Top tips to consider when switching to a new holiday park management software solution
Maguires Country Parks was founded in 1981 at Low Carrs, County Durham and has grown to having eight 5-star parks across County Durham, Northumberland and North Yorkshire. Their most recent acquisition was Swaleside Country Park at Topcliffe, near Thirsk, on the banks of the River Swale in 2021.
Maguires Country Parks went live with EliteParks IT business solution plus EliteCRM Gold and Continua Document Output. The project was delivered within a three month period and Maguires went live with the new software on the exact project ‘go live’ date of the 1st of April 2021.
The management team at the family run holiday park business started the selection process in autumn 2020, before narrowing it down to two park management IT software providers. Following an interview process, Maguires made the decision to sign up with Elite Dynamics in December 2020 and the companies jointly agreed on the ‘go live’ date of Thursday 1st April. Hitting that milestone launch date relies heavily on the holiday park meeting key project deadlines when it comes to inputting the data. It’s a huge testament to everyone involved that this software implementation ran so smoothly.
Lianne Stephenson, Systems Accountant at Maguires Country Parks, led the project from start to finish. Here aresome of her top tips for any other holiday parks thinking about transferring to a new IT solutions provider.
Have someone fully lead the project. “This is probably the most important factor. I’ve worked on similar projects in previous roles before joining Maguires – this is the 4th time I’ve done a full ERP implementation – where I’ve managed the project and still carried on my own job at the same time. You almost need to split yourself in two because you’ve still got your normal daily deadlines and such a key project on top. But this time, because I was able to focus 100% on working with Elite Dynamics on the software implementation, it really all came together. My top piece of advice would be, if you’re going to put a person in the position to drive and implement the project, let them do just that. I understand if you’re going to take longer than three months, it might not be as easy. But really, do you need to take longer? Isn’t it better just to throw everything at it, get the new software working and start getting some use out of it? Maguires’ transfer to Elite Dynamics was fast but focused, so it worked. We could have taken longer, but I don’t think we would have been in a better position, we would have just ended up pontificating over the small details.”
Look at the processes the new system provides to see where your existing processes fit in. “When changing over to a new software provider, a lot of companies make the mistake of trying to make the new system adapt to the processes you already have. When I’ve been involved in similar projects, you end up trying to adapt the system to do what you’ve always done. That shouldn’t be the aim as then you’re defeating the purpose of transferring to a better solution in the first place. Sometimes, this can also be where you have issues as you’re changing the system to a bit of a hybrid. Yes, the team at Elite Dynamics are happy to organise any modification you need as the software has that flexibility, but we tried to come at it from the other side to really look at getting the most from the solution.”
Keep the focus and don’t worry about the minute details. “The biggest challenge is always going to be the amount of data and cleansing it. We did it three times and because we had information on various spreadsheets, it was a challenge in the timeframe we had set ourselves. My advice would be to keep going with it and get it over to Elite Dynamics to see what it looks like. Don’t get distracted by the minute details, you need to get the majority working and if anything doesn’t quite fit, you’ll find it’s much easier to deal with when live instead of changing things at every step. Keep going with it as you don’t know how it’s going to look until you get up and running.”
Remember it takes time to get used to something new. “Don’t try to run before you can walk. Get the new software bedded in and make sure everyone is using it properly and they’re familiar and happy with it. Focus initially on doing the day-to-day stuff and then you can start upping your usage and getting real value for money. We’ve gone live with the remittance side of Continia document output, plus there’s lots more we can do with the other Continia offerings and the reporting side too. We’re also getting much more involved in CRM, which will go hand in hand with the owner’s app. We want to try to enhance the customer journey and make it as easy for them as we can whilst utilising whatever product developments are available to us.”
Make the most of the training. “Before we went live, we were in full lockdown, so the training was a bit different, but it worked. We hadn’t met any of the Elite Dynamics team in person, which was unusual… but in essence, that’s the way things are going. With much of the training being video orientated (EliteAcademy), you could watch it over and over again if you needed to, going at your own pace. Internally we decided to carry out our training in a very similar way to how Elite Dynamics were training us. We made the most of the videos, used Microsoft Teams, and the people that were trained up then trained others on parks. I think it’s a testament to the Elite Dynamics team and the software, that everyone is happy using it.”
Finally, enjoy the time-saving benefits and efficiencies you get with EliteParks! “Before switching to Elite Dynamics, we were using Sage 200 for all the accounts and finance, in-site for bookings, plus various spreadsheets for the caravan park management side. It was all disjointed. Now with EliteParks, we’ve got one system that does it all. Where each park held all the individual customer information, it’s now all centralised. So once information is updated, it’s updated everywhere. You don’t run the risk of having a different version than someone else does. It’s live, up-to-date information and it talks to each other. Someone from one park could go to work on another and everything is in sync. It’s completely transparent and so easy to get the data out of the system and analyse it. The customer data and understanding where all the information comes from in the system, helps us look at when we’re sending information to customers. We can get some automation involving some of the reports to plan for the next season and continue to grow from what we’ve got.”
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