In our previous posts on this topic we discussed a basic approach to selecting guest management software and online booking software, and considerations affecting the choice of web-based systems versus locally installed systems. As promised, we’ll discuss some of the features you may want to consider, and ways of evaluating them.

Deciding what features you need

We’ll list a variety of features, grouped by category, but you should make your own list. Some of the features we think are important may not be important to your property, or you may have others that are very important, but that we haven’t considered. Just as properties differ, so do the features they want to see in the Property Management System.

Comparing FeaturesIf you click on the image of a spreadsheet at right, you’ll find a spreadsheet (in Google Documents) that you may view or download, with sample comparisons of a variety of features to consider. You’ll want to open a copy of the spreadsheet, either in your browser, or download it and open a local copy, so you can follow along (and make any changes you need).

We’ve separated the features into several categories, in an effort to reduce the effort at comparison. The categories we’ve selected are Rate Capabilities (types of rates, and rate attributes that you can set),  User Interface considerations, Guest Communications (confirmations, reminders, follow-up, etc.), Reports (pre-designed reports, custom reports, occupancy, financial, etc.), Accounting (export of accounting data, interface with accounting software), and Online Booking (whether incorporated into the Property Management System, or independent, whether it can be customized to fit with the property web site, update frequency, and items that can be displayed.

Within each category there are several features listed, most of which are commonly found in different Property Management Software. If there are any you feel are important, but are not listed in the spreadsheet, just add them in your own copy of the spreadsheet. The easiest way to do that will be to copy a row, then paste the copy below the original and make changes to the new row to represent the additional feature. You may need to check the cells where the totals are created, to be sure that they are including all the cells that are to be added.

Setting Priorities

The column called “Importance”  in the Google Docs version of the spreadsheet is a number between 0 and 10, where 0 would indicate that the feature is not needed at all, and 10 would be the highest importance.

Your first step should be to read down the list of features and adjust the numbers in the Importance column that are in the same row as the feature to a number representing that feature’s importance to your property and staff. NOTE: Do not change the numbers in the Importance column that are in the same row as the category name (for example, the Rate Capabilities category row has an entry in the Importance column – 460 in the default). That number is the total of the other entries in that category. As you make changes to the individual feature Importance values, the totals will change.

Comparing Apples to Apples

The spreadsheet has two sample (fictional, of course) PMS systems: Bubba’s Booking and Wanda’s Web Service. For each Property Management System you want to compare, you’ll add two columns, just like the samples. The left column is for the rating you will give that PMS for each feature, and the right column automatically multiplies that rating by the Importance factor to compute a score. The scores are added together for each category and the total score at the top is updated.

Repeat this for each PMS. That means, if you will be testing a lot of software, you’ll be tracking a lot of information!

Evaluating the Results

If all the copying and pasting has been successful, the spreadsheet will total everything up for you. The great temptation is to look at the numbers and let them make the decisions for you. However, the numbers are only as good as the values that you enter for Importance and for the scores. In other words, if you haven’t been realistic in setting Importance values, or if you have been biased in your scoring, the numbers will reflect these things, and you’ll get the results you would expect.

Consequently, it is up to you to set the Importance values and to score the features accurately. That way you’ll get the most realistic numerical totals, and can compare them.

As a practical matter, this tool, like any other, is only as good as the data put into it. If there are big differences between products, this will reveal them. If the differences are not so significant, however, judgment calls about the scoring and Importance factors will skew the results, so use them with a grain of salt!