- Build a Foundation for Leverage
- Understand your PMS data connectivity – Control, Position and Leverage your Data
- Leverage your data using best technologies and tools
From an operational standpoint, all businesses use the same two criteria to measure profit – Revenue and Expenses. If you want to increase profits, you need to increase revenue, decrease expenses, or both. There are always ways to increase revenue. Sell more products! Although not easy, there are a million ways to do that. This article is going to focus on the expense side of the equation, specifically related to your website data connection. The costs and options that you need to address when choosing a method to connect your Property Management Software to your website are something that many Property Managers pay very little attention to. Mistakes made when choosing a data connection provider or service can prove to be very expensive.
Application Programming Interface (API)- how your data moves.
In simple terms, an API is a set of instructions that help a developer connect a website to a Property Management Software. API’s are typically provided by the PMS Company as a way to provide initial developer support as well as reduce ongoing technical support overhead. API’s give property managers an incredible amount of flexibility in what they can do with their PMS data. This flexibility allows PM’s to deploy additional tools and features that extend well beyond those needed for website unit management and online booking. It is critical that your PMS provider has an API. It is the only way to ensure that you have options available to you that extend beyond what your management software provider can offer. If there is no API, you are at the mercy of your PMS provider. If you work with a PMS provider that has a “closed system” and no API you are likely already familiar with this limitation. The conversation usually goes like this:
You: I found a great new tool that I want to use and I need to provide data access to company XYZ to set that up.
PMS Provider: we do not allow third party access to YOUR data
You: then how can I take advantage of this new technology product?
PMS Provider: We will have to build a similar product for you.
You: Great! When can you have that built?
PMS Provider: Soon
In software development, “soon” can mean 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years, or, in some cases, never! This type of “data lockdown” is unacceptable and should be avoided at all costs. The attractiveness of initial cost savings with “closed systems” often proves to be much more expensive in lost opportunities or having to switch to an “open system” down the road.
Assuming that you found a PMS with an API, now you need to connect your website to your PMS using that API. You basically have three options; DIY, “Package” or Plugin.
- DIY (do it yourself)
You hire a developer and present them with the API documentation from your PMS. This type of custom development requires an advanced skillset and can be very expensive. One frequently seen pitfall is tasking your website designer with the API development component of the project. Designing websites and development of API’s are two very different skill sets so that rarely works out well. Some PMS companies “vet” Programmers to see if they feel they are qualified to complete the project. This is in reaction to many failed attempts that result in countless hours of technical support headaches. This option should be considered for very large Property Management Companies that have qualified professional in-house developers with API experience. Even then, the PMS provider may or may not work with them.
The Vacation Rental vendor marketplace has more than a few options for website development. Most vendors have an existing system that can connect a website to a PMS. The advantage to this option is experience and expertise. These vendors have done this before, specialize in PMS connectivity and have existing relationships with PMS providers. They already have a product that you need and do not have to start from scratch. This is a huge advantage but also comes with a significant pitfall to avoid. Most of these website developers will only provide the PMS connectivity to PM’s that also purchase a website design as well. In this sense you are forced to purchase a “package” that includes a new website AND PMS connectivity. In short, you can’t have the connection without the new website design and you can’t connect a new website to your PMS unless you use that company’s connection. This is a very good situation for the vendor because they can charge very high prices. Of course you can shop this around but historically speaking, the other vendors have the exact same business model. All or nothing! This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is most often very expensive! This option may be appropriate for very large Property Management Companies that do not have a local developer that they prefer to work with and who like the simplicity of a “package”. I.E., more eggs in one basket.
Plugins are typically associated with WordPress but the concept can be applied to all website content manage systems including Drupal, Joomla etc. Plugins provide extreme flexibility in that they “extend” the features of a website very quickly and easily. Using WordPress, you would search the WordPress directory for a plugin, download it and enable it. There are thousands of plugins available for things like contact forms, event calendars, security, and in this case, PMS connectivity. Using plugins gives PM’s significant advantages and essentially eliminates the disadvantages and pitfalls of the above options. Plugins offer the following advantages:
- You can use any designer or developer
- Not trapped into a high-priced package
- PMS API Connectivity is built in
- Quick technology deployment
- Low initial and ongoing costs
Plugins for PMS connectivity are fairly new but a simple Google search for “VRP Connector” will get you started. Using this method for PMS connectivity can save hundreds of hours in development time and tens of thousands of dollars in initial and ongoing costs.
From an expense standpoint, the options are in descending order with option 1 being the most expensive option 3 being the least. Because these decisions deploy technologies that can have a lifespan of 5-10 years, the right decision at the beginning of a project can have long lasting implications – negatively or positively.
So far we have covered the concept of leveraging your data, and understanding your data connection. In the next installment, we are going to add productivity tools to help you maximize leverage and revenue using the PMS connection. We will also include a Technology Audit Calculator that will help you visualize your website technology costs and how they compare and add up over the lifetime of use.
Joe Pawlak is the founder of Gueststream, Inc. He has worked in the technology sector of the hospitality/lodging industry since 1999. Joe has built a team of top specialists who offer industry leading website; design, development, marketing and software products. Joe has a degree in Commercial Recreation and Tourism from the College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University and lives in Denver, CO.