Creating a Successful Pre-Opening Plan (POP)

Anyone that has participated in a Pre-Opening of a hotel or business understands the importance of a robust Pre-opening plan. As important as the Pre-Opening Plan (POP) is, it is equally important that the plan is actively used and updated.  You can have the best POP in the world, but if the teams are not using it to manage their Tasks or are only updating when the Project Manager chases them, you do have the full picture. 

Where to Start

The first step to a successful project is an experienced Project Manager. They do not have to be an industry expert, but it’s essential that they can manage a diverse group of very busy people. The Project Manager is critical to ensure the Tasks are completed and to hold the team accountable.

Regardless if Pre-Opening plan is 300 or 3,000 Tasks, if it is done in excel, a simplified project planner (Asana, Confluence, Workzone), or MS Project, the following must be identified to ensure successful project completion.

Creating A Pre-Opening Plan

Listing the Tasks for a Pre-Opening is more than just having each department list everything they need to do before the hotel/business opens.  To create Tasks, you need the following information:

  • Task Name
  • Task Resource
  • Task Start/End
  • Predecessors
  • Milestones
  • Critical Path

Task Name

Clearly identify the Tasks to be completed. There is no rule as to a minimum or maximum number of Tasks. Each department will identify their key Tasks and Subtasks. When initially creating the Tasks do not worry about timeline and resource, focus on capturing all of the Tasks. From experience, opening a 4 to 5 star Hotel with Rooms, F&B, Catering/Banquets, Engineering, Housekeeping, Sales & Marketing, HR, Finance, Legal is between 3,000 and 4,000 Tasks.

For Example:

ExCom – General Manager Onboarding

  • GM Interviews
  • GM Selection
  • GM Offer
  • GM Onboard

Creating Tasks is an ongoing process. Your team will continually update, add and remove Tasks as the project progresses. This is good news as it means your Team are actively using the POP. This is even more important when you will using for other hotel openings. The more Tasks captured and refined, the better managed the next opening will be.

Assigning Resources

Accountability is critical for any project to be successful. Each Task must have a resource assigned. To keep your overall project management simple, make the person accountable the department head. The department head is responsible for the delegation of Tasks within their area.

Then go one step further and set a platform where to review the current status of your Pre-Opening Plan with your key resources. This should be in the form of an efficient meeting where progress and achievements are presented. Keep it short, focused and positive. Having visibility of the overall progression will keep purpose and contribution to the project at the core of motivation.

Task Start/End

Each Task is assigned a start date and a date to be completed by. Whilst this sounds relatively simple, it actually takes a lot of consideration. I usually work backwards.

  • What is the date that it must be completed by
  • How long will it actually take me to the complete the Task (for example does a Task that take a couple of hours, or a few days from start to finish)
  • How many days will I assign to complete the Task in (allowing for other ongoing Tasks and Activities)
  • Once I know the when and how long, I can determine the start date

Predecessors

Predecessors are Tasks that must be completed before a Task can start. Not all Task have predecessors. Tasks with predecessors affect the start date of the Task. Generally a dependent Task cannot begin until the predecessor is completed. When a predecessor Task is not completed on time, it causes the dependent Tasks to slip.

What is important to remember is that a Task may be reliant on a Task in another department be completed.

For example; the Tasks listed are dependent on the previous Task being completed. However, each Task is assigned to a different department.

  1. PMS Configuration is complete (Operations/Revenue)
  2. Computers (Hardware) delivered (Purchasing)
  3. Computers and Operating systems installed (IT)
  4. Training Room setup (IT)
  5. Schedule Staff PMS training
  6. PMS Staff training (Rooms)

If the Trainers are not aware that the computers are delayed, they will schedule staff for training and have no computers to train on. For a project to run efficiently, Tasks automatically update when the predecessor Task date slips.

Identifying Milestones

Once the Tasks and dependencies are complete, determine the project Milestones.  Milestones are markers to indicate key deliverables, that have a 0 (zero) start/end day. They indicate when key deliverables are complete or nearing completion. Milestones identify if the project is falling behind or is ahead of schedule.

Pre-Opening plans will have Milestones for the overall project (General Manager/Corporate Office) and Milestones specific to a department.

For Example, Finance Milestones

  • Director of Finance on Board
  • A summary of Management Agreement completed and send it to Regional
  • Insurance Policies obtained as per MA
  • Pre-opening funding established/ transferred by the owner
  • All pre opening systems setup completed
  • Opening bank account as per MA
  • Finance Team/Key Positions on Board
  • 1st Year Operating Budget submission & approval
  • All operating licenses obtained
  • All insurance coverage obtained

The Critical Path

The Critical Path is the sequence of Tasks that must be completed before the Hotel/Business can open. Many of these Tasks have to be finished before the next dependent Task can start. Failure to complete these Tasks will impact the opening date. For example:

  1. Hiring of the ExCom
  2. Building Handover
  3. Systems Live For Sale
  4. Legal Compliance check
  5. Operating License Obtained
  6. Hotel Open

Project Software

I have worked on Pre-Opening plans on a variety of platforms, some more successful than others.  The bigger the project, the more robust the project management system needs to be. A limited overview of Task dependencies, and overall project visibility will cause challenges.

Equally important is how the Task Owners (Resources) receive updates on upcoming and overdue Tasks. How simple is for the users to access and update their Tasks. Usability is an essential component of a successful POP.

Ideally, the Pre-Opening Plan is hosted in the cloud, providing access at any time. Working in real-time allows for instant updates and notifications if key deliverables slip.  However, we also know that your team do not always have access and need to work offline until they reconnect.  This is a key consideration when selecting your project software.

How Big Is Your Project?

Brands that are expanding will have multiple ongoing projects.  In this instance, I recommend using MS Project and SharePoint to create a portal where you can see the critical path for all projects or drill down into a specific project.  This overview allows for better management and staff allocation as the Corporate team can easily view project overlaps and the impact when a project slides.

The more visibility that the Opening team has, the faster they can adapt, the better they can control costs, and the more efficient they can be with their time. The goal is not to strangle the team with paperwork but to provide direction and accountability for their responsibilities.`

Lisa Zoretich

An extremely motivated, and natural leader with extensive experience in the Hospitality Industry. Breadth of skills deep in Project Management, Business Analysis, Operational Reviews, Policy & Procedure Development, Training, Strategic Business Planning, and Systems Design & Implementation. Adept in applying extensive knowledge of industry best practices to gather and deliver the desired guest experience and market driven demands to best fit an organizations strategic and tactical goals.

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