This post is sponsored by Shiji Group
Sircle Collection was created by the award-winning, Amsterdam-based entrepreneur Liran Wizman and includes the lifestyle-driven brands Sir Hotels, Max Brown Hotels, and Park Centraal Hotels. Founded in 2011 Sircle Collection enjoyed expansion to its current portfolio of 13 properties.
“We are independent and this allows us to create truly magical offerings,” the group’s CEO Bram Van Der Hoek said. “We all love to work from scratch when it comes to new projects or brands. Various things attract us to a project, but usually, it’s an interesting city, neighborhood, or even building. We pull from the history, design, surrounding culture, and the energy of the people to make a project come alive.”
Providing exceptional hospitality had been a priority from the beginning. “Our leadership team is very passionate about making sure our guest experience is not only enjoyable from a product and design standpoint but every personal interaction creates a positive experience,” observed Wietse Bijzeit, Sircle Collection’s Group Director of Technology and Business Solutions.
Challenges in growth
The focus on providing a differentiated experience has earned Sircle Collection recognition from both media and guests alike, but its technology operation had become reactive and was starting to limit the company’s growth ambitions.
“Sircle Collection was looking for someone to further develop a strategic overall vision of how technology could support the business and empower both guests and employees,” Bijzeit reflected. It was an opportunity that motivated him to join the company to lead its technology organization.
“We knew we wanted to work with great partners and innovate together with them and with each department within our company. We wanted to make it easier for our employees to do their job – engaging with and serving guests – instead of focusing on systems. We needed to think about what processes could be unified across our brands and identify and take away pain points for both our guests and associates.”
The search for a solution
This journey to solving these challenges started with Bijzeit and his team defining five core goals for the business:
- Modernizing IT infrastructure
- Future-proofing the technology stack
- Exceeding privacy and security expectations
- Building high-performing teams
- Being data-driven
With this framework in place, the search began for foundational technology that would support all of these goals.
“If you have a core base layer of technology that is open and can connect with point solutions, you maximize your options in the future.”Wietse Bijzeit
Integration was key for areas such as revenue management technology. “We needed to know if the systems could integrate to a level that would support the strategies of our revenue and commercial teams. This required meeting with each functional team in our organization to understand their goals before anything else.”
One thing that was clear from the start was how critical security would be. “Our approach to this depended on the nature of the system and the data being processed, but we looked very carefully to understand data protection controls and how each solution ensured security.” This included understanding the capabilities of in-house Security Operation Centers (SOCs) and Network Operation Centers (NOCs), and what support was available.
Overall, Sircle Collection needed to find the right partner that would allow them to innovate. “I’ve seen the wrong technology providers can actually slow down innovation. We wanted to find partners that would work with us to build the dream we had of balancing human touch and technology. This required cultural fit as much as product fit.”
Why Sircle Collection chose Shiji Group
After reviewing all available options and getting to know the teams behind each technology provider, Sircle Collection chose Shiji’s Enterprise Platform as the base layer for its technology stack.
For the teams at Sircle Collection, the combination of technical capability and cultural fit stood out. “I did not see other companies with the vision for innovation, collaboration, and growing together that Shiji had. We are ambitious and felt that same ambition from Shiji Group for growth. Not just growth for growth’s sake, but building infrastructure to sustainably deliver real change. They call it a ‘look, listen, learn’ culture where they really want to understand what our problems are and how they can work together with us to solve those problems. That sounds easier than it is, and it needs time, but we have seen this in our partnership with them since the beginning.”
Connectivity was a key factor behind the decision. “Shiji‘s platform is fully API-first, and has already proven to enable great connections for payments, distribution, and other parts of our business.” Microservices architecture is a core part of enabling connectivity. “I think this is truly a smart choice by Shiji and has proven successful for us already. It makes it easier for us to integrate other products into the platform and enhances performance.”
The ecosystem of products the company offered was compelling. “We found Shiji solutions to be the best products for us in many cases, such as their Infrasys offering for Food & Beverage outlets. And if we need an alternate solution, we are able to easily integrate with other technology partners. But it all comes back to having a core base layer of technology to provide this optionality, and that’s what the Shiji Enterprise Platform does for us.”
Shiji’s security capabilities stood out to the Sircle Collection team through their review. “We learned a lot about the culture, strategy, and implementation that ensures security and data protection. The way they are working with partners such as AWS ensures enterprise-grade security. They also have in-house security and network operations centers which means we can rest assured that there’s someone looking after our data 24/7. That’s really important to us.”
Robust privacy controls added another layer of protection. “We saw the mechanisms they used around data processing and cross-border data management that are important for workflows for marketing, for example. It involves considering all of the touch points our guests have, including online check-in and kiosks – and not just adding a checkbox on a form. We were able to centralize all this data in a secure way to provide a superior experience and ability to engage with and serve our guests.”
“We chose Shiji not only for their scalability and maintainability but the fact they hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) across multiple data centers provided the infrastructure and security we needed.”Wietse Bijzeit
The resources Shiji is investing in its platform provided confidence it could execute. “If you look at the infrastructure that’s been built there, and how they did this with AWS, it’s clear they have the ability to continue accelerating growth and innovation moving forward. They have created something that we would never be able to create in-house that allows us to operate as a world-class hospitality brand.”
Activation as an opportunity
Once the decision to work with Shiji was made, Sircle Collection viewed the onboarding and implementation process as an opportunity.
“Standardization has been very important for us, and we wanted to use this moment to start with a clean system and set the standards for how we would operate moving forward over the long run,” Bijzeit recalled. “Shiji guided us through this whole process, helping us make sure that we fully understood what configurations and settings needed to be configured. Understanding things such as tax configurations was very helpful to make sure we didn’t make any mistakes that would limit us later on. It was a well-run process where we learned from each other and ensured our data standardization process was successful and our first go-live was successful. From the start and throughout implementation, it truly felt like Sircle Collection and Shiji operated as one team to get our hotels live and use learnings to improve our process moving forward. It’s been a true partnership.”
The benefits of using Shiji’s Enterprise Platform
Today, Sircle Collection is on track to have all its hotels unified on a single, integrated platform. “I’m really proud of how our teams and the Shiji teams have worked together to make this happen on the Shiji Enterprise Platform,” Bijzeit told us.
Sircle Collection is already seeing the benefits of operating on a single cloud-enabled platform, and Bijzeit shared an anecdote of staffing flexibility as an example. “Our teams in Amsterdam are able to easily move between hotels in this city at will because all the technology and workflows are the same.”
Automation is already starting to provide benefits as well. “I would say we are leveraging about 10% of the opportunity so far, but I’m really proud of the impact this has made on our teams and company performance. The great thing is there is so much potential ahead. We have set ourselves up to be ready for the next phase of enhanced operations and integrations that will allow better up-selling and omnichannel guest communication. That’s truly exciting for us.”
Prepared for what’s ahead
Moving forward, Sircle Collection is excited about implementing solutions that will create sustainable long-term leverage for the company.
“Because of the choices we’ve made with Shiji Group, we will be able to truly look at artificial intelligence, machine learning, and voice technology – not as buzzwords but as real opportunities for efficiency and differentiation. We’re in a position to innovate in a way other companies cannot because of the infrastructure and partnership we have with Shiji Group.”
Shiji Group is a multinational technology company that provides software solutions and services for enterprise companies in the hospitality, food service, retail, and entertainment industries, ranging from hospitality technology platforms, hotel management solutions, food and beverage, and retail systems, payment gateways, data management, online distribution and more. Founded in 1998 as a network solutions provider for hotels, Shiji Group today comprises over 5,000 employees in 80+ subsidiaries and brands in over 23 countries, serving more than 91,000 hotels, 200,000 restaurants, and 600,000 retail outlets.
About Sircle Collection
Sircle Collection is an independent group of creative hospitality brands focused on design-led, experience-driven services and products designed for the modern traveller. Founded in 2011 by the award-winning hospitality entrepreneur and developer Liran Wizman, the Amsterdam-based company has grown to include three hotel brands across 13 locations, including Sir Hotels, Max Brown Hotels, offering ‘basics at their absolute best’, and Park Centraal Hotels, influenced by contemporary design and heritage in city centre locations — all set in some of Europe’s most inspiring cities and neighbourhoods. The portfolio extends to a design concept store, X BANK Amsterdam, and three food & beverage outlets: Seven North, Vienna; The Rooftop at Sir Victor, Barcelona; and Bar Claes in Park Centraal Amsterdam. Additionally, Sircle Collection manages and develops landmark properties, such as W Amsterdam; the EDITION Milan; Provocateur, Berlin; and Roomers, Munich. Further to its HQ in Amsterdam, the collection counts a second office in Berlin, Germany and a regional office in Barcelona, Spain. The company encompasses over 700 team members across operations, management, HR, marketing, design and further departments.