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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.