Whether choosing your first marina management system or simply shifting from one marina software to another, the whole experience can be daunting.
The difficulty lies not only in the fact that there are various solutions and technologies to choose from, but also because there are multiple factors requiring your attention, research, and decision-making effort.
To make your life easier and all the selection process a bit more smooth, we have identified the most important factors you should take into account when choosing the system. From deployment methods to functionality, from integrations to user experience, we cover 6 factors you need to consider when choosing a marina management system for your marina, harbor, or yacht club.
1. Decide on marina software deployment: cloud vs on-premise
Both solutions have their positives and negatives – choose what’s the most relevant for your unique marina needs.
With a cloud-based marina management software, you don’t need a server or technical expertise on your side. You can simply log into the system in your preferred Internet browser and you are ready to use it. All information resides on the vendor’s server. This also means that you are always using the newest version of the software. However, you must be online at all times. If your Internet connection fails, you will not be able to access the data.
With an on-premise solution, you own the software and it is hosted physically at your location. Thus, you will have direct access to the servers if you want to integrate with other marine applications. What is more, you won’t have to deal with recurrent subscription charges. However, you will need to have your in-house IT personnel and purchase the necessary hardware and software, as well as incur higher initial costs.
2. Know what features you need and check whether customization is available
Each marina is unique and somewhat different in terms of its processes, objectives, and growth dynamics. Committing to a set of standard, basic or inflexible functions is simply not wise. Therefore, choose the marina management system that is flexible and customizable in accordance with your unique marina needs and objectives.
Identify the most important features you expect to find in the system. Jotting down those which are nice to have, but not essential at the beginning is also handy. You can negotiate and agree on the delivery of those features which are nice to have before buying the system – don’t be afraid to bring that up with your software vendor.
Very often marina management software comes with a lot of functions that need to appeal to a wide spectrum of marinas. You don’t want to pay for a solution which is “one-size-fits-all”. Instead, choose a marina software vendor that can adapt to your unique marina needs!
You don’t want to pay for a solution which is “one-size-fits-all”.
3. Make sure the system integrates with other applications at your marina
For some marinas, this can be one of the most important factors to consider when choosing their marina management software. Have in mind that you are not buying a marina software as yet another system in the collection of all the other systems you may be using at your marina. You are buying it to help you streamline your marina operations.
Your marina management software must have seamless integration power that enables it to sync not only with your current accounting system but also with other marina systems you may be already using such as access control systems, on-premise hardware, payments, electricity consumption, etc. This will allow your marina management system to work in harmony with all the other tools letting you make better-informed decisions.
4. Pay attention to user experience and ease-of-use
One of the most crucial criteria while choosing a marina management system is how you feel and what you experience when using it. Does it help you to accomplish a task faster? Is it intuitive? Could you teach one of your colleagues how to do a task in the system in a few minutes?
You can ask a vendor to show you how many clicks it takes to do a specific task (e.g. sending out invoices). As you observe, ask yourself: How effective and satisfying is the user interface? Are the buttons labeled clearly? Is the flow of actions logical?
All this constitutes user experience which will make your daily life managing your marina either easier and enjoyable or, potentially, more complicated and annoying. Make sure you evaluate user experience and ease-of-use before you make a purchase.
5. Check whether training and prompt customer support is available
Any marina management system is no good if you don’t know how to use it properly or if you don’t know how its separate parts are connected and contribute to the general flow.
Having proper training and support is one of the most important factors of smooth marina management software adoption. It should be an on-going, user-specific hands-on experience so that everyone knows how to use the software to increase their efficiency and general satisfaction.
Once you are done with setting up the system, it is natural that you might face some issues in the future such as technical glitches. This makes it important for you to choose a system that provides prompt customer support.
Find out what kind of training and support is available, whether it is free or not, whether it is general (e.g. video tutorials or articles) or customized (e.g. personalized live training sessions).
It is also helpful to observe and evaluate your communication with a vendor from the very beginning. This may let you better understand what you can expect later when using the system. You want someone who is friendly, supportive, and professional by your side when it comes to learning new things or solving issues.
6. Request a demonstration
Never choose any marina management system without seeing or testing it out first.
The best solution is to start with a live marina software demonstration, which can be personalized to your unique marina needs.
During a live demo session, a salesperson walks you through the software. Only the features and functionalities that are relevant to your marina should be presented. You can ask questions and try to better understand how various features will potentially benefit your marina and simplify your daily administrative tasks.
If possible, ask to receive your own login details to the system so you can click around and feel how everything works and looks. Also, try to perform the most important tasks you will need the system to help you with.
Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times applies here perfectly.
The right marina management system can simplify your marina administration as well as save you a lot of time. On the contrary, the wrong one – may create extra work and frustration.
Making the right choice when choosing the system can be daunting. However, there are certain factors which you should consider no matter what system you choose. Taking into consideration all of the factors above will help you on this journey.
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