How has the Agile System Helped IHG?

IHG have started using a new software-focused Agile system to help design its hotels. This new process has drastically changed how the company’s team members work together, and how quickly they can design and redesign spaces. 


Brands are constantly looking for new ways to aid their development, as the demand to create new spaces quickly and effortlessly is at an all time high. IHG have been able to speed up production with better feedback from both owners and guests by utilising the same system that programmers use to create computer software systems. 


IHG announced they were investing $200 million in order to reposition its own Crowne Plaza Hotels brand throughout America. The Agile system played an integral role in this development, as it meant the design team were able to “rightsize” the new WorkLife rooms into existing hotels. Each room had a unique footprint, shown through the use of a partnership of a brand, architecture and design. 


“Our estates were missing were some originality and clarity,” said Russ Peña, IHG’s director of design execution and methodologist for the Americas region. The Agile process helped the company’s design partners meet and work with the architects quickly in order to obtain the schematic design construction documents. Then they can efficiently deliver them to the team back in the offices. “We particularly liked how the Agile system allowed us to quickly go out and meet clients, that meant we had a quick turnaround,” Peña said “we discovered that we have an expansive and vastly different box type across the whole estate. Not one building is similar in any way, shape or form.” 


Based on the original renderings, the design teams could pinpoint the areas that need specific alterations made to fit the rooms into the existing architectural structures, which significantly reduced the need for gut renovations.   


“We wanted to create a solutions framework for design initiatives which are reusable and reciprocal throughout each and every room. We wanted to be able to take a particular pattern and modify at as we see fit, as going through the procurement process may be different for the Holiday Inn’s standardised H4 rooms, than it may be for more custom-made spaces such as the WorkLife rooms. There are a few variations in the process, however the quality and quantity of work are still the same,” said Peña. 


After each two-week period of construction and design, Peña will always hold a “retrospective” for all teams to openly discuss everyone’s thoughts and opinions. 


“I like to know what my team enjoyed during the past few weeks. I want to know what they have have learnt during this time as well as what they needed help with and what did they feel was lacking,” Peña said “I also like individuals to thank someone who they feel has helped them develop through the process of design as I believe it helps build strong working relationships and helps strengthen the team. I always encourage my team members to come up with ideas together and to trust one another,” he added. 


The retrospectives allow individuals to celebrate their achievements, he added. “We celebrate everything that we get ‘done’. After this I always ask the team to take two items from the ‘learned,’ ‘need help’ or ‘lacked’ lists, and focus on those in the next two week stint to help them improve.


“The process offers lessons for everyone involved in the whole design process from beginning to end,” Peña said. “Product owners sometimes can’t comprehend why it takes a long time for designers to complete their work. Breaking down the process into bite-sized chunks, means everyone involved can now see how complex designing can actually be. Teams will therefore be more empathetic and understanding towards the other teams working on the different parts of a certain project.


“This has really helped the teams become more creative and helped them develop an understanding about where the opportunities lie in an existing design. It also allows everyone to be a part of the whole design process from idea to design completion,” he said. 


Image Source:  IHG