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Building a hospitality management solution in progress – Fail fast, learn fast

Our hotel management software pilot testing calendar during 4 months progress

Counting down to our first MVP release

The first MVP (Minimum Viable Product) version for our own Property Management Software was completed after spending 4 relentless months building the whole system from scratch. Following was the pilot test in September 2019. The first Alpha version of the CiHMS – the hotel management software – was installed and ran pilot testing in our customers’ City Hotel facilities. During the pilot testing period, there were also Beta, Gamma and Delta versions released. The whole process officially ended around December 2019.

 

We thought we had every feature figured out, until going into the actual pilot testing phase, which was carefully assisted and consulted by the experts and professional advisors in the field. Everything cannot be applied with the theory-based approach, neither does our Hospitality Management Solution. Only the practical procedures, real human interactions can reveal our PMS’s incompetent capabilities. We were able to learn, improve and adapt the updated features and changes for a better performance into the PMS.

In today’s blog, we’ll share with you our personal experience, failure throughout the pilot testing phase, and how we tackle and grow from it.

 

What is pilot testing?

For software development, pilot testing is the act of testing your software under a real-time operating condition. This allows us to verify the feasibility, cost, time, risk, and performance of our PMS in a small-scale, short-term experiment before the full deployment in all our customers’ properties. It is like a rehearsal before a live performance of your Broadway show, in this case, it is for your software. Prior to the pilot testing time, we had to:

  • Build a pilot plan
  • Schedule for the pilot test
  • Deploy and test the pilot testing
  • Evaluate pilot testing
  • Rinse & Repeat
The pilot testing for our hotel management system - CiHMS was planned out in detailed before launching

Our hospitality management solution pilot testing was carefully planned out to guarantee smooth implementation

 

During the pilot testing time, it was important for us to choose one of the following strategies after gathering and evaluating test data:

  • Stagger Forward: adding more candidates into the pilot group
  • Rollback: Restore the pilot group to its previous state
  • Suspension: Stop the pilot testing
  • Patch and continue: Deploy patches to fix the solution and continue on with pilot testing

First Pilot Testing Milestone: The City Hotel

We set ourselves up for the plan and carried them out gradually. The first pilot testing took place at city hotels. We started offloading all the metadata, which technically meant all the information related to your hotel, it was the detail that described the property information, the number of rooms, room types, etc.., of the first hotel into our alpha version of the CiHMS. The system was run for one month, while the room rate and reservation management were successfully imported into the travel agents’ booking portal to sync with the system room rate in real-time.

 

Then it hit us with complaints and conflicts among our product functions and the client’s front desk team expectation. Constant comparison between the old system and the new one worn out the coding team. We not only have to pay extra attention to the user experience itself, but also to achieve additional requests from the FO team. The night audit process, evaluating and closing daily cash flow in and out of the hotel account, was somewhat different from what we perceived.

 

The Beta version was released during this period to mostly fix a number of occurring bugs and re-code the night audit features. Once the new version was deployed, the staff started to cool off. They recognized they spend less time and effort on the night audit workloads than before. Everything was automated with a click of a button and started to make sense. It did take two to tango, indeed.

 

Second Pilot Testing Milestone: Resort, Spa & Entertainment Complexes Hotel Chain

After evaluating data, we chose to “stagger forward”, adding more candidates – hotel properties into the pilot group. These new nominees were evidently complicated with numerous operations linked with multiple systems. It was dreadful, and accomplishing this milestone did feel rewarding.

Second pilot testing for our hotel management software had failure but we did not surrender

We also took risks in CiHMS Pilot testing period, had to roll back couple of times but never backed down

We had to roll back a couple of times due to integration failure with various existing software in the property. Fortunately, these did not discourage our team. We learned to pick up where we left off, patch, and continue to the next solution. At the end of November 2019, a Gamma version of CiHMS was released with full integration with SAP – our customers’ Financial Accounting System and other management systems.

 

Third Pilot Testing Milestone: Perfecting the system

It was our final stage of pilot testing after running the hospitality software solution CiHMS for 2 consecutive months. We got “perfect” data comparing with the existing On-Premises system at the time. That was a relief for our team. All features were based on practical procedures and protocols from actual hotel operations, no longer theoretical assumption. It helped to eliminate impractical and unnecessary functionalities that other Hotel Management Solution providers would suggest as extra perks in their software that ended up never getting used. We stuck to the cycle of Implementing, Validating, Adapting/Change, and repeating.

 

Our CiHMS Hospitality management solution had its first pilot testing in our customer's property in September 2019

Pilot testing our hospitality management solution was tackled on September 2019 and ended later on that December

Though CiHMS has recently entered the hospitality management solution market for over a year, 4 months of pilot testing did help CiHMS as the product as well as the company to mature and grow quickly.

Performance test in Nha Trang

Apart from the pilot testing phase, we also did an intense performance test that took place in Nha Trang at one of the customers’ hotel properties. The test involved roughly over 200 front-office staff in our customer hotel’s property. It was required for everyone to log on to the system and performed all their daily tasks such as booking, check-in, check-out, restaurant booking, etc. at the same time.

 

This proved our system can handle numerous concurrent users at the same time and made sure absolutely no overloading nor crashing due to system incapabilities when we fully deployed the CiHMS in all our customers’ properties. We were extremely lucky to borrow the needed human resources from our customers’ hotel property to carry out this test. Without their help and support, it would be much more difficult for us to gather a large number of people, train them to carry out hospitality procedures and put them in the test environment to run the test.

 

Agile Methodology

The optimal approach for software development is the agile methodology, which practices the collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams with customers. It allows the team to deliver in workable increments, provides flexibility and responsiveness to changing business needs and customer feedback.

 

Building our hotel management software based on agile approach had helped us to stay focus and achieve the tight timeframe

Agile methodology was applied in our hospitality management solution development

At CiHMS, we adopt the agile methodology from the start and this was a strategic move, looking back. Unlike the waterfall methodology, a Business Analyst (BA) had to come up with extremely long and time-consuming descriptive product information, and technical requirements which were likely expensive and impossible to change. The BA then controlled and knew how to implement the project thoroughly.

 

In agile software development, our Product Owner and Business Analyst did not need to have experience in the implementation process. They approached the customers to generate user stories. From there, the team prioritized the product backlog, split into each sprint with workload estimation given by the team members who were in charge. Regular stand-up, sprint planning, review, and retrospective pushed the building process and product delivery forward at a much faster pace.

 

The methodology was also applied during our pilot testing. We were able to reach out to the customers’ difficulties, create new user stories in the product backlog, improve and release them immediately in the next sprint. Agile methodology has changed our workplace culture to be transparent, value the people over process and tools, working software over documentation, respecting customer collaboration over terms and contracts, most of all, responding to change over following a plan.

 

The pilot testing ended, meaning we had to get ready for the full deployment on all of our customers’ properties. We had carried out the process in record time, exceeding experts’ expectations and our own. To know what we had achieved, be sure to check in next week with our next blog on: ”Go live with our Hospitality Management System: Zero to Hero”.

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Manage booking from agencies efficiently with Booking Portal

Travel agencies (TAs) are an important channel, contributing a lot of sales for hotels, besides online travel agencies (OTAs) or direct booking. Depending on your business size, the number of travel agencies you have can vary from a handful to dozens. When it comes to booking management, this can be a hassle for both sides. Hoteliers could have a difficult time controlling the inventory between agencies and making sure room, and rate information are correct. On the other hand, travel agencies are struggling to get the best rooms at the best rates available. Phone call reservation with the hotel is time-consuming and not effective as information is quickly outdated.

A booking portal or a reservation system was created to bridge this gap and remove the difficulties for agencies and hotels from making reservations.

How it works

A Booking Portal plays the role of a middleman. It is a platform between agencies and hotels where agencies can place direct bookings.

• For travel agencies

With the Booking Portal, agencies can check real-time information of inventories, rate plans for them from the hotel. They can search, book easily and instantly. Also, there are options to view booking history, make adjustments, add or cancel reservations. All in one platform, no hassle, no delay.

• For hotels

The software makes life easier for hoteliers in managing travel agent profiles and their bookings. You can make sure the information is always in sync, and you can check the performance of any agency in no time.

Managing booking through agencies is easy with the Booking Portal

Benefits of the Booking Portal

  • Remove manual processes
    One platform for all activities: check, book, edit, and even cancel. Everything is quick after few clicks, no phone call, no waiting time, and no error. The process is now automated with real-time data and updates for both sides.
  • Reduce overbookings
    Agencies can only book rooms and rates available for them. Having a central pool of inventories helps hotels reduce the risk of overbookings.
  • Increase revenue for both
    As people said a satisfied customer is the best business strategy. Through a booking portal, hoteliers make it easy for travel agents to satisfy their guests’ demands, which returns in a win-win situation for both hotels and travel agencies.

Do I need one?

There is no correct answer to this question, but it all depends on your TA network. If you find it taking too much time and effort with your current way of doing things, probably it’s time to consider having a booking portal.

Contact us now for a free consultation about Booking Portal!

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What you need to know about the POS/FnB restaurant management systems

The Food and Beverage industry is one of the fastest-growing businesses in Vietnam. Whether you are running a coffee shop or a restaurant chain, you need a management system to help run and manage your business effectively. Why you need one, and what are the benefits a system can bring for your business? We will discuss these points in this article.

What an F&B management system can do

This software is built to support all restaurant operations and can apply to almost all business models. Here are some of the main features:

  • Manage all your restaurant information: floor plan, area map, table setup, menu, promotions, and so on
  • Connect and synchronize all POS devices
  • You can split – combine orders, view order history, apply for promotions, send orders to kitchen printers or kitchen display units
  • Manage employee & work shift

Besides, for hotels and hotel chains, an F&B system must have the ability to integrate with PMS to allow in-room charge.

What are the benefits?

  • Save operation time and costs: All operational activities, from creating orders, printing bills to sending invoices, can be done quickly right on a POS device or mobile application. Your staff can serve guests smoothly and deliver excellent hospitality.
  • Minimize errors: All the data is updated and synchronized between POS and kitchen printers. And this helps to remove the risk of wrong orders which could bring disappointment to your guests.
  • Better business management: knowing your business performance at the right time with the correct data is very important. What you can count on as an F&B software is its clear dashboard and comprehensive reports. Just a glare to know how the business is going.
  • Improve customer service: serve your guests better with a system that handles all your operation needs, so your staff can spend more time with the guests.

Select one for your restaurant

No matter what size or scale of your restaurant operations may be, the right management system is your most reliable source when it comes to both efficient operations and optimal growth. Here are points you should consider when selecting a system

  1. Data transparency
    You want to make sure that the system gives you real-time data; across businesses. A restaurant manager needs to know what’s going on all the time. It is critical to have real-time data as you may need timely action when problems arise.
  2. Easy to use
    No one wants a complicated system that takes months to master. Check the system interface before you decide to buy one. To make sure the interface is user-friendly, clean, and easy to understand.
  3. Scalability
    Choose a system that can support your growth and geographic expansion in the long-run. You don’t want to keep changing the software as your business expands, as it will cost you a lot.

If you still have questions regarding choosing the right F&B system for your restaurant, don’t hesitate to contact our consultant team for further advice.

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Manage bookings easy with our CRS

As a hotelier, having as many distribution channels as possible can guarantee to bring revenue for your business. However, as bookings start pouring in, managing these channels can be painful.

It is vitally important that you need a system that connects all channels from walk-in to online travel agents. In this article, we will discuss how our CRS can come to rescue you.

What is CRS?

CRS, or central reservation system, is a system that lies at the heart of a hotel’s function. The system contains hotel data like availability, rooms, rate plans, inventory, and helps to distribute that info to all distribution channels. Also, it synchronizes reservations and transactions.

Differenced between PMS, CRS, and channel manager

A property management system, or PMS, is all about operations. It manages all operational activities in a hotel from reception to accounting.

And normally, CRS is the main module of a PMS. It, of course, can be a stand-alone solution.

A Channel manager controls all distribution channels like OTAs, metasearch sites, GDSs. It connects to PMS, collects data from CRS, and re-distributes across channels. As rooms get booked, the inventory information is synced throughout all channels to prevent overbooking.

Main functions of a hotel CRS

  • Reservation management: an executive dashboard shows detailed reservation & revenue reports, filtered by channels and properties.
  • Support various payment gateways and card issuers.
  • Cancellations and refunds management

Implementing a CRS increases efficiency due to the automation of numerous processes. Combining CRS with a Channel Manager system, you can effortlessly expand your opportunities to reach millions of potential guests globally at a low cost. Having a CRS also helps to set up a booking engine for your hotel to boost direct bookings.

Another benefit is better business management. Revenue reports are real-time updated, and comprehensive. You can easily see the performance from different channels and quickly adjust your sale strategy. As for hotel chains, a CRS can be useful as managers could have revenue reports from any properties at any location.

In conclusion, to succeed in a hyper-competitive market, hotels need to invest in technology that helps them optimize and effectively manage their business. Having a powerful CRS gives you the advantage of expanding the distribution network, streaming all booking processes, and providing an excellent guest experience.

Contact us for more details and consultations about CRS.

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cloud service concept

All you need to know about Property Management System

What is Property Management System?

PMS or Property Management System is a software to manage all hotel operations. In other words, the PMS lies at the heart of hotels, collects information, and coordinates operations from booking, check-in and check-out, housekeeping, maintenance, billing, payments, and more. In today’s world, PMS is not just a tool to manage hotel operations but to deliver a better guest experience.

Cloud-based PMS can be accessed from any device

Cloud-based PMS can be accessed from any device

 

Currently, there are two popular types: On-premises PMS and Cloud PMS.

On-premises PMS:

On-premises or server-based PMS stores limited data in the local hotel. You will need an IT department to operate, maintain and upgrade the system. Besides, you will need to invest in workstations, data centers, and backup storage.

Cloud-based PMS:

A cloud-based PMS uses cloud computing. The software can be accessed anytime, from any device that is connecting to the Internet. Cloud-based PMS has lower capital costs, while it’s easier to run, upgrade, and backup.

 

The main functions of a PMS

In general, a PMS includes the following functions and features:

  • Reservation management
  • Night audit
  • Housekeeping management
  • Distribution channel management
  • Revenue management
  • Guest profile management
  • Business reports and analyses
  • Allotment management
  • Maintenance management
  • Point of sales

Why you need a PMS

Undoubtedly, emerging technologies impact everyone. Guests are now expecting more from hotels. Thus, a hotel must provide a smooth personal guest experience or even exceed their expectation to win their royalty. Traditional management will not get you far in this area, and having a PMS is the first step. A cloud hotel management system would bring you better benefits in the long run:

  • Secured information and real-time updates
  • Lower operation costs and easy to manage tasks
  • Minimize human mistakes
  • Know your guests better with a 360-degree guest profile feature
  • Take no time to set up rate plans and distribute across channels
  • Comprehensive business reports with real-time data

Before choosing your PMS

Picking a PMS vendor depends on your operational scope and needs. Note down what you are looking for and answer the following questions:

  • What kind of features does the software cover? Do they resolve your problems?
  • How much does it cost? Any hidden cost?
  • Is the software easy to use and mobile-friendly?
  • Does the system comply with security standards?
  • Does the supplier provide comprehensive customer support service?

Choosing the right PMS is critical as it can make or break your hotel operations. If you are looking for one, contact us to get a free consultation.

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Why do hotels need a Channel Manager?

What is a Channel Manager?

A Channel Manager is a utility software that connects hotels to all online distribution channels and manages bookings from these channels.

Channel Managers can connect to dozens or hundreds of sales channels, global OTAs channels. It’s a powerful tool to boost your bookings while automatically updating and synchronizing your information in real-time on all channels.

 

How does Channel Manager work?

Thanks to the emerging technologies, travelers prefer to book their stays online, we see the rise of online booking agents (OTAs) such as Agoda, Booking.com, or Expedia. In the old way of doing, hoteliers would go and negotiate with each of these OTAs and then manage their bookings separately.

Channel Managers were created to remove these hassles, to help hoteliers get a better chance to enter new market places without losing revenue. Through Channel Manager, you can sell your inventory via online distribution channels around the world.

• Close/open inventory quickly

• Update room, rate plans, availability in real-time

Channel Manager helps to synchronize rates and room availability quickly across multiple OTA channels

 

Channel Manager can act as a stand-alone system connecting distribution channels with your hotel, or even better, it can be integrated with the hotel’s PMS to fully automate your operations.

As an independent system:

You will have an account to access the Channel Manager dashboard where you can manage information such as room rates, room availability, and promotions. Channel Manager will automatically update this information for every channel. Because it operates independently, you have to monitor the Channel Manager dashboard regularly and manually update bookings to the PMS system (if any).

PMS integration:
  • One-way integration: with this, once a booking is created, Channel Manager will send this information to your PMS.
  • Two-way integration: The two-way integration between Channel Manager and PMS means room availability and room rates will be updated from PMS to Channel Manager and vice versa in real-time. This way will save you a lot of time in operations between two systems.
Channel Manager works independently or integrates 2-way with PMS system

Channel Manager works independently or integrates 2-way with PMS system

Why you need a Channel Manager

Minimize operation time: a channel manager can integrate with your property management system or central reservations system as well as a booking engine to create a central control for your bookings.

Remove manual processes: with Channel Manager systems, you can say goodbye to manual data entry, which is time-consuming, and sometimes, creates errors. Besides, you will reduce the risk of overbookings as guests can only book a room that is actually available.

Increase profit, improve brand recognition: a channel manager can help you put your brand into the new markets, and there is a good chance that travelers will first discover your hotel on one of the top online travel channels. Connect to more online channels, more online bookings.

 

In short, a channel manager is a powerful tool to boost your bookings and revenue, while making life easy for you to manage inventories across distribution channels. Should you need further information on Channel Manager solutions, feel free to contact us!

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