Technological Advances In Vacation Ownership Software
Many new developers spend considerable time and resource deciding which vacation ownership product they are going to sell. Fixed weeks, points, fractionals, private residence clubs, mixed use developments – they all have their advantages.
But to make sure the chosen product works well for the developer and the client you need to have the correct software. Without this investment even the most simply structured products will be impossible to monitor, report and account for.
Until recently the industry norm for software was as follows:
Local Area Network (LAN) – with File Servers and Microsoft type solutions
• This allows for the processing to be done on local workstations with data stored on, and shared from, the File Server
• Software is either served from the File Server to the Workstations each time staff log on or is stored locally on each Workstation
• Data is stored on the Servers
• It’s the industry standard for SME type businesses
• You own, control and are responsible for everything.
• The software that runs the networks is constantly being upgraded and gets more and more expensive. This requires constant retraining of staff and the need to employ expensive technical personnel that are not core to the business – but without them you cannot survive.
• You need expensive Client Access Licenses for every Workstation on the network and are required to upgrade these every time you upgrade your Server Software.
• You need to keep buying more expensive hardware to ensure that your Servers can do the job and your Workstations can keep up with your Servers.
• It’s a never-ending merry go round, which is why Bill Gates is so wealthy. (Wonderful business model really)
• The Business Application Software also needs to be kept up to date and constantly modified to keep up with new and changing products. This requires you to keep installing newer versions of the software and to modify your database in order to get the new features.
Alternatively, you don’t change your Business Application Software and stick with the same products that you have always sold and serviced.
Unix type solutions
An older alternative is where the processing is done on the Server and the Workstations are just “dumb terminals”.
• Less expensive and more reliable than the “Microsoft” solution.
• You are not on the upgrade merry-go-round to the same extent as the Microsoft type solution.
• Fewer people with the technical knowledge of how things work
• Not the Industry Standard for SME type businesses.
• The same problem as the Microsoft type solution where you need to keep getting Business Application Software upgrades.
Both of these LAN type solutions can be expanded to Wide Area Networks (WAN’s) by using communication links to connect to WAN’s outside of the immediate office environment. These communication links are normally provided by telecommunication companies and can prove expensive (they need the money) and slow (in the case, sometimes, of the Microsoft Type solution where lots of data has to be transferred over the link).
So what does the future hold?
Option 1 Hosted Applications and the Internet
The future is with us and comprises of Hosted Applications with the Internet as the medium of communication. (An alternative is an Intranet and LAN as the medium but this keeps it very local and removes many of the benefits). The Database and Business Application Software are hosted on, and served from, Web and Database Servers normally operated by a third party. All processing takes place on the Web Server and you gain access to your data and Business Application Software through a browser.
• Inexpensive access from anywhere in the world.
• Browser software is free.
• Access for Business Users and Clients to the same data source via the same front-end technology.
• Real time access to the same data that is visible to all and can be instantly updated
Perceived slowness and insecurity of the Internet, both of which can be resolved and the perception dispelled.
Option 1 B This is achieved by using your own site and software and being your own service provider. This means using your own Web Site with your own Hardware and loaded with your own installation of the Business Application Software.
You own everything and are in total control. (This is the “Technology Control Freak” type solution. You are up with the latest technology and control everything).
• Still need to employ expensive technical staff.
• Probably requires more hardware than you need.
• Still need Server Software Licenses and Client Access Licenses.
• If you write your own software, besides it being expensive, it requires considerable management time and expertise.
• If you use third party software then it is out of date as soon as you install it. Updating is difficult especially if you have to modify the database to cope with the upgrade in software functionality.
Option 2 Using a Third Party Service Provider and Hosted Application
Using a Third Party Service Provider where you access the Service Provider’s Web Site and Web- and Database-Servers is fast becoming an accepted and preferred solution. The Service Provider owns the hardware and provides the Business Application Software that you need to run your business. They also have the necessary licenses for the Servers and for Client Access.
Few timeshare software vendors provide this type of service.
However, most are either planning to provide it or regretting that they cannot provide it because their technology does not permit them to do so without a switch to a newer technology and a complete re-write of their software.
• Inexpensive solution;
• You pay monthly only for what you need and use.
• You have no expensive technical staff to employ.
• No more software licenses for the Server and Client Access other than for what you need in your own business.
• Less to worry about as someone else:
• Does the data back up every day;
• Ensures that the Business Application Software is the latest version.
• You always have the latest version of the Business Application Software installed.
• You can focus on your core competencies and the cornerstones of success without having to worry that your technology platform will let you down or restrain your growth, assuming that you have chosen the right Service Provider, that is.
• Reliance on a third party.
• Fear of loss of control.
So, if you are not a Technology Control Freak then it is clear, subject to there being a competent and trusted Service Provider, that you should consider using a Hosted Application and the Internet with a Third Party Service Provider to provide you with your Technology Platform and Business Application Software Solution.
There are many precedents to the Third Party Service Provider model in many different industries. Salesforce.com, Healtheon.com / WebMD.com are a few that spring to mind. In fact, the business model for Healtheon.com is to have every doctor, chemist, HMO, pathologist, specialist and so on, on one single platform with data and software served to them over the Internet. Their aim is to:
• Speed up the processing of Health Care claims;
• Reduce costs by eliminating paper and the staff required to shift it;
• Speed up the payments from the HMO’s to the Service Providers (doctors and chemists).
• Make sophisticated software and technology available to users at a very low price.
In so doing their aim is to take a “penny” on each transaction. Imagine this solution in the Timeshare Industry.
The Future Vision
The future is one where a Third Party Service Provider will:
• Store the data of a large number of participants in the Timeshare Industry on one single database that is segmented in order to protect the data of each participant
• Serve the Business Application Software to the participants in order for them to run their businesses, service their clients and manage and administer new products
• Allow participants to “cross utilize” with other developers and resorts and to access their accommodation in order to provide alternative holiday opportunities for their owners. This will all be possible because the participants will all be operating on a single database using the same Business Application Software. The winners will be timeshare owners who will save money and those Developers that participate will have a new and additional sources of income by providing this service
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