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Shane O'Neill
Shane O'Neill
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IHG Builds Hotel App The Agile Way

InterContinental Hotels Group's mobile app hinges on alliance between product and developer teams.

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IHG Mobile is proof that a successful hospitality app is not created in a vacuum.

As director of mobile solutions at InterContinental Hotels Group, Bill Keen and his team of eight product managers works closely with the company's developers on the app, which guests use to book rooms at any of IHG's 4,800 hotels, including InterContinental Hotels and Holiday Inns.

Booking a night's stay is just the beginning, Keen says. IHG Mobile also includes customer reviews, maps, directions to nearby locales, a bevy of photos of the hotel and surrounding neighborhood, push notifications, access to special rates using corporate IDs, and the ability to manage points for the IHG Rewards program.

[Here's why you're not getting what you want from Agile. Read 4 Signs You're Doing Agile Development Wrong.]

But to maintain this immersive mobile experience, Keen says, requires constant teamwork between marketing and app developers.

Real collaboration, not just lip service
IHG certainly isn't the only company doing hotel booking via mobile. The company must compete with apps such as and that do reservations for hundreds of thousands of hotels. Smaller chains are also innovating. La Quinta Inns and Suites, for instance, offer a clever feature that holds reservations for four hours using a cellphone number.

With hotel booking apps more commonplace, staying competitive requires true collaboration, Keen says. For all we hear about the need for marketing and IT to work together, the efforts are rarely simpatico. But at IHG, Keen's product team and colleague James Prolizo's development group really did build the app together.

The two groups use an Agile process and operate as a single unit sharing responsibilities and accountability. Prolizo's group includes 12 developers with expertise in mobile app design and building APIs that access IHG's transaction systems and public services like maps and the weather.

The two groups share the same building and have face-to-face meetings every morning to test and plan new features and discuss next steps. They work in two-week sprints, with product managers focused on new ideas and user requirements and developers focusing on building and deploying app features.

In The Mobile Mind Shift, a new book by Forrester Research analysts Ted Schadler, Josh Bernoff, and Julie Ask, IHG's Prolizo describes the company's uncomplicated approach: "The product managers pick the next mobile app features to focus on. We let them know what can be done in the next two-week sprint, and they make the final decisions on which ones to do."

Keen's product team includes an information architect and a graphic designer who work to bridge the two worlds. They analyze what hotel guests need

Shane O'Neill is Managing Editor for InformationWeek. Prior to joining InformationWeek, he served in various roles at, most notably as assistant managing editor and senior writer covering Microsoft. He has also been an editor and writer at eWeek and TechTarget. ... View Full Bio
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IW Pick
User Rank: Apprentice
5/22/2014 | 1:52:40 PM
Great Article
It's encouraging to see success stories based on cross-colaboration like this, especially in a larger company. Breaking down those silos is going to be critical for companies to compete as technology continues to advance at such a rapid pace.
Shane M. O'Neill
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
5/21/2014 | 6:01:36 PM
Mobile app dev
Any readers have experience bringing product marketing and development teams together to build mobile apps? Similar to IHG? Tell us about it -- the good, bad, and ugly.
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