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How Accor makes hotel openings easy with Taskworld

by: Franziska Sens
How Accor makes hotel openings easy with Taskworld

The process of hotel openings is a lengthy and complicated one. Combining various departments, vendors, and external constructors can take three to six years from the signing of a new property until the opening.

To ensure everything from construction to branding and housekeeping is covered before opening a new hotel, Accor’s IMEA region (India, Middle East, Africa & Turkey) is using Taskworld.

Accor Group is one of the largest hospitality management companies in the world and runs the sixth-largest hotel network worldwide. The Group manages over 5,100 properties in 110 countries under various luxury, midscale, and economy brands such as Raffles, Fairmont, Rixos, Ibis, Novotel, Sofitel, and Movenpick.

We spoke with Vincent Ozanne, Director Hotel Openings IMEA at Accor, about the challenges of opening new properties, Accor’s requirements for a project management software, and the Group’s use of Taskworld. If you’d like to read more about how Accor is navigating the COVID crisis with our tool, check out this article.

Vincent Ozanne, Director Hotel Openings India, Middle East, Africa & Turkey at Accor

Vincent has been with Accor for 17 years. After joining the Group through an induction program, he spent a few years as Assistant General Manager and Hotels Operation Project Manager before moving to Dubai and fully dedicating his time to hotel openings in the region.

When Vincent started his hotel opening position, the region mostly covered GCC countries and consisted of 25 hotels with a strong plan to expand the territory and its scope. After 11 years, he is now looking at an extended region covering more than 400 operating hotels in IMEA with another 140 in the pipeline.

Opening hotels is no walk in the park

The Accor hotel openings team needs to coordinate brand-specific construction requirements with the properties’ individual owners starting with design and technical services. “We do have different sets of standards depending on the brand the owner would choose. You cannot build a Raffles property like you would build an Ibis hotel. All of those brands offer technical elements that are very specific.”, says Vincent.

As technical consultants, the hotel opening team liaises with architects, constructors, and interior designers on behalf of the owner before procurement and IT are involved in providing furniture, equipment, and the property’s connectivity structure.

Closer to the actual opening date, commercial, revenue and recruiting teams ensure that the hotel is manned and ready to run.

Vincent adds: “Our role as the hotel opening support department is to make sure that everybody is on the same track, has access to a good level of information, and ensuring we work towards the expected timeline. Our responsibility is to make sure that all the assumptions taken from the different experts who are involved in projects are properly assessed, recorded, and shared amongst the whole team so that we move on par with our expectations and guidelines.”

Getting everyone on the same critical path and ensuring visibility and accountability is crucial for any business’s success. Miscommunication such as hiring the ground team members too early or not implementing the proper brand standards can lead to a substantial financial loss for the owner and directly impact the hotel’s guest satisfaction and popularity.

In total, the team is looking at around 3,000 tasks that need to be completed before they are ready to open a new property

An excel list with 1000s of rows

Before Taskworld, Accor’s IMEA region managed their openings with an Excel sheet that included thousands of rows with tasks and tentative dates. To keep everyone on the same page, the Excel sheet was sent back and forth via email.

As this was a static process that couldn’t represent all activities needed with a higher error ratio and a flood of internal emails, Vincent started scouting for a project management tool that would support their openings process and identified these core requirements:

  1. Visibility: Keeping an overview of the different things that need to be considered is essential to ensure timely completion of the openings pipeline. Even a slight delay results in immense costs for the property owner.
  2. Ease of use: a key priority for Accor was to find a tool that was easy to adapt to and wouldn’t require a lot of time and resources to get the team onboarded. “After all, we are hoteliers, not engineers,” says Vincent.
  3. Alignment: With all the various stakeholders involved, Vincent highlighted that distributing the critical path of the openings operations in an easy-to-understand way was one of the main requirements for their purchase decision
  4. Flexibility: Even though every hotel opening roughly follows the same process, there are always differences for particular regions or brands or ad-hoc changes to be made. The team needed a platform that would allow them to manage a set process while keeping the flexibility to adjust tasks and deadlines for every hotel.

While testing several solutions, Vincent realized that other Accor teams in Asia had already started working with Taskworld on a similar use case. “Southeast Asia was the first region to adopt Taskworld to manage pre-openings back in 2016. From this point, it was quickly picked up as a best practice and implemented across regions.”, says Claire Arnold, Projects Director for Southeast Asia, Japan & South Korea.

Vincent decided to implement Taskworld for his region and further develop best practices based on their Southeast Asian colleagues’ use case.

How Accor is using Taskworld

Instead of a gigantic Excel list, Accor’s IMEA region is now organizing its openings within Taskworld.

“We have organized the Excel checklist into projects that match the department names. Within the projects, we have different tasklists that represent the different activities or sequences. Each and every task is organized inside with preloaded attachments. It saves us from gathering all the information together and trying to make sure that we don’t forget anything when the team is onboarding.”, says Vincent.

Every hotel opening starts with the same project template and is then adjusted based on regional and brand requirements. Accor utilizes tags in their template to indicate the responsible team or person and the timeline the particular task needs to be completed.

Accor is working with project templates to reduce time spent on administration

Taskworld’s Assignee and Follower function makes it easy for the team to keep track of their deliverables while following the progress of their team members’ work.

All requirements and preloaded and templated, so it is easy for the team to review what needs to be done. Vincent highlights that this has also made it easier for them to involve externals and new colleagues. The platform is easy to understand and all information readily available; “When someone is involved in the project, they log in, they know exactly who is the point of contact for every topic. The information is already preloaded. They know exactly what is expected and when. They know where to find the documents, instead of trying to find their way around in the intranet where everything is stored.”

Expanding the use of Taskworld into other departments

After IMEA and Southeast Asia implemented a successful hotel openings process within the platform, Vincent and other stakeholders in the Accor management team considered rolling out Taskworld to other regions and departments.

“We saw back then that there was a lot of attraction from different departments that realized some regions were using a tool that was interesting in the context of hotel openings. That’s how it started to fire up in the group. That’s why we wanted to push for it. There was, and still is, a strong development pipeline, so it was very much needed, not only in IMEA but also in other parts of the world”, says Vincent.

The hotel openings team in France, where Accor is headquartered, also started to implement Taskworld to manage their opening processes. Florence Debruyne, Director Hotel Openings France, noticed that they could reduce internal emails and improve communication by utilizing Taskworld to exchange documents and task comments. She adds: “As Taskworld is interactive, it allows all participants to have an eye on the progress of the project and to communicate easily.”

Melodie Baud, Senior Manager Quality, Pre-Opening Process and Special Projects for Accor’s European Luxury Brands, picked up some best practices that Vincent developed for her team:The usage of Taskworld is a key component in the handling of many of our major projects, especially around our new hotel opening strategy. It has helped us keep a good track of these challenging projects and manage the risks as best as possible thanks to its clear, concise & straightforward functionalities. It’s bringing much value to all stakeholders working on Taskworld daily.”

With a growing team on the platform, Accor was able to align departments and some of their regions regarding the hotel opening process and utilized Taskworld to suspend and monitor the closure of over 80% of their network when the COVID crisis hit.  Additionally, they implemented new safety and hygiene guidelines in all their properties to tackle the spread of the coronavirus (read more about it here).

How Taskworld impacts Accor’s success

Taskworld makes it easy for Accor to keep an overview of all deliverables and people involved during the challenging and complex process of opening hotels.

“This is a game-changer for this level of implementation of standards because now we know exactly who’s in charge of what.”, says Vincent.

Aligning numerous departments and teams around the globe is Vincent’s biggest win since Accor started working with Taskworld: “With all of our different brands, we have preloaded all brand guideline essentials to Taskworld. So when the Head of Marketing for Fairmont pushes a new standard, he would upload it into the Fairmont section on Taskworld. Then from my end, at the other side of the world, whenever I have a new Fairmont that opens, I would pick this brick, and I would just put it in my opening checklist.

This is the link between everyone that we want to push more and more, bridging different departments to make sure that we know exactly what’s happening everywhere and we provide the team on the ground with the right level of support.”

They can easily connect colleagues, new joiners, and externals. Vincent explains that he can help onboard new members to the platform in as little as half an hour, thanks to Taskworld’s ease of use and Accor’s preloaded templates. He highlights that the process of opening hotels and taking over properties from competitors is done in no time with Taskworld.

Accor was able to rebrand a hotel in Dubai within a week using Taskworld to keep all stakeholders in the loop

When a branded hotel in Dubai had to be suspended due to COVID, the Accor team managed to take over, rebrand, and reopen to the public within only a week. They connected the remaining ground staff to Taskworld and helped them implement the new brand standards exceptionally quickly, thanks to their preset templates.

“We were able to turn around an existing hotel managed by a competitor into an Accor property in record time because the rolling out of all of our standards is made much easier thanks to Taskworld.”, Vincent adds.

Other teams also noticed a drastic change in performance since they started using Taskworld. Claire Arnold, whose team in Southeast Asia piloted the use of Taskworld within Accor, points out that the collaboration between cross-functional teams has been improved, efficiency has been increased. Deadlines are now easy to monitor, which led to a significant improvement in performance overall.

Olinda Aguado, Guest Experience Junior Manager for Accor’s Luxury Brands, highlights that not only Taskworld’s features but also the team behind the scenes played a big part in improving their day-to-day operations: “Taskworld has been extremely useful to help us organize ourselves and our data. We were able to get centralized real-time information, which truly increased our team’s performance. The Taskworld team is very kind and responsive: always ready to help!”

Just five years ago, Accor’s IMEA region was looking at ten openings a year, while now, with the help of Taskworld, they have 40 openings scheduled for 2021.

We’re thrilled to be part of this journey!

Thank you, Vincent, and everyone from Accor who took the time to speak with us.

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