What to consider when purchasing a Property Management System!?
Jamie Westerman, Business Development Executive
Today, the Student Accommodation sector is experiencing success like never before. The last five years have seen the sector go from strength to strength climbing well above the height of expectation. Through this era of success, major development and investment has flooded into the sector which of course has been welcomed with open arms. This wave of opportunity has in turn stimulated massive competition across all major student cities. Moreover, along with these positive results, industry experts are forecasting the sector to continue its growth. This recent success and growth in the sector has meant student accommodation operators are now more than ever opting to invest in a Property Management System. As stifled competition continues to keep operators on their toes, they will need to keep up to date with the latest technologies and trends if to succeed. With no room for error, operators are looking to be well positioned in order to capture high volumes of bookings thus generating stronger revenues and greater profits down the line.
A student accommodation operators number one goal is essentially to fill all their bed spaces and that is exactly what a PMS can help you do. An emphasis on choosing the right system has never even as important than today. Choosing the right PMS can dramatically improve business operations and increase occupancy rates. The student accommodation business is very cyclical and there is no perfect time to begin the process of on boarding a new system but it is essential that your business put aside the appropriate time to get under the covers with several PMS.
Working in the student accommodation space leaves no time for rest. Always on the go, it is difficult and in a way inconvenient for some to take time out, stand back and evaluate your current PMS system. It is only after a series of events and error screens that frustration levels will hit boiling point. The reasons below will be major influencers for the loss of patients with your current PMS.
- The system is lacking features – A lack of functionality can really slow down day to day tasks which inevitably will hurt your business financially. If your current system is not flexible or configurable then this will hurt your business in terms of growth, whilst your competitors with a fully flexible system will surpass you.
- A lack of technical support – Having a quick and attentive support team will be vital whilst operating a PMS. As you are working in a software environment here, you are always going to run into walls and defects, this is natural. When this occurrence happens it will be essential to your business operations to have reliable support on the line. Without the right support, bugs could be left on your PMS for days which can just keep building up and up hence frustration levels hitting boiling point.
- The system does not allow for your business to scale – As business grows, so will buildings and bed numbers. To facilitate this growth and expansion, it is critical to find a system which can scale as you scale. If you cannot add rooms or new properties than your current system does not support new business goals.
To find a system which best suits your business operations, you will need to do your homework. We never really do ‘hang up’ our school shoes and nor should we. As the world is changing regularly on a daily basis, it is essential to keep up to date with the trends. The same can be said about Property Management systems. As a buyer, you need to be aware of what PMS are out there on the market. Take a step back every six months and research what kind of functionality is being introduced into other systems. Look at what your competitors are doing with their PMS and most importantly ask questions. The reasons below areas which need to be analysed in depth when selecting a right fit solution for your business.
- Features – Always remember that you don’t want to purchase a system which is expensive and has an extensive list of features but not the features you want or an inexpensive system but lacks functionality, you will need to find the right balance. As an operator you should know your needs and wants in a PMS, what features do you essentially require and what features do you desire. If they do not have a current feature you would like ask if it is on their roadmap.
- Support – As mentioned earlier, support is key to your business operations when running a PMS. Each provider will have their own support structure, so it will be crucial to choose the right fit for your business. As mentioned, crashing into roadblocks is common when working with software so the best way to avoid these roadblocks is to require support which is quick and efficient. Time is money, the more time it takes for support to respond to your issue the more money you will lose. You do not want to waste time, you want action.
- Pricing – As the saying goes, quality always wins so it is important to not just sole focus on costs. Always ask what pricing packages they have in place; as small operators will have low budgets it is important to find the right package that suits your business. Remember, the seller is always keen to acquire new business so don’t hesitate to ask if they can tailor a payment plan to your needs. Ask about upgrades and if there is a cost to upgrade. A provider will generally have 1-3 releases per year so find out early if there is a price to this.
To succeed against a wave of business challenges, it has never been more vital to select a PMS which is the right fit for your business operations. Never assume all systems are the same, while many PMS will have similar features, they differ greatly by how they function and how flexible they are. Don’t get focused on a single feature or aspect of the system when buying, always look at the bigger picture. A Property Management System should make operating your properties easier, help your business scale and most importantly show a positive return on investment. Ask questions; the more questions you ask the less chance you have of picking the wrong solution. Without asking questions, you may have less knowledge on the product which can result in selecting a system that turns out to be ineffective for your property. Making the wrong decision can be painful and costly in the long run.