A Grade II listed building; it is located opposite Westminster Abbey and next to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.Central Hall Westminster with its iconic dome and lovely original features is an impressive venue facility suitable for corporate, public and private events, including award ceremonies, exhibitions and concerts.
Well known as a film location (in 2003 the blockbuster movie Calendar Girls starring Helen Mirren featured the Grand Staircase and the Great Hall) this unique and historic venue has been shortlisted as a finalist in the 2014 M & IT Industry Awards for ‘Best UK Conference Centre’.
The elegant theatre entrance, marble flooring, spacious foyer areas and Grand Staircase wonderfully complement the 22-room portfolio. All spaces enjoy large windows with natural daylight, high ceilings, blackout facilities, state-of-the-art technology and accessibility for all.
From intimate meeting rooms for five delegates, to 1400m2 of conference and exhibition space for up to 1,000 guests, Central Hall Westminster offers a flexible and diverse portfolio of rooms, including the 2,160-person capacity Great Hall auditorium with its magnificent pipe organ and Europe’s largest self-supporting domed ceiling, creating a uniquely intimate atmosphere for the perfect event.
Key Challenge – Needed a more modern, flexible and centralised venue management system
As an existing user of the Events Perfect (EP) venue and event management system. “Over two years ago we realised that the Events Perfect solution would need replacing,” says Managing Director at Central Hall Westminster, Paul Southern. “As a venue we were experiencing a significant uplift in business that has continued – in our last financial year alone we saw a 53% jump in revenues. At the time, the feedback from staff was that they would prefer to work with a more modern system – it was also difficult to train new members of the team because the EP solution was so convoluted. From a managerial perspective I was also looking for more comprehensive and meaningful reporting – something that just wasn’t possible with the old solution. It was certainly time for a change, so it was timely when we heard that Priava had developed a new cloud-based venue management solution. We also wanted to have a single system that would ensure that all relevant departments involved in events could have access to the information they needed, rather than each running their own separate systems.”
Initial trial gave opportunity to discuss requirements of new solution
IT Manager at Central Hall Westminster, Kim Carrington says: “We started with a trial of the solution with our ‘power users. This gave us the opportunity to discuss our specific requirements, including the need for certain departments and service partners to have controlled access to information pertinent to them. Within three months, the implementation and training was completed.”
Different departments and/or external partners were given access to the solution including Sales & Marketing, Finance, Service Partners, Porters, Catering, Visitor Services and the Management team.
The Results – Intelligent reporting, greater efficiencies, cost-reduction, mobility, time-savings and improved CRM.
Why cloud? – savings on IT equipment and management time
Carrington says choosing a cloud-based solution was also important from an IT perspective: “In the past we had hosted Events Perfect on our in-house servers. When it came round to changing, it coincided with the fact that many of our servers were also coming to end-of-life and would need to be upgraded. Going with a cloud solution meant we had one less server to purchase and manage, with all future software updates being taken care of automatically. I can now use the time saved in managing an internal server and the associated IT upgrades to focus on more valuable tasks.
We also like the fact that the product is continually evolving and I have a whole team of developers that I can simply email and suggest ways in which we would like the software to be enhanced in the future. Overall it makes my life so much easier.”
Paul Southern says: “Freeing up time on IT administration means we can use Kim’s skills in other areas and improve the overall quality and speed of our IT services and network. In turn this helps to supports how we work as a commercial operation.”
Carrington now has to support fewer systems and applications because all departments use the Priava platform for anything events related.
Extending access to ALL relevant parties, whatever their location
“One of the main advantages of cloud is that because it’s web based, users can log in regardless of where they are,” says Carrington. “So for the events team who are out and about they can check availability of a space in real-time and also have the flexibility to work from home. Similarly if a client needs to get in touch out of office hours and the team needs to check something, they can access the information remotely. We also have several off-site service partners that we work with that can now extract the data they need themselves, rather than rely on the events team.”
Built-in business continuity
A cloud based venue management solution also offers Central Hall Westminster built-in business continuity, which can be critical to a venue that is based in the heart of London next to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.
“There are all sorts of scenarios where it may not be possible for staff to be office-based,”
Paul Southern. “Occasionally there are demonstrations in the immediate area, security alerts, bomb scares or simply the standard problems caused by severe weather or transport issues. With the Priava solution, we can prevent downtime and maintain high levels of service for our clients at all times.”
Easy to produce business intelligence reports
According to Southern one of the key benefits of the new cloud-based solution has been its ability to produce more in-depth reports that can be used to determine future strategies for the venue as a whole. “With the old system you had to become a ‘full user’ to be able to produce reports, but these did not tell us anything that would help us to plan moving forward. For example you could create stats on occupancy but you could only compare one month with another and whether it was full or empty, there was no means to filter by different rooms or spaces. “We have the ability to split occupancy reports to see exactly what spaces are being used and for what type of event. With Priava we have the ability to split occupancy reports to see exactly what spaces are being used and for what type of event. This is particularly valuable for us, because we host events on a commercial basis as well as for the Methodist Church (a registered charity) that owns Central Hall. Therefore it is useful for us to differentiate between events being held for the church and those that are being hired out to other organisations. Now, we can drill down to see the figures on the number of bookings, nature of events, most popular spaces and other information that can be fed back to the management team or other relevant department. We can now see what spaces are profitable and when we might need to make plans for refurbishment.”
Despite that fact that Central Hall Westminster boasts an enviable location and an impressive client list including well-known politicians, TV shows and film productions, it is also subject to certain rules and stipulations by the Methodist Church that can exclude it from hosting certain types of events, for example those serving certain levels of alcohol. Southern says: “All our events must serve no more than two units of alcohol per person, so this can limit what we can and can’t take on such as Christmas parties. As a result we need to ensure that we can convert as many opportunities as possible.”
Managing Growth – 53% rise in revenues
Even though the average number of events per month has stayed relatively static at around 100, according to Southern the length and scale of individual events has increased. “Demand has certainly increased over the last two years, but whereas in the past we might have been managing 20-25 events for a particular space, we may now be managing just one, which makes it more profitable. We certainly needed a system like Priava to cope with the increase in business and to facilitate the day-to-day running of major events. With the new system every department is now more involved with an event and it has brought everyone closer together and enabled everyone to work smarter and become more efficient – no one is relying on spreadsheets anymore. If someone has a question, they simply look at the screen in front of them, without having to wait to speak to someone from another department.”
Kim Carrington: “The tabs down the side make it easier for you to quickly jump between different screens. We also like the fact that you can tailor views and categories.”
Paul Southern: “Priava helps our staff to save time and become more and more efficient. This translates into significant value for our venue as a whole and the technology has enabled us to change the way we work.”