Eira joined the Elite Dynamics team in February 2020 from Darwin Escapes where she had held various roles within holiday parks for the last 17 years. From an Accounts background, she has now moved into a project management role at Elite.
Eira lives in Prestatyn with firefighter husband, Dave and two young children, Cara & Osian. They enjoy going out walking and cycling as a family and love their holidays, whether on short breaks to holiday parks (their last one was at Shorefields in Dorset – courtesy of Elite Dynamics’ rewarding each staff member with a holiday park break to one of their customers’ parks), or an annual fortnight in the Majorcan sunshine.
A leap into Project Management
Eira came on board at Elite Dynamics as an MS Dynamics 365 Project Support Consultant, just six weeks before the UK’s first national lockdown. The role was to help support the busy Professional Services team, writing training documents, manuals, procedures, and allocations of resources. Lockdown then saw her catapulted from initially shadowing Jamaine on ongoing projects, to managing her own projects from start to finish. “When I joined, it was always Jamaine’s intention to train me up in a project management role. It was one of the things that really attracted me to the position as I was ready for a new start and excited to get involved in what was a completely new career direction for me. So far, the on-the-job training has been crucial. Yes, there are project management courses that I’ll no doubt go on but sometimes it’s the on-the-job learning that’s best, as training is much wider than what your job role may be for a business. Jamaine is always on hand as my mentor to show me the way as he knows every aspect of the business, and the rest of the team have been brilliant in helping and answering my many questions! Working from home has its challenges as you’re not next to someone to be able to chat and bounce ideas around. I’ve had to adapt to that new way of working, but so has much of the country in the last 12 months! I still speak to people most of the day – either project meetings with customers or colleagues on Microsoft Teams. The team are excellent and Jamaine is an exceptional leader, always willing to listen and support.”
Eira had also met some of the existing Elite team in her previous roles on holiday parks, which helped give her the confidence to take on a new role with the holiday park software specialists. “I had worked with both Nicola and Andy many years ago at Talacre Beach Caravan Sales Ltd,” said Eira. “And Jamaine sold the system to my then Finance Director, so I also knew him from coming into our offices. Then at Darwin, I shared an office with Katie, so we get on really well too. Nonetheless, it was still a big leap of faith as the grass isn’t always greener when you leave somewhere, but it did help to already have good relationships with some of the team and the timing was right for both of us. Although, because I’m working remotely, my teammates are missing out as I had previously been known as ‘the one with the drawer full of chocolate’!”
Years of holiday park experience
Eira’s many years of holiday park experience have stood her in good stead for her role at Elite Dynamics. “It definitely helps having a holiday park background,” she says. “At Darwin, we had more than 20 parks across the UK and I delivered training on Microsoft NAV to the end users, so I’d spend a lot of time at each of the holiday parks. Because I had used NAV, I already knew the fundamentals and how it worked. I knew about filters; I knew how the sales invoices looked and all the templates and various other things as I’ve seen it in practice. Yes, it’s a different system but it’s like upgrading to a new phone, it just takes time to play around with it.”
Eira’s main background is in finance with qualifications in bookkeeping as well as being part AAT qualified (Association of Accounting Technicians), but her holiday park experience also extends to park management, customer service (reception), bookings and marketing. She spent nine years across those roles at Talacre Beach Resort in North Wales, and like so many of the Elite Dynamics team, loves the holiday park environment and industry. “It centres around holidays and who doesn’t love holidays?!,” she laughs. “The big attraction of holiday parks is you can travel less than an hour from home and as soon as you drive onto that park, you immediately feel like you’re on holiday. As a family, we used to go to Brynteg in Caernarfon quite a lot – it’s now owned by one of our customers, Park Leisure Holidays – that’s a really lovely park.”
Working with Elite Dynamics holiday park customers
The role of an Elite Dynamics Project Manager is a busy one and although Eira’s diary is often back-to-back with appointments, she still needs to maintain the flexibility to jump into an urgent task for a holiday park customer. There’s also a lot of managing other people’s diaries and workloads. It’s therefore no surprise that some of the most important project management skills are communication, organisation, and being able to think on your feet and adapt quickly when needed. “If customers make contact and need something to be done,” said Eira, “I’ll allocate a consultant. But then that consultant’s scheduled workload will have to be reallocated elsewhere, so there is a lot of juggling involved to make sure our customers and staff are happy.
“Both the consultants and I work closely with customers,” she adds. “I have a weekly call with the customer and make sure anything that needs to be actioned from the project, such as training, is agreed and planned for a particular day. That communication is critical as customers need to provide us with data; from key contact details to their standard operating procedures, for us to agree a suitable ‘Go Live’ date. Customers always push to go live on the software as soon as possible, but if there are delays with the data being provided, it will inevitably mean a slip to that magic ‘Go Live’ date. We’ve worked with customers who have never experienced an ERP system before and have historically run a paper-based holiday park operation, or maybe only utilised an accounts system and nothing else. If they aren’t particularly IT literate or don’t know how to use spreadsheets, it can become more of a challenge to get them to pull their data. But we’re there to help them every step of the way.”
Eira has a month end process where she manages all the time sheets and invoicing for customers, which helps keep them up to date on the progress of the project. “I create monthly highlight reports for customers, which basically tells them what’s happening this month and what’s remaining on the project,” she says. “At the start of the project, Jamaine provides a quote and gives the customer a budget to work toward, so jointly it’s up to us to try not to go over budget. But ultimately I’m responsible for making sure everything stays on track.”
Depending on the nature of the holiday park operation, some projects can be more technical and in-depth than others. For example, with some it’s a straightforward transfer to EliteParks whereas others might need modifications to the system to fit each park’s specific processes. “Some holiday parks need changes to be made to the system and some might also have third party integrations such as integrating with Hoseasons, card machines and EPOS tills, or website booking API’s,” says Eira. “That brings an extra element to the project as you can’t control the third-party and how quickly they fulfil their tasks.”
The future of Elite Dynamics
As a growing business with more than 250 holiday parks now using the award-winning software solutions, it’s an exciting time for Eira to be part of the Elite Dynamics team. “I’m loving learning a completely different role,” she says. “Although the projects and project templates are very much the same, every day is different, and every customer is different. I’ve got a template plan I stick to each time, but you might add a few things to it depending on what’s in scope on the project. Once you’ve got it over the line, you can then start to look for ways to improve on it before the next project gets underway. It’s a case of always striving to achieve more for our customers. I for one am looking forward to what comes next and so far really enjoying working for Elite Dynamics!”