliers should I be engaging?


Frank Wagner:

Well in our world this compare offers sounds simple but often hotel years are looking for a specific solution. We have a number of standard solutions in our industry. So, people probably would sometimes go out and say I compare PMS A with B with C, but this is a completely other animal. My idea is once I've decided which PMS I'm going with, in many cases people think there's only one option to get it the local supplier or the national supplier or the producer of it.


Frank Wagner:

But that's exactly the wrong idea always. There are options that you have multiple vendors for the same product, and they will give you similar but not similar offers. So, it helps you understand the offering and the options and it's not always necessary to go to the supplier of a solution to say can you send me, sell me a solution, can you sell me the consulting and implementation and training? So that is what I mean by Compare offers. If you know what you want, don't think there's only one that's going to sell it to you.


Ryan Haynes:

Rule four, consider separating between hardware, software and services. Why, is this so important today then?


Frank Wagner:

Yeah, that actually plays back to the previous questions you have. In many cases, people will think it is best for them to have only one throat to choke. So, I order the software and the hardware and the services, the training and the support from the same company and that is not a bad choice at all, but it probably comes to you at a price because they have tended from the tendency, they have rather higher prices if there are other producers or software. So, my proposal is when you say I want to have software look to go to the producer and say I buy your software, I buy your hardware, they're great but I'm looking for somebody else to implement it.


Frank Wagner:

Somebody who is more personal, who has more time to do it and maybe as well has a better daily rate to do it for you and is more flexible as well. Implementation lead times which comes to your time planning are often shorter when you go to a specialized service company that is certified in the solution but is not the vendor or the producer of the solution.


Ryan Haynes:

Rule five. agree on a fixed price order. Not quite sure about this one. Frank, you're going to have to explain this one to me.


Frank Wagner:

Yes, with pleasure. So, in our industry, IT projects most of the projects will be done on a time and material basis, which means I'll give you a good judgment of the mandates that I need to implement the entire solution for you. But this is very much dependent on how you as a customer behave, how the circumstances are, how diligent I have done my pre-checks and what I then do in these times and materials offer because that could be much more than what was initially planned because I could not find a certain network socket an interfaced is not working as expected, et cetera, et cetera.


Frank Wagner:

And that's driving up the cost. So, if I take, go back to number two and say I define the scope with my vendor in painstaking detail, then I should ask him to say, okay you now know everything. And I gave you all the opportunity to know even more. So please give me an offer that is fixed price, which means you as the professional should be able to tell me how long you need. I have no chance of judging how many days you will need and there are a lot of companies out there that do this and then you can put it into your budget, and you know it's not going to be more than what I initially budgeted for.


Ryan Haynes:

I mean absolutely, I mean there is this risk of cost expiring out of control. Hotels in general only have a limited budget. Some might have deeper pockets as we know, but I guess also at the same time we do have to make allowances for the fact that then something might crop up within the system, within the infrastructure that you didn't expect that you couldn't see on initial inspection. So, I guess that it's about making sure you have those clear conversations with your partners to be sure about, okay, what will I be charged If you find something unexpected,


Frank Wagner:

There are always a lot of unexpected things happening in these projects, but you as a customer, should aim for not going blind into this and basically busting your expenses or your project budget right away. There are better ways to spend that money even with the vendor buying more add-ons instead of using it for services that you should not be using it for.


Ryan Haynes:

Excellent. So, we're halfway through Now, you listeners out there, I know you're thinking how can I keep track of these 10 rules? Don't worry about it because they are in the description of the podcast you can keep referring to them as you go on your, as you go and develop your projects and your investments there. So, rule six involves vendors of interfaced systems in time. So why is this so important?


Frank Wagner:

It's actually one of the biggest time eaters in projects, unexpected time eaters because in interfaced projects there are always three parties involved. There is the vendor of the system you are implementing, there is the producer of the system that you are interfacing with and there's yourself. And the most important thing, don't take yourself out of this equation because these two guys, the other two guys, they're not talking to each other or now they're not enough talking to each other. Every one of your newly implemented system vendors has its boundaries. He says, okay, I have an interfaced, it's certified, I'm going to do this exactly until I hand it over the, I'm handing over the data to the third party and the third party says, yes, And, I have my interfaced from here on And.


Frank Wagner:

I take the data that you're getting and as soon as they start testing it, they come across the issues, mapping problems, et cetera, which take time. And the bad thing is you are paying this guy by the hour assuming he is calling, writing an email to the third-party vendor saying I'm not getting, I'm sending the data but I'm not getting the result. And then you're waiting for the reply. So, you need to make sure that when the interface is going to be activated both sides are available in today's time. They don't have to be available physically at your site, but they have to be available on the phone, or on the internet so that they can communicate and solve this problem quickly.


Frank Wagner:

It takes a lot of time is a lot of back and forth. It says, no it's not our problem, it's your problem. Check yourself. Yeah, I checked again, everything is fine, it's your problem. No, I checked again as well. It's not my problem. And then basically the money goes out of the window at the same time. So, this is to have these guys talk and prepare your third-party vendors that something is going to happen weeks before making an appointment. And that brings us to the next point.


Ryan Haynes:

Rule seven Request a detailed work schedule. And that, that's my question there is like from who and what should it contain? Is it from your lead system provider?


Frank Wagner:

It is a schedule from the lead system provider. We have created a detailed scope. He knows the implementation timeline that we are aiming for. So, when should the system go live based on that he must I say must create a detailed schedule of what is happening when there can be contingency times in there. But it is not only important because you need to tell your third party connecting interfaced parties when they should be available for connecting, but you also need to plan your entire staff.


Frank Wagner:

When do they need to be available for questions and answers for planning? When do they need to be available for training? Which departments are going to be trained and when? Because always think you are running an operation. I'm not exactly talking about the case where I'm opening a new hotel and everybody's available for it every time. But in many cases, you're implementing or updating something in a running system. So, you are receptionists, your housekeeping, your finance department, materials management, they all need to Be present at a certain point and there's nothing worse than either having the consultant waiting for your people to finish with something else or your people having training and then their work is running away, and everything is customers are unhappy.


Frank Wagner:

So that should not happen. And this can only be avoided by having a clear schedule where it says on Monday from three to five, Mr. Smith, you have your training be present.


Ryan Haynes:

And that then comes on to 0.8 as well because it's Check what your team can do. And I know we referred at the very beginning about involving a team as early on as possible, but it's also about really, I guess understanding and managing expectations and deliverables of internal team members because this is where sometimes it can cause a lot of delay, right?


Frank Wagner:

Exactly. When you have a new system implementation, whatever system it is, there is a certain amount of data that needs to be captured, collected, and entered. There are two ways of doing this. There's one thing you say, hey system a vendor, please do all that for me. Here's the list, call me when you're ready. And the other option is to talk to them and say, okay, what can we do in this process? How early can we be involved in master data entry in capturing historic data, in entering reservations, wherever, whatever region you are in that will take hours off the clock from your vendor because he doesn't have to do it?


Frank Wagner:

And at the same time, your own people are getting much deeper involved in the system, understanding how it works, and what the dependencies are, so that when the system goes live, they can immediately take advantage of what is required and what they bought. When you buy the full service part, it is people don't know it. They say here's your system start and, and they look at it the first time really, they, okay, I got a training.


Ryan Haynes:

Hope for the best. That's not exactly where you are. You're not going to get the return of investment there at all, are you? So, number nine, and I think, you know, again, this just reiterates what we've been saying around sort of timeline the team and everything else is be present?


Frank Wagner:

Yeah, be present is the advice for the person that has to pay the party. In a project like this, there is a lot of decisions to make If you are implementing a system, there are always options for how to implement it. There are choices to make, and it costs a lot of time to wait for a decision in these projects. So, if you are present, not only you are making sure that everyone is using the expensive time of a consultant of maybe two hours, $2 a minute in a, in the most useful way.


Frank Wagner:

But as well be sure that nobody needs to wait for whether we are going to organize the housekeeping this way or that way or whether we can make a, a report available to this person or to this person or to nobody. So be around all the time to answer questions from your staff to make these quick decisions. And this can be the project manager, absolutely, but it never can be the owner or whoever wants to make sure that his money is wisely spent. We have so many projects where people say, hello, and welcome. Here's the computer, please start your magic. And then they disappear and at the end, we have done our magic, but just the best way we thought we could do it.


Ryan Haynes:

Now we come to our final rule number 10, adjust your staff schedule.


Frank Wagner:

We have touched on it a little bit. What I'd like to emphasize is to treat a project and the points where the staff is involved in the process as a normal working task. So do not make the implementation of a new system already a burden to the people because it'll create resistance. It will slow down the adoption of the system and make sure that they have ample time to handle the tasks that an implementation requires. So, make sure people have time for the project because then as well your trainers are not sitting around and waiting for expensive money.


Ryan Haynes:

And as you say, it does frustrate a lot of staff and, and they, they need to also really understand the reasoning behind the implementation of this technology and the benefits it's going to bring them. Now you, I believe have one additional tip that you'd like to offer our listeners.


Frank Wagner:

Yes, that's the free bonus tip. Oh no, everything is free on this podcast. Fantastic. So that's just a bonus tip and this is to treat your consultants with the consultants are the people that you are hiring to do this stuff, and these are these guys, they come to your site, they will stay for quite some time a week, sometimes two weeks. So, make sure they're having a good time because if they're having a good time, they will give you a good time. They will not write down every minute that you are requesting from them. They will give you some free customizations and an extra report because they run the show.


Frank Wagner:

They are not controlled by their boss. They are with you; they are there for you. And if you treat them well, which means giving them a nice room, giving them good food, giving them something to drink in the evening, talking to them, telling them what you are thinking, they will all adopt that and make sure that you are happy at the end. And the most important thing to remember is every project has an afterlife. As soon as these guys leave, you will have the first question and you will have to ask someone and then you, if you treat them very well, you can maybe have or probably you have your, their mobile number and call them and ask them something instead of going into a support phone line trying to explain your problem, they know you and therefore it is always a good investment to just treat them nicely because then they will treat you nicely and make sure you're happy with your project.


Ryan Haynes:

Absolutely. I always also say it starts even way before they arrive on site. It's before you even sign the deal. The better you treat your consultants from the very beginning, the better deal you'll get, the better project deployment and implementation, and the best team you'll get. And as you say, Frank, with the ongoing support, you will be a true partner and that is where the value is when you select the right partner in IT Development projects,


Frank Wagner:

Absolutely Ryan.


Ryan Haynes:

Well, Frank, thanks very much for diving into those 10 simple rules and simple as they are and really important for our listeners and for hotel executives to be really thinking about. Thanks again.


Frank Wagner:

Very welcome, Ryan, it was a pleasure talking to you.

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