YHA Buys a New System and Gets a Trusted Partnership
"If someone asked me why they should go with Stratos, I’d say: Excellent service, great product, cost effective.”
— Brian Westwood, Manager, Marketing & Sales
YHA New Zealand (YHA NZ) needed a new web-enabled membership system that was highly integrated with the rest of its IT systems. Stratos Technology Partners won the project in the face of stiff competition. YHA was rewarded with a system that was delivered on time and on budget, and that continues to perform impressively.
Now that the project is complete, Stratos continues to support the package, modifying it as YHA’s needs evolve. Stratos’s deep knowledge of YHA’s organisational processes, culture and priorities, combined with no-fuss support, has resulted in a highly valued, close working relationship.
YHA NZ runs the largest network of backpacker accommodation providers in New Zealand. With 17 owned hostels and a further 30 affiliate hostels, YHA provides more than 650,000 visitor nights annually.
Guests can join YHA NZ as members, which entitles them to discounted accommodation rates and free WiFi at selected YHA hostels in New Zealand, and discounts at YHA locations in 90 countries around the world.
Inefficient paper-based membership system prompts search
YHA NZ previously used a commercial off the shelf application to handle its membership records. Membership forms needed to be collected from around the country, sent to the national office and then typed into the system.
Any changes to reports or procedures, such as introducing a new membership category, took months to implement and cost thousands of dollars.
Growing demand for real-time membership enrolments and a desire to see the system better integrated with its other IT systems, such as its business information system and its website, strengthened YHA NZ’s resolve to find something better.
Commercial off-the-shelf alternatives turned out to be unaffordable
YHA NZ wanted a system that could accommodate its processes and affordably grow with the organisation. Upgrading the current system would require quite a bit of customisation and integration work to follow, and any subsequent changes would still take weeks and remain costly.
A survey of other off-the-shelf programs didn’t quite fit the way YHA worked. When licensing was priced along with customisations, the off-the-shelf solutions proved startlingly expensive.
Sutter Schumacher (previously YHA NZ’s Project Coordinator) says, “The project team opened one off-the-shelf proposal and saw the figure, looked at each other in stunned silence, closed it and never opened it again.”
"Stratos wins the project because we had confidence in them"
YHA NZ turned to Stratos who were already providing a system to process customer satisfaction surveys. The membership system proposal came in within budget and YHA NZ had confidence in Stratos because of its previous experience.
This was one of YHA NZ’s first significant software development projects, so internal staff were assigned to work on the specification, test the new system thoroughly and liaise with Stratos. The new system took 10 months to build, including data migration.
Development project comes in, on time and on budget
Stratos turned out to be easy to deal with. Questions, bugs and modification requests were turned around promptly. It had the know-how and processes to get the job done. YHA NZ was impressed. Trust grew, a trust that endures to this day. The project came in on time and on budget.
“Stratos put a lot of priority on our project and the whole process was really interactive. They were quick to respond to anything we threw at them, and we really tested them,” Sutter recalled.
The new system reduced administrative labour by 60%. Reports that used to take days to prepare now only take a few minutes.
One-off development project grows into close partnership
Over the years, Stratos has been called in to modify the system as YHA NZ has needed to meet the challenges presented by competitive pressure and the uptake of consumer mobile technologies.
What started out as a software development project has turned into an enduring relationship marked by Stratos’s quick responsiveness, a deep understanding of YHA NZ’s needs and philosophy which has led to deep levels of trust.
“Stratos knows our business intimately and that’s an advantage. Understanding the needs of the business and looking beyond what I might think is a solution, to what is the best solution, makes best use of the information we’ve got.”
— Brian Westwood, Manager, Marketing & Sales
“Stratos is really good to work with," said Brian Westwood, Manager, Marketing and Sales, at YHA NZ. "The system is highly integrated with our front office, our website and our business information systems.
"While I was on the road somewhere between Ohakune and Taupo, our website went down. I pulled over and called Stratos. Although it was unlikely that their system was the cause, because the systems were so highly integrated, I still needed them to check if the membership system had contributed to the situation. Because we have such a good relationship, I could get back on the road with the assurance that it would be done."
“A while back, again I was travelling, but overseas this time. I initiated a promotion and the system allowed me to check the sales results from the previous 24 hours.
"That kind of live instant data lets me make business decisions. I could see if the promotion should be extended or if it wasn't working — pull back from it. That is phenomenally important for us.
"When you think of an organisation as big as we are, with as many hostels as we have, to be able to pull that down so quickly, is fantastic.
"If someone asked me why they should go with Stratos, I’d say: Excellent service, great product, cost effective."