Kempinski Hotels is the management company for 56 exclusive five-star hotels, residences and resort properties in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Operating in the luxury range, they want each hotel to maintain its individual identity while ensuring consistent quality across the line. The hotels are 70% owned by local management. The Kempinski company operates as a holding company with a lean central infrastructure at their headquarters in Geneva Switzerland. The challenge they faced was the need to ensure a high level of service, maintain consistent back office functions for both cost savings and quality, efficiently integrate new hotels under their high growth model, and through all this, maintain buy-in from the local management groups.
To address these issues Kempinski implemented Novell Teaming to increase collaboration and reduce operating costs for their group of hotels, residences and resorts. I spoke with Johan Rosius, vice president of Novell Workgroup Sales in EMEA, about the Kempinski experience. Johan said that this effort started in the CFO’s office, not IT. The CFO wanted to use collaboration to drive costs down. Next to join was HR, who wanted a cost effective way to standardize HR procedures across the group and to support knowledge sharing of best practices.
Now IT stepped in to help. Everyone wanted an integrated suite of tools that addressed both asynchronous and synchronous collaboration and also provided good security. Finding a low cost solution was also important. Working with Novell partner, ID Integrated Data SA, the company designed and deployed a new collaboration environment built on Novell Teaming that serves as a repository for all corporate information. They began with a proof of concept phase and they started small to demonstrate value. The first three initiatives focused on learning, HR procedures, and community.
To support learning, a comprehensive line of online e-learning courses were developed that addressed the needs of all hotel staff levels, and included built-in search capabilities to facilitate self-service. I think this is a good move to include content that offers value to local users without making a lot of demands on them.
The HR procedures had become cumbersome to administer and use. To reduce the cost and time required to complete common HR administrative tasks, Kempinski Hotels leveraged the advanced workflow functionality available in Novell Teaming to automate and streamline processes ranging from purchasing approvals to vacation requests. They did this through a wiki for information and a simple web forms connected to work flow for procedures.
The community initiative was designed to share best practices across the group. They provided wikis and blogs to support knowledge sharing. One of the first areas covered was how to start a new hotel. This content was well received and paved the way for broader coverage. These best practices have now been integrated into their hotel acquisition process along with conferencing and collaboration support and workflow applications. Security is very important there as you can imagine. This initiative is helping to establish a common culture while both allowing for innovation at the individual level, as well as the ability to share what works across the group.
The company is currently in the process of developing a portal for financial applications with dashboards and tight integration of Novell GroupWise(R) email and calendaring to provide employees with a single workspace and enable greater efficiencies in management reporting, workflow processes and communication. I have written about Novell GroupWise(R) before on this blog (see Novell GroupWise 8 Provides Enterprise 2.0 Capability for Personal Productivity Functions). In addition, to support Kempinski Hotels’ property expansion over the next three years, the company plans to roll out Novell solutions to 6,000 employees and allow staff in each hotel to create their own information resources, wikis and shared workspaces.
Johan said that Kempinski is saving significant money on the IT side as it now allows for the standardization of software through a relatively low cost platform. IT had been unsuccessful in its effort to achieve software standardization prior to this initiative. Now they are getting the economies of scale that firm wide standards can bring. This should also lower the IT overhead cost of bringing in new hotels.
I asked Johan about the lessons learned that could be applied to other enterprise 2.0 efforts. He said, first get top management involved so they know both how and why the initiative is underway. I think it helped that the effort started within the business units and not IT. Then start small. Look at the culture issues first. Get the owners of the culture involved from the beginning. These stakeholders need to support the effort. I certainly agree with all these points and they are quite consistent with the best practices that McKinsey recently reported.
Johan also briefly shared with me another example of a significant return on an enterprise 2.0 investment. The engineering group at Shell has a diverse set of skills and is scattered around the globe. When one of their plants goes down, it can very expense for each day it does not get back up and running. Shell found that the key was getting people with the right prior experience to work on these down plants.
So they created a community of practice with Novell Teaming. It has enabled Shell to better share best practices and to get the right resource applied to down plants. The creation of communities of practice to facilitate global information sharing and problem-solving has resulted in significant cost savings. I can believe this as I was involved with a similar effort with global chemical company using older KM technology in the early 90s and similar results were achieved. However, now we have much better tools to address these issues. Part of enterprise 2.0 is realizing some of the early visions for knowledge management but it goes beyond that as seen in the Kempinski example.