Project Management Institute

Hospitable resources


photography by SHAWN HENRY

THOMAS CONOPHY is executive vice president and chief technology officer for White Plains, N.Y., USA-based Starwood Hotels and Resorts Inc., one of the world's largest luxury hospitality corporations.



At Starwood, project management is essential support for all of our strategic objectives because it enables us to stay focused and explain the details behind business deliveries, promote corporate-wide consistency, and uphold our enterprise's common lexicon and terminology. As an international company and industry leader in technology, we depend on project managers to deliver high-quality projects that set new standards for both hospitality and customers.

Company-wide, we use IBM‘s Rational Unified Process and have customized and named it Magellan for use with our internally developed Trica approach to project management. Trica is a collaboration between the sponsor (the business or business unit behind the project), project manager (who handles cost, scope and timing) and solution-delivery manager (who handles technology development and implementation).

Trica works because the model ensures that all needs of a project are properly positioned, thought through and balanced for successful delivery. The sponsor always focuses on customer needs and requests (requirements), the project manager will translate those requirements to a project plan and the solution-delivery manager will translate the requirements into the corporate technology standard. These three individuals work together to balance the deliverable, set proper expectations with senior management and ensure that deliverables are scalable within the organization.

Our IT division is highly involved in project management as we handle ongoing property product support and new business initiatives such as upgrading a property for wireless or providing a new business center. To manage projects more effectively, we formed a resource planning team to help disperse our limited resources, manage deadlines and keep operating expenses trim. This team, led by Mehmet Karakus, is responsible for integrating the various divisions within the IT organization and ensuring that their resource needs are met.

For example, the group recently undertook a large project to build and implement a unique resource planning tool that would enable owners and project managers to better allocate resources for ongoing and future projects. We worked with an outside vendor to develop a resource planning tool, customized for our needs. Our internal team spent weeks gathering the business requirements necessary to integrate the tool with our existing time-tracking system and to capture actual time spent on projects. The tool is capable of tracking vacation time, managing project resource budgets and analyzing current, future and historical resource allocations. The system also generates reports based on this information. Over time, having access to this data will lead to smarter business decisions, and we already have seen great results, including better visibility of resource allocations and an increase in our ability to forecast needs. We're also maximizing productivity and lowering operating expenses.

We depend on project managers to deliver high-quality projects that set new standards for both hospitality and customers.

The resource planning group gels everything—there is no way an IT project will be a success if resources are poorly managed. Knowing everyone's time allocation and which individuals may be under- or over-utilized gives me a good overall view of the business, letting me know how hot or cold we're running.

Project management efforts like the one led by Mr. Karakus's team enable us to track problems, flag them and escalate issues while maintaining a consistent approach. Having the proper procedures and policies in place allows us to deliver on time, within budget and to scope. PM

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