Now that the project is complete, Stratos has continued to support the package, modifying it as YHA’s needs have evolved. Today, 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.
The Youth Hostel Association (YHA) runs the largest network of backpacker accommodation providers in New Zealand. With 17 hostels and a further 30 affiliate hostels, YHA has grown to provide over 650,000 visitor nights every year.
Guests can join the YHA as members, which entitles them to discounted accommodation rates and free WiFi at any of its hostels and further discounts at YHA locations in 90 countries around the world.
Inefficient paper-based membership system prompts search
YHA previously used a commercial off the shelf application to handle its membership records. Membership forms needed to be collected, typed into the system and then checked.
Any changes to reports or procedures, such as introducing a new membership card design, would take months to implement and cost thousands of dollars.
Growing demand for web access for 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’s resolve to find something better.
Commercial off-the-shelf alternatives turned out to be unaffordable
YHA wanted a system that could accommodate its own work practices and affordably grow with it. It found that upgrading the current system would still leave it with quite a bit of customisation and integration work to follow. On top of that, any subsequent changes would still take weeks and remain costly.
A survey of other commercial off the shelf programs didn’t quite fit the way YHA worked. When they were priced along with any customisations, they proved startlingly expensive.
Sutter Schumacher (previously YHA’s Project Coordinator) says, “I remember one quote where we opened the proposal and saw the figure, and the project team just 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 turned to Stratos who were already providing YHA with a system for processing customer satisfaction surveys. The proposal came in within budget and YHA had confidence in Stratos because of its previous experience.
This was one of YHA’s first significant software development projects, so it made sure internal staff were assigned to work on the specification 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 were 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,” Schumacher said.
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 have been called in again to modify the system as YHA’s needs have grown to meet the new challenges presented by competitive pressure, the ever-evolving Internet and the uptake of mobile technologies.
Now the original membership system has evolved so that it is highly integrated with the rest of YHA’s IT systems.
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’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.”
“Stratos is really good to work with,” says Brian Westwood, YHA’s Sales and Marketing Manager. “The system is now highly integrated with our front office, our website and our Business Information System.
“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 their 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.”