Marina Management Software – New generation solutions

With around 40 years of experience with software development under their belts, Chris Thomas and the team at Pacsoft have learnt much about the impact software can have on a variety of industries and businesses. According to the team, the marina and boatyard sector is actually one of the more complex business environments to navigate and Pacsoft has risen to the challenge with software solutions that simplify business life for management and staff and increase their day-to-day knowledge of the marinas they operate.

While life can seem like a breeze on the marina, owners and managers need to keep on top of many things. Frequent water space rental turnover, dry stack rental management, leasing ownership, Body Corporate management, utility management, car parking, accounting and finances, retail shop operation, boat moving and servicing, and compliance – the list goes on. Typically, the above business functions would be operated, administered and managed by a small number of staff, which could add up to big costs on the year’s balance sheet.

The marina and boatyard business also varies considerably depending on where the business is located – e.g. coastal or inland, and according to the land area available and the demographics of the local population and customer base. Sometimes the marina can be a ‘port of entry’ with requirements from local government and perhaps environmental compliance may arise too. Software systems also have to provide management solutions and a range of easy-to-use tools to simplify marina operations in different countries, cultures and in various languages.

Empowering staff

A key issue facing this very specialised, complex and sophisticated business area is the matter of staff training and the ease of use of a management system. As a business develops and hires new staff, regular and up-to-date training is a must. Several years ago Pacsoft determined that these factors were a major inhibitor in the industry and proceeded to develop features in its software, automating systems to the benefit of management and staff. They noted that many operators viewed IT training and IT systems as necessary evils and tried to minimise costs. However, the cost of not utilising an effective IT system can be much higher.

Many marina managers are also tempted to shy away from hands-on use and tend to rely on junior staff to operate the system. This can reduce the opportunity to use a strong IT system as staff tend to be motivated to learn just enough to do their job but not to push themselves to utilise the full potential of the system – improving the business along the way. Due to a potential lack of knowledge of system capabilities, management can miss out on the real opportunities for improving the business operation, productivity, efficiency and management insight reporting. Marina managers who understand the potential and intricacies of their IT management systems are set to reap the Business Rewards.

Thomas and the Pacsoft team believe that a good marina and boatyard system can significantly add value to a business operation by Improving Efficiency, providing flexible charging features and strong management reporting to assist decision-making and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Like any asset, the IT system needs regular maintenance and review, and arguably more so than other assets as the world of technology is constantly changing. Having gained extensive industry knowledge and experience from working with marinas and partners around the world, and understanding these IT constraints and realities, Pacsoft decided a fresh approach was needed.

The New Generation

Embracing new technology and new ways of doing things has always been a big part of Pacsoft’s business philosophy, so it embarked on redeveloping its PacsoftMMS system from the ground up. Critical to the redevelopment was retaining flexibility, sophistication, efficient processes and building a solution that focused on ease of use – assisting users and leading them through business operation rules and processes. As over 100 man years of development went into PacsoftMMS, a redevelopment was no mean feat, but the new software nonetheless moved forward to become Pacsoft NG (New Generation). It boasts built in features such as the ‘Visual Marina’ and the use of ‘Wizards’ to guide staff through processes like moving a boat from one berth to another.

The Visual Marina displays a very realistic view of the marina and/or boatyard where the maps and boats are to scale. This realistic presentation provides many business benefits including ease of use, fast and efficient access to information, a security guard view and at a glance arrival and departure views. The Visual Marina also features a simple berthing or hardstanding optimisation tool to reduce inefficient berth allocations, which can lead to lost revenue for marinas that charge based on vessel size. Another major benefit is the simple audit tool to make sure berths have not been double booked, to determine what boats are where, to ensure records have been entered correctly and to guarantee that management information is based on correct data.

The ‘Move Boat Wizard’ is another key feature. A software wizard is an interface that presents the user with a sequence of dialogue boxes that lead him or her through a series of well-defined steps – turning the complex or infrequently performed into an easier process. The ‘Move Boat Wizard’ helps control any changes in fees payable, final readings on electric and water meters, changes to security gate access, charges for car parking or other charges; and with a new berth can involve allocating new meters and implementing car park fees or other charges. What needs to be considered when moving a vessel from one berth to another can vary significantly for different marinas. Instead of staff having to remember what may need to be dealt with, the Pacsoft Wizard will identify the relevant items to consider and lead staff through the process ensuring the local business operating procedures are being followed.

These two feature examples in the NG software can significantly improve the ease of use whilst meeting Pacsoft’s objective to help reduce training costs and enhance the benefits gained by the system use for the business. The company urges management to become more involved and knowledgeable about the capabilities of their management system and to be more demanding on their staff utilisation of the system. Treating your IT management system as a valuable business asset rather than a sunk cost is vital, along with regular staff training to maximise the potential for your business.

Originally Published in the Marina World – June Issue.

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